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It Started As a Joke and Turned Into a Startup That Raised $1 Million in Funding

It Started As a Joke and Turned Into a Startup That Raised $1 Million in Funding

Is your startup struggling to gain traction? Imagine generating interest in a toilet paper company…


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


“Everyone wipes, right? Besides, who wouldn’t want to get free toilet paper while saving our planet?”

That’s what founder and CEO Scott Kufus says about the potential of his new paper product-based company, Better Planet Paper. He believes his eco-friendly mission to plant a tree for every purchase of his product can help save the planet.

In the United States alone, more than 68 million trees are killed annually to manufacture paper products, with the average American consuming well over 1,000 pounds of paper and boxes annually.

Helping save the environment is just one of the many reasons that inspired Kufus, a former Boy Scout, to launch a startup that offers toilet paper on a recurring subscription-based model, similar to other businesses like Dollar Shave Club and BirchBox.

Related: The Complete, 12-Step Guide to Starting a Business

However, the genesis of the concept came from a movie script.

“I wrote a comedic screenplay called ‘Get Rich Quick – The Movie,’” Kufus said. “It was about a proctologist and a hair salon owner that sold toilet paper to their friends to wipe away their debt. I thought it would be funny to weave that into a film… because everybody wipes!”

While pitching a Hollywood studio, a top executive quipped, “Somebody should build that someday,” referencing the movie’s toilet paper business model.

Suddenly, Kufus had an epiphany.

“So I researched online and realized it was a legitimate opportunity. With modern technology, it’s now possible to give people a chance to get toilet paper for free and deliver it directly to their homes. So instead of doing my film, I decided to build this company. That’s how I launched Better Planet Paper .”

Kufus believes Better Planet Paper can profitably save millions of trees and even reverse the damage caused by deforestation if he can persuade consumers to merely switch brands.

Related: 15 Ways to Grow Your Business Fast

Kufus plans to grow his company in several unique ways that other startups might learn from if everything goes according to plan.

Here are five strategies that can help transform a “startup sapling” into a monstrous redwood:

1) Create a social mission.

Every time a Better Planet Paper customer places an order, a new tree will be planted to reduce deforestation and support the environment in the long run.

Kufus knows the US National Park system is underfunded and wants to help. That’s why Kufus developed the Taller Tree Foundation.

Each quarter, a portion of sales will be donated to major tree planting organizations like the American Forest Foundation and 1% for the Planet. Kufus plans to encourage Better Planet Paper members to help them plant trees as well.

2) Incentive customers using co-op or referral marketing.

Another unique feature of the Better Planet Paper business model is their referral system and how they reward customers for their referrals.

Discounts are offered for the first two referrals. When a customer refers three people, then they get their paper products for free. Depending on the total number of people a customer refers, they can also receive other financial rewards, including member dividends from a collective pool of the company’s revenue.

3) Leverage user-generated content (UGC).

Better Planet Paper is counting on their community to creatively spread their mission. “What we’re doing is inviting people to create music, stories, poems, art, and photos. Each month, we’ll choose the best ideas and let everybody share the content from their mobile devices on social media sites worldwide,” Kufus explained.

To date, one of their members already has a song listed on iTunes and iHeartRadio.

4) Develop community partnerships.

Better Planet Paper has already started to partner with community organizations to help spread the word about their environmentally-conscious goals. One of their initial partners is Keep Seminole Beautiful in Florida, which plans to promote Better Planet Paper’s mission of “Paper with a Purpose!” to their audience.

In exchange, they will receive funds from any purchases made. Regardless of niche, this kind of setup makes for a unique fundraising opportunity, especially for non-profit organizations.

5) Implement gamification.

Better Planet Paper will be producing a mobile app in 2018 designed to encourage environmental conservation. The app shows how many trees have been saved by company membership and even the total number of trees saved by the user’s collective referrals.

They also plan to run recurring contests to increase customer engagement and social sharing via the app. Recently, another company, BrandMentions, launched their SaaS startup using a social media contest which generated over 12,000 new leads in a matter of weeks.

Social media contests can be an inexpensive way to build an interested audience quickly if done properly.

Related: 8 Powerful Ways to Market Your Business on a Limited Budget

Seeing startup success.

After starting to ship their paper products just a few months ago, Kufus is excited to have raised nearly $1 million of seed capital, helping launch Better Planet Paper under budget and already experiencing 250 percent growth.

“I have a sincere desire to make a change. I am much more interested in being significant than successful. I know we’ll make money, but the end goal isn’t to make the most money. The end goal is to make the biggest difference,” Kufus revealed.

If Better Planet Paper can grow into a “redwood” of sorts, then they might be able to achieve their mission to plant 100 million sustainable trees over the next 10 years and help wipe away deforestation.

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