Supporting Sustainable Startups: Why it’s okay to not have the Best.

Paper on the Rocks founder, Anne Pleun van Eijsden wrote the following post in August 2017. Two years later, we’re sharing it again. Anne’s message, about supporting companies that are in the process of learning how to be both the best for the world and THE BEST, is more relevant than ever.

A very interesting and productive telephone conference is interrupted when, once again, my phone goes dead. After ferociously clicking it open thereby breaking my fingernail, I pull out the battery, place it back in, start up the phone and call my contact again. “I’m sorry, that was my phone, it does this regularly,” I explain to him. “Time for a new one?” “No,” I explain, “it’s my Fairphone and I’m fine with it.” Whereupon the man I’m talking to tells me he also had a Fairphone, but decided to switch back to an iPhone due to all the teething problems he experienced with the Fairphone.

This was two weeks ago. And today it hit me:

Everyone – and I mean everyone – should line up to support companies like Fairphone to become THE BEST. Because while this company is already the Best for the World, it needs time, and a lot of supporters, to become THE BEST.

As is the case with a lot of other companies that are ‘Best’ or ‘Better’ for the World.

Let’s get personal. I was afraid to share this story since it hits so close to home for me and might leave my company vulnerable. But I believe it is important to share with you, my experience as an entrepreneur with a company that’s also not the absolute best – yet.

Some months after starting my business, I landed the first big order for Paper on the Rocks. I was over the moon. Yes! Someone believes that my Rockbooks are the future of notebooks! We delivered them, and it all looked great.

A week later, I received an email. “We’re very sorry to inform you that some of the books are falling apart.” The rocks were crumbling under my feet – I was on the rocks (meaning of ‘on the rocks’: 1. In a state of difficulty, destruction, or ruin). This was the end! My biggest newest client would for sure NEVER buy ANY Rockbooks again!

We ended up solving the problem and replacing the broken books. And that’s when it happened:

Something that felt like a miracle, but should become the new normal.

The client wrote to me: “Thank you for solving the problem. And please, rest assured, we will return with new orders. Because we believe in you, and we want to help you grow your business that is actually good for the world. So thank you, for continuing the work you do.” (they have placed three new orders since.)

And that is also why I am writing this article today. Startups with products or services that are good, better, Best for the World, do not start as THE BEST company.

They lack volume. They lack scale. They lack reputation. They lack history. But they are the future.

And we need this kind of future. Because the old way of doing business ‘as usual’, turns out to be disadvantageous to us all. We need to raise new giants to take over and steer us in the right direction. Even if their company or product is not the most efficient or the customer support slow to respond, or the website does not work that well, or the product tends to show some teething problems, or the service is a little more expensive than the competition: stick to it. It will be worth the wait – if we all stand together.

To all sustainable entrepreneurs and endeavours focusing on solutions for a bright future: We’ve got your back. Repeat after me: We’ve got your back.

Thank you for reading. Please share this post with a person or company you’d like to big up for the great things that are working towards.

Click here to know more about our story as a sustainable startup!

Photo by Dan Stark

Update, May 2019:

I’m still using the same Fairphone, and the aforementioned bug doesn’t exist anymore. I’m a happy user, and recommend this phone to everybody!