Factory Floor: Message In A Planter
For Lauri Felson, it all started with a zippered, pad-printed coconut. The entrepreneur and founder of Santa Fe, New Mexico-based supplier Symphony Seed Papers, Inc., accompanied her husband Joseph (Bud) Felson—owner of supplier Okina Sales, Inc., a custom packaging manufacturer—to the PPAI® Expo in 1994. Having recently left her position as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines, Felson attended the show to help her husband in his trade show booth.
She initially sought a gift for her daughter, but quickly noticed that many products at the show were made of plastic or were manufactured overseas. It was then Felson landed on an idea—to offer USA-made, easy-on-the-earth products. A year later, she joined her husband at the show again, adding the zippered coconuts to his booth. She sold 100,000 in her first year, with one of her clients including CBS’s Survivor reality series. It was shortly after that she founded Symphony Seed Papers, Inc., a manufacturer of 100 percent recycled, recyclable and biodegradable paper embedded with flower, vegetable, herb or tree seeds. When gifted, recipients can simply soak the paper in water, cover with a fine layer of soil and watch it grow into a beautiful plant in two to four weeks. The popularity was evident—her first order was for 10,000 seed cards.
Nearly 30 years later Felson still makes her seed paper domestically, designing and handcrafting it in the factory she shares with Okina Sales, Inc., making it easy to collaborate on custom seed paper boxes and packaging. All the seeds used are locally-sourced, organic and laboratory-tested, and contain plant material taken directly from nature, like petals and pine needles. No trees are cut down in the process and no toxic bleaching methods are used, as Felson exclusively uses secondhand materials, like paper, cotton t-shirts, coffee grounds and even shredded dollar bills, to make the paper.
Felson’s selection has grown to include a list of paper goods, from air fresheners, bookmarks, business cards, desktop gardens, paper fortune tellers and gift card holders to invitations, journals, name tags, placemats, recipe cards, visors and wine charms. Clients can choose from alluring colors, which are created using natural dyes, as well as an extensive choice of seeds. Herb choices include basil, parsley, dill and chive seeds; vegetable seeds include tomato, carrot, chili pepper, onion and artichoke; and tree seeds include apple and pine. A lengthy list of wildflowers are available, from black-eyed Susans, English daisies and snapdragons to corn poppies, dwarf Godetias, lemon mint and maiden pinks.
Over the years, Felson has been involved in many large-scale campaigns. She created a classic paper mailer for An Inconvenient Truth, the 2006 documentary about former Vice President Al Gore’s campaign on global warming; custom cards for Volvo, Toyota and Ford; Earth Day and program promotions for NBC; “dollar bills” with a picture of Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, in the center; coupons for fast-food chain Carl’s Junior; herb-growing bookmarks for The Food Network and HGTV; and holiday ornament cards for The Ellen Degeneres Show.
As the company continues to serve the promotional products industry with beautiful, handmade, eco-friendly products, Felson has ongoing plans to grow her product line. In 2019, she plans to introduce more food and veggie packs that grow into whole gardens, she says.
The Story Behind The Seed Papers
The recycled paper is soaked and blended, creating a paste. Once blended, it is placed into a hopper, which is used to transfer the material to another holder.
From the hopper, the material is poured into boxes and then flipped, two at a time, to incorporate the seeds and add embellishments. Once decorated, excess water is pressed out of the material and the seed papers are placed on a drying cart to dry overnight.
The following day, the papers are ready to bundle. They are gathered in stacks of 50 and sent to another warehouse for further processing.
The finished seed paper is then die-cut into the requested shape to create the finished product.
About Symphony Seed Papers
• Founding date: January 1, 1995
• Principal: Lauri Felson, founder and president
• Number of orders filed per month: 200 orders; 400 during spring and for Earth Day
• Most popular item: the butterfly (OR-M-13)
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.