p.s. Marianne Cook’s Green stationery venture is making a difference

[Tom Biederbeck] Marianne Cook already had an extensive retail career in the greeting card industry when she began to notice something that concerned her. As a buyer for national powers like Target, she saw a lack of attention to the sustainability of the paper we use every day. It was an epiphany that led her to change her career. She left the corporate world and launched her firm Green Stationery, which offers eco-friendly stationery for home and office. We asked Cook about her path to entrepreneurship and what makes her venture unique.

What’s the origin story of Green Stationery?

I was in retail buying for 30 years. It’s a job of immersing yourself in a market and coming up with a selection that appeals to many kinds of customers. I worked for stationery companies that were big industry players. One day I was in a meeting where a paper company was giving a presentation. They said the average American throws away 745 pounds of paper a year. I was flabbergasted. I thought, “I don’t know how there are any trees left in this world the way we waste paper. Why not recycle it?” I looked at recycled paper that was available, and it was beautiful paper.

For me it was one small fact. I can make a difference by giving back this very fact that inspired me, by bringing beautiful, fashionable product that’s going to make people go WOW. If each of us takes one step, we all move.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Being the consummate shopper, I can’t get enough of retail. I have a degree in fashion, and my initial passion was ready-to-wear and couture. I moved to national companies and found it to be extremely exciting. I’m using the same skills now, but in an environment that is more real to me.

I think women in their 50s are very fearless. You’ve been there, done that, and you’re ready to go out on your own. We’re leaving the big man and trying to do something more personal. I have to tell you, it’s been extremely energizing and challenging and fun. It’s interesting to wear every single hat in the company.

When you launched, there was a perfect storm going on outside, economically speaking. What was that like?

Any time people close businesses, they leave a void behind. In difficult times, some companies don’t bring new products to the forefront. If you’re developing brand-new products and new concepts, it helps fill the void left by other companies that are standing still. What sells product is that people love new stuff, something new to discover.

My product got into the premiere of the movie Sex and the City 2, in the swag bags for all the people going to the premiere. But I still like the personal nature of the small boutique industry. It’s not highly discounted and dog-eat-dog. This is what Target does: They crave all the cool stuff small stores have. They shop them like there’s no tomorrow, trying to copy exactly what goes on in that market, because they know it’s the ‘it’ place to be.

What sets you apart?

A couple of things. When I came out with this business, no one was using the greenest paper. My first differentiation was to find the absolute greenest paper. The second aspect that’s different about me is design inspiration and development, which I base on clothing and home-décor fashion. My stationery collections look like textile on paper.

On every bit of my packaging, I put information that says, “By using 100-percent recycled paper, you saved so many trees a year, you save so much carbon.” Putting this on packaging inspires people to be more conscientious about paper. You know, it’s our air, our water. It’s our job to take care of them.

What do you expect to do, see and learn at this year’s National Stationery Show?

I’m interested to see how the industry has moved forward in terms of green. I’m also looking forward to who the new vendors are and what they’re doing. I love the show because it’s got so much texture and pattern. But I’m a typical customer: It’s the new things that interest me. I get inspired by brilliant ideas, refreshing new-ness.

Green Stationery products, says Cook, are predominantly printed on Mohawk Options. See more on Greeen Stationery’s five exquisitely coordinated collections here.

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Comments (2)

  1. Posted by Paige Orloff on 05.19.10 at 9:31 am

    Gorgeous work. Love the file folders, in particular.

  2. Posted by Kurt Andeson on 05.20.10 at 7:18 am

    If anyone knows the paper and staionery biz it is Marianne Cook. The line looks great and I wish you the best of luck!

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