By the Numbers
increase in sales in 2 weeks
decrease in container fees
in carbon saved in 1 year
Cloud Paper couldn’t have had a better business launch. Within days of its first meeting with Flexport, in May of 2019, the bamboo toilet paper company was tracking new shipments from Asia to Seattle to corporate clients, including office parks, fitness franchises, and restaurant chains.
At the same time, the company wanted to make sure it did more than meet business goals. Its choices had to align with its deeply held mission to prevent deforestation. To that end, shortly after onboarding, Cloud Paper co-founder Ryan Fritsch became Flexport’s first customer to double up on carbon offsets.
“Running a sustainable business has been a primary driver since inception, and it’s very important that our partners share that sensibility,” explains Fritsch. “Through our work with Flexport.org and Carbonfund.org, plus the carbon benefits of our tree-free product, we are nearing 1,000,000 pounds of carbon savings over the past year.”
With Flexport’s platform, logistical transparency, and commitment to carbon neutrality, Cloud Paper’s business was on a roll. Then, a year later, COVID-19 wracked the globe, mangling supply chains with reduced workforces, shuttered ports, blanked sailings, and canceled flights.
As the US sheltered under stay-at-home orders, demand for toilet paper shifted from offices and public spaces to homes. Consumers went into overdrive, frantically buying toilet paper, clearing out store shelves and online marketplaces.
Traditional toilet paper manufacturers were in a frenzy, rushing goods to market as container shortages magnified the urgency of quick shipping. But amid the panic, Cloud Paper’s tree-free toilet paper, delivered in bulk on a regular schedule, had a new customer base. The company’s team transformed its entire supply chain and business mode in days.
At the height of the pandemic, Cloud Paper co-founder Austin Watkins submitted a rapid-fire series of orders that, combined, was larger than all previous orders in company history. With Flexport’s strategic expertise, the shipments moved without a hitch. Cloud Paper boosted sales by 600% in two weeks.
Supply chain agility helped. As demand soared for toilet paper, Cloud Paper had an opportunity to lift its business in a big way. The start-up was getting thousands of new orders each week, and the consumer services market was radically different than Cloud Paper’s original enterprise clientele.
The team worked out a plan internally to remain transparent with their customers, a core value that was easy to uphold with data from Flexport’s platform.
“Having everything in one place—we trust it as a single source of truth,” says Fritsch. “Everything is accessible, plus the Flexport team is incredible. A single-source platform makes things very easy.”
Even with an explosive spike and a new customer base, Cloud Paper has stayed true to its DNA.
“There have been many complex factors at work this year, each with nuanced impacts on our operations,” says Tori Kiss, Head of Operations for Cloud Paper. “We trust Flexport to help us understand factors like general rate increases, tariff uncertainty, and implications from disruptions like COVID-19 on a deeper level.
“I rely on their platform data when managing supply chain strategy or when planning orders and inventory. Flexport allows us to build our own expertise, while keeping the team lean and focused.”
As Cloud Paper increased its inbound shipments to accommodate the surge in demand, delivery fees increased by 160%, driven by COVID-related delays in container pick-ups and returns.
The Flexport team shared advice on optimizing internal operations and coordinated with the trucking company to expedite container movement. As a result, Cloud Paper was able to shave delivery-related fees by 13% compared with before the spike.
The decision to partner with Flexport was sealed when the Cloud Paper team discovered a mutual commitment to sustainability. Between Flexport’s digital platform, customer service, and partnership with Carbonfund.org, Cloud Paper found exactly what it needed.
Co-founders Fritsch and Watkins formed Cloud Paper to offer a simple, supply chain-based solution that supports their mission to respond to environmental factors and scale with an emerging market.
“We started Cloud Paper as a way to reimagine sustainability in the paper industry,” shares Fritsch. “This includes everything from using only sustainable tree-free fibers in our product and packaging to offsetting the impact of our supply chain.”
The stats on deforestation show a clear opportunity for innovative brands like Cloud Paper, which replaces traditional paper products with bamboo paper. Currently, trees are cut down at a rate of one acre per second. Plus, 15% of current deforestation is caused by toilet paper manufacturing.
Bamboo is a natural alternative, given that it can grow up to three feet per day. What’s more, it can be harvested for paper in as little as three years, compared to 50-plus years for most trees.
“Cloud Paper has to build a robust global supply chain,” explains Fritsch. “Then, we have to ensure transparency as it relates to responsible and sustainable sourcing of bamboo throughout the supply chain.”
Flexport’s platform empowers Cloud Paper to satisfy its objectives, even in times of worldwide trade volatility.
Between blank sailings, container shortages, unpredictable rates, and fewer workers in ports around the world, Cloud Paper’s black-swan opportunity depended on navigating major challenges.
“With COVID-driven demand, efficiency is crucially important,” Kiss notes. “Our supply chain is only as efficient as the feasibility and speed of transporting goods from our suppliers. The direct-to-consumer channel requires agility through the entire supply chain.”
By working closely with Flexport’s shipping experts, Cloud Paper was able to gain strategic advice and shape a new business model within days of realizing a major market shift. The company’s agility and Flexport’s customer service allowed Cloud Paper to obtain toilet paper more reliably and meet the urgency of a new market, just in time.
As the first Flexport customer to double up on carbon offsets, the sustainable start-up operates in the carbon negative.
Flexport’s partnership with non-profit Carbonfund.org offered a high-impact way to meet sustainability and business goals simultaneously. The Flexport.org team made it easy for Cloud Paper to track carbon offsetting. As a result, Fritsch decided to go deeper.
He hones in on the benefits, “By partnering with Carbonfund.org, Cloud Paper is able to invest in large-scale reforestation efforts that offset emissions from the transportation of our product.
“What started as a program to offset our Flexport container deliveries evolved into a full review of our container shipping, household parcel shipments, and business deliveries to ensure that we take into account emissions across multiple transportation segments.”
It’s the kind of detailed review—based in data, supported by technology, and refined with expert strategy—that lets young companies like Cloud Paper succeed. By constructing an agile supply chain and being willing to pivot, Cloud Paper was able to meet the needs of the moment and generate lift right after launch.