Yagmur Masmas: Founder of Greenstory, a sustainable stationary company
What were you doing at 22? Not many of us can say running our own, sustainable brand, but that is exactly what GreenStory founder Yagmur Masmas doing. Greenstory is a sustainable stationary brand offering zero waste and low impact stationary options.
Driven by a desire to make a change in the world, whilst keeping us all organised Yagmur is my woman to watch over the next few years. This young entrepreneur is flying the flag for not just female entrepreneurs in the sustainability space but for all women. I won’t say anymore as Yagmur’s story is the long read of the series but 100% worth it. At 22 Yagmur has green business skills that we can all learn from!
Tell me a bit about you. How did it all start?
My name is Yagmur (say: amour with a j in front) and I am 22 years old. It is actually a Turkish name, my dad grew up in rural Turkey before coming to the Netherlands. I was born in a medium-sized green Dutch town called Zoetermeer (sweet lake), between The Hague and Rotterdam. As a kid, I became worried about the course of the world, issues such as land degradation and microplastics. After doing my research I decided to become vegetarian and to search for more sustainable school supplies. I thought to myself, I could have been born in a hopeless situation, growing up without education, having to work long hours, perhaps becoming sick because of pollution. But instead, I grew up in a safe environment, I have not seen war, I have more opportunities than most people. I want to use this to make a difference, starting with the products I use in my everyday life.
My dissatisfaction with existing school supplies and belief that it could be different ultimately led to the start of Greenstory while I studied Sustainable Innovation in Netherlands taking courses in chemistry, environmental sciences, logistics, law, governance and more. I have been supported by friends and family throughout. My family is still active in the business and I have been particularly working together with my brother Kaim, who is 2 years younger than me and passionate about time management, personal productivity and product development. He used this passion to design new pages for GreenBook such as the erasable to do lists, which became a great success!
GreenBook provides a solution to the pile of notebooks and scrap paper on your desk, and helps save the planet at the same time. GreenBook is an all-in-one reusable whiteboard notebook which has many different helpful types of pages you can click in and out, such as weekly planners, to do lists, dotted/lined paper, and a nutrition planner. This means that GreenBook can act as an erasable notebook, planner, and more. Once you’re finished writing, you can simply scan the pages with your phone to keep them, or erase and re-use the pages.
After finishing my bachelors, I decided to do an Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs traineeship with Birmingham-based entrepreneur Jodie Cook. This has been an amazing experience and I decided to stay here and introduce Greenstory in the UK.
What motivated you to start a sustainable business?
Rather than starting with the intent to have a business, I started with a frustration about not being able to find affordable, good-looking, sustainably produced school supplies.
I was also frustrated by the fact that companies were just casting aside any negative environmental impact as 'externality' rather than actively supporting a healthy living environment for us all and future generations.
Humans are supposed to be rational, but it's not rational to exhaust resources and destroy eco-systems for short-term profit. Eco-systems are resilient and complex, but humans have managed to destroy a great many of them in a short period. Cutting down a forest can be done in a matter of days, but simply planting new trees does not make a forest. It just makes a line of trees.
It does not need to be this way!
I firmly believe that we can all live on this earth together for many generations when enough people decide this for themselves. One side of this conscious decision is living with less. We don't need new clothes every month. The other side of this is choosing the sustainable alternative of those items that you do need in your everyday life such as soap, a good set of clothes and for many people, notebooks too.
When I started my search in high school, I had never heard of the word 'sustainable'. I just wanted to know the story behind the products I used every day and make a positive impact.
As I was telling my friends about this, it became clear that a lot of people had simply never thought about this. Telling the story of sustainable products turned out to be an opportunity to share facts about environmental problems, to trigger discussions and to introduce new concepts such as 'life cycle' and 'circular economy'.
What are your plans for Greenstory? Where do you want the brand to go?
Firstly, GreenBook will keep developing with new pages and add-ons. We have a lot of returning customers because GreenBook is such a flexible, evolving product and a perfect gift. New ideas come from GreenBook users, from bullet journaling and from research about productivity, habits and self-management. Greenstory has a consumer-panel consisting of active users who give feedback once a month regarding new product ideas.
I personally love working on limited editions. Our first limited edition GreenBook was a collaboration with an NGO which organises enterprising projects for primary school kids and the second one will be a collaboration with an illustrator from Flow magazine!
A recent addition to our product line is the Stone Notebook, an innovative notebook that has pages manufactured from actual stone. It’s very smooth pages are waterproof, tear-resistant and numbered for your convenience. This product continues our sustainability focus by being fully recyclable, produced in the EU, and one tree is planted for each sale.
At the same time, our blog GreenCafe is a place where lots of tips and ideas are shared to make the most of your Greenstory essentials. Some are written by me or by my colleague Fleur, but most of them are written by the community. These blogs help you with being more productive and living more sustainably. We can learn a lot from each other.
The plan for Greenstory is to keep developing sustainably produced and distributed products designed to help you to be productive. There are some exciting projects in the pipeline, so stay tuned!
What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs looking to start their own eco-friendly brand?
· Know your own strengths and gather people around you who complement yours.
· Talk about your idea with different people, both those around you and those who are potentially in your target group.
· Fill out a business model canvas each month to stay focussed.
· Find expert advisors with experience, for example through Growth Hubs, Innovate UK, Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs or accelerator programs. You are the owner of your innovative idea, but there's a lot more to it and when it comes to those other elements you don't need to reinvent the wheel. You can potentially get funding as well as mentoring from such programs or from awards, enterprise networks or crowdfunding.
· Set monthly goals and write down for yourself how you see your business in 5 years. What will you need to get there, what are milestones to celebrate? Then, create habits for yourself. For example, work on your idea every Saturday morning. Don't forget a to-do list with priorities.
· Find someone who will sit down with you once a month to discuss what progress you have made and importantly, identify the lowest barrier opportunities to create a turnover once you have your minimum viable product (MVP). When money starts flowing, that's your real feedback and development cycle starting.
What are your top tips for living a more sustainable lifestyle?
Be kind to yourself. We don't need to all go 100% vegan or live in a cabin in the woods. Take one step at a time. Start with a meatless-Monday and cutting down on endangered fish, for example. It would already have a huge impact if half of the UK were to do this.
A sustainable lifestyle is also about enjoying little things and being grateful for joyful moments. Of course, life is busy and chaotic and full of surprises, however, you can practice a state of mind. To a certain extent, it is a choice. Surround yourself with people, news and experiences which give you energy, including sometimes going out of your comfort zone. When it comes to buying things, Vivienne Westwood says it best: Buy less, choose well, make it last.
Thank you so much for talking to F + C Yagmur, your story is an inspiration and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for OurGreenstory.