In the third installment of our young entrepreneurs blog series we catch up with Ang and Katherine, the brains behind Paper Plains. The best plant-based rice paper rolls going around...
What was it that inspired you to launch Paper Plains?
It came about from a few different things- the rice paper rolls food side of it from my backpacking trip and the social enterprise part of it through realising, first-hand ,the lack of belief and support young people had when trying to start something this extravagant and off the beaten life-path.
When I was couchsurfing, I made rice paper rolls with my host as a way of saying thank you for letting me crash on their couch. I didn’t realise it was going to be such a hit- we’ve done it as kids with our family (and still do it) so it’s pretty normal for us, but to see how much fun others had when making them was pretty special. Because we were rolling in Germany, Spain, Italy etc, it meant that we had to compromise on the traditional ingredients and be a little bit more creative and use local ingredients- hence the wacky menu now!
In terms of the youth movement, with Katherine being a high-school teacher and me being just your average joe young person/student we see first AND second hand how limited young people are in having the opportunities, belief and support in building their own thing. Usually it’s because we’re stereotyped as too young, naïve, inexperienced, lack finance etc but people forget that we are creative, motivated, driven and so incredibly fearless! So we started a business, built by young people for young people.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your business so far?
Charging people any amount of money!
If was about us, we would give rolls for free all day every day- we have a crazy problem with feeling bad for taking people’s money, even though we know that that’s what a business is and how it works (I know, crazy)! It’s even harder that it’s our own business because WE make the decisions. This is what led to the biggest challenge for us- understanding costs and profit margins and finances for a viable business. Having never worked in hospitality or the food industry to the depth that we are now, we have absolutely no idea about what to charge people- we sometimes even had to have our friends give us proper figures because we would always give such conservative prices and forget things like labour costs or travel or even little things like the tray! We always remind ourselves that we exist as a social enterprise though and everything we do is greater than ourselves and whatever we make is to make a difference for youths in entrepreneurship.
If you could turn back the clock to when you were just launching Paper Plains, what’s one piece
of advice you would give yourself?
Print off the menu. And don’t rush the process, but hustle when you need.
Our first every event was such a mess (in the funniest way possible). We had everything in place, logistically, but forgot about the smaller details ie the menu! We spent the first hour at our first event writing directly onto our trailer (you can actually still see the marks haha). We then realised it was so illegible so we had our other sister drop by officeworks for a big sheet of poster paper which we wrote on and then stuck onto the trailer with ugly metallic silver duct tape. Ha! Presentation was so on point.
For the 4 months leading up to the launch, I was trying to rush everything and push our mates at The Little Caravan Company to get the trailer done. This I realised was pretty selfish because everyone has their own agenda and business to run as well. Katherine was great in it, she understood the process and just let it happen in it’s own time. Now looking back, I’m glad it took it’s time because we were able to build our business before it even got out through little catering events and social media. It meant that we could figure out SOME processes and logistics before it was go time.
What's your morning routine?
I don’t wake up with an alarm and just let my body wake itself up because if I wake up with an alarm, I know I’m in for a sluggish morning and day! The first thing that moves is my bowels (is that TMI haha!) and then that’s when I make the decision to do a morning workout or not-I like to listen to what my body says/how it’s feeling. If it decided it’s up for a workout, it’s usually an at home HIIT 30min workout or 25 min fartlek/sprints session followed by a 10 minute core session. Breakfast then follows- it’s usually a big bowl of green oats (matcha, spirulina, spinach, cinnamon, maca powder, banana mixed in) with frozen berries or a home-made big breakfast with an almond milk matcha latte and then probably something else straight after- I’m a pretty big eater haha.
We're all about keeping healthy here at Cuzzie, what's your number one health tip?
SLEEP! Everyone also knows how important sleep is to me- I’m such a grandma. Getting to bed early and rising with the sun is how I like to do it- leaving your blinds open and waking up naturally seems to be the best way for me to have enough energy to smash out the day. It also helps with my hunger hormones- you know I’m tired if I’m eating my meal, your meal and then the person behind us’ meal.
How do you balance friends, family, your health and running your own business?
Efficiency, multi-tasking and prioritisation.
When uni exams are on, everything else slows down and uni is the priority, when we have a huge event to prep for, I’ll try to make sure that I’ve caught up on uni weeks in advance to not fall behind. It’s about being prepared and smart. I love efficiency and if I can ever kill two birds with one stone, I will. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t have a car and choose to cycle everywhere- it’s SO time efficient! It gets me to where I need to be AND I’m subconsciously exercising at the same time (it’s also faster and lets me control what time I arrive #punctualpatricia). For anyone that knows me, knows that it’s normal for me to have grease on my leg and a helmet in hand- if I don’t, something’s up!
What's the best part about being your own boss?
The best part is definitely being able to make your own rules and decisions. If we feel like giving out free rolls or an extra roll here or there we will (which also doesn’t always work in our favour haha). Same goes with giving discounts, picking and choosing events, having creative freedom with the menu and writing extremely bad Instagram captions- there is so much freedom. It also makes us feel pretty cool.
What was your first job and what did you learn?
My first ever job was at a small, local pizza shop about 50m from our house (cash in hand and when I was 13- so totally not legit ha!). It was a small pizza shop but throughout my childhood, our family saw about 4 different pizza shops try to grow there and miserably fail. The managers when I worked there were the first ones to be able to tackle the market and build a successful, viable business. They indirectly taught me how to build loyalty through looking after your customers as if they were family or good friends. People need to feel like that they are important and loved- that’s something that we think is also important, because in the end, without them we are nothing!
How has social media played a role in your business?
Social media is our ONLY source of exposure and is actually where we get the majority of our enquiries and gigs. We put heaps of importance on it, mainly because it’s a smart and extremely effective way of sharing information, connecting with people and getting our name out there. It’s pretty much our whole business!
In 25 words or less sell the Paper Plains dream...
To change society’s perspective on youths AND to support the youths of today because they are the success of our tomorrow… with rice paper rolls.
What's your one tip for people thinking about launching their own business?
Don't forget to follow Paper Plains on instagram to find out where you can get your hands on their delicious rolls!