Eco Brand Business Owner
|Company||Sheep Poo Paper|
"Perhaps the least enjoyable aspect of what I do is collecting sheep poo - but even that can be amazing out in the beauty of the Snowdonia mountains!"
I’m Lawrence Toms. My business partner and I formed our company, Creative Paper Wales, to manufacture and market Sheep Poo Paper™. We wanted to inject some humour into the marketing of an eco brand, and were inspired by a lady who was making paper from kangaroo poo in Tasmania.
I handle the management side of the business; so I look after things like our strategy and finances, as well as the brand itself, and our customers.
Good communication skills are essential in my job. Fortunately, I take real pleasure in other people and being entertaining, which helps when marketing our product. My varied education helps too – I have qualifications in Economics, Philosophy, and Law. These have all been useful in different ways; teaching me about how businesses operate, how to think clearly, and providing practical knowledge to deal with the legal aspects.
I believe that the harder you work, the luckier you get. I try to keep myself entertained – because if I’m enjoying myself, then other people will pick up on that and enjoy our products too!
Tell us about your job – where do you work and what do you do?I handle the management of Creative Paper Wales, which is a partnership that was formed in 2006, with George ‘Lez’ Paylor, to manufacture and market Sheep Poo Paper™ via SheepPooPaper.com.
This management role covers all aspects of running a small business - including brand management, business strategy, finance, marketing and customer relations. I work largely on a mobile basis from the company motorhome (using wireless broadband to access emails, etc). This mobility makes for great contact with our customers.
What inspired you to do what you do? How did you get into it, did you have a plan?We were inspired by a lady called Joanne Gair, who was making paper from kangaroo poo in Tasmania. Joanne was kind enough to send us a copy of her own business plan, so we didn’t have to go to much trouble to replicate it.
Why is your job meaningful? Both to you personally, and in how it benefits the wider world in terms of climate change and other environmental challenges.We wanted to bring something fresh to the environmental movement and felt that, in part, our role was to inject some humour into the marketing of an eco brand. We hope that our approach will inspire other eco brands to adopt a more entertaining lilt to their marketing. We also like to think that if people can see us making a success of recycling sheep poo, they will be bolder in their own imaginings - about what they themselves might recycle.
Many jobs in this sector are very new, how long has your job existed?We launched Creative Paper Wales in September 2006, so for approximately 3 years.
What personal qualities do you think have got you where you are today?Despite being labelled, at the age of 9, as Educationally Sub Normal (ESN) I went on to achieve a number of university degrees - this is due, in particular, to the fact that I'm prepared to work very hard towards my goals and objectives, especially when I come up against difficulties. I also take real pleasure in other people, and love having the opportunity to be entertaining; hopefully this gives a zing to our marketing and product presentation.
What are the essential skills for your job?It would be impossible to do my job without a working understanding of standard office software - particularly a spreadsheet, which is essential for all our financial modelling and cost control. Good communication skills are also essential, as is a good understanding of the basic principles of marketing.
What qualifications do you have? Are these typical for people in your role?GCSEs in French, Latin, Maths, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Economics, English Language, English Literature and Commerce; A-levels in Economics, Law and Maths; a bachelors degree in Philosophy; a masters in Intellectual Property Law.
I also have a diploma in European Industrial and Intellectual Property. This was awarded to me after winning a series of international moot court competitions in 2004-5 (a moot court is an activity in which participants take part in simulated court proceedings).
I would say that the Law masters is most often paired with work in the legal profession (either as a patent agent or a trademark attorney) so it's a rare qualification for my sort of role. However, it does mean that our trademarks and other IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) are well protected - and without the significant expense of engaging lawyers.
I think I perhaps lean most heavily on my Philosophy degree and my GCSE in Economics. The former taught me to think clearly, and the latter taught me how small businesses operate.
What do you think most helped you get where you are now?A willingness to take chances in situations where the outcome was not certain. Plus, lots of hard work and a little bit of luck - I do believe the old adage that the harder you work the luckier you get!
Please describe a typical working dayIn a day, I may spend upwards of 4-5 hours answering emails, after which I can do any number of things - sometimes I'll spend time doing creative work associated with product or brand development, sometimes I'll visit a retail partner, and sometimes I'll have meetings with my colleagues to discuss our plans or any issues that arise. I try to limit my working days to under 10 hours, but this isn’t always possible.
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?The most enjoyable aspect of my work is the unlimited creative freedom - I try to keep myself entertained, on the basis that if I’m enjoying myself then other people will pick up on it and enjoy our products too.
Perhaps the least enjoyable aspect of what I do is collecting sheep poo in buckets - but even that can be amazing out in the beauty of the Snowdonia mountains.