Over the last few decades, home ownership has seen a demonstrated age shift — The Atlantic documents that the share of 18-to-34 year olds who own a home has fallen to a 30-year low. Though driven by many factors, this is at least partially because the millennial generation often pursues a different life path than those before them, settling down later and congregating in dense cities where they tend to be non-committal about permanent housing and move frequently.
Dara Schaier was working in New York City as an industrial designer when she first experienced problems created by this “super-mobile” phenomenon — she moved five times in seven years. With tiny apartments, sky-high rent, and no car to make those moves easy, Schaier found herself treating inexpensive furniture from IKEA as disposable each time she moved.
Beyond the costs, she was also frustrated at the waste.
“This wasn’t supposed to be furniture I was throwing out after a year, two years,” Schaier explains. “But it just seemed easier than bringing it across the city to another temporary apartment.”
On a trip for work, Schaier visited a corrugated cardboard factory in China to help determine what the cardboard they produced could be used for. While touring the factory, she stumbled into a room filled with furniture — all made out of cardboard.
“It was amazing. There were chairs, tables… But the factory owners told us it was worthless. They hadn’t found a market,” Schaier, who also has a background in architecture, says. “I looked at them and was like, I am that market!”
After a move to Atlanta to pursue her MBA degree at Emory’s Goizueta Business School, Schaier began to work on her idea full-time. She did customer discovery at Rent the Runway’s Project Entrepreneur program, and launched Built Out Of Paper (BOOP) in 2017.
Their first product is a bookcase — 100 percent cardboard, recyclable and sturdy. Each cardboard shelf holds 25-30 pounds of books or other items, but the entire piece weighs less than nine pounds; it’s also treated to make it waterproof. It costs $49 and goes on sale this week.
Schaier is proud that she has been able to produce the entire product locally from a facility in Conyers, Georgia. “Being close to the production means I can make sure everything is sourced properly, that the cardboard is coming from trees grown for paper, grown like crops. We can quality control the labor.”
Schaier is already in the works on several additional BOOP products including a lightweight, fully-cardboard artwork frame, side table/stool, coffee tables and more. She was accepted into the Atlanta VC Pathways program presented by Village Capital and UPS, and is seeking to raise a seed round for the fully-bootstrapped company. She says her biggest challenges are scaling manufacturing and shipping, so is also looking to talk to strategic manufacturing partners.
“I’ve gotten so much positive feedback from anyone who has this problem,” says Schaier, who presented at Switchyards’ The Consumer Show pitch event this month. “But it’s a new idea and there’s definitely going to be an education hurdle.”
Photos provided by BOOP