Doing business in sustainable toilet paper; these two young entrepreneurs are doing it, roll by roll

February 12, 2024
Artikel in de Volkskrant over Bamboi
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Published in De Volkskrant on October 9, 2022. Written by Liam van de Ven. Photos are taken and owned by Raymond Rutting. Also readable via

The 24-year-old students Leroy Ranglek and Joseph Nickisch wanted to bring a product to the market together. But what? They chose bamboo toilet paper; a solution for the emissions and environmental damage associated with paper production.

Sustainable toilet paper
Joseph Nickisch, co-owner of Bamboi, demonstrates the strength of the paper.
Image Raymond Rutting / De Volkskrant

On a sunny day in April 2021, a colossal container truck drives onto a storage site in Hoofddorp. A group of students stands gaping, tasked with the Herculean task of unloading. It involves more than 50,000 rolls of toilet paper, packed in boxes of 9 kilos each. It is the first delivery, directly from China, for the Bamboi startup of students Leroy Ranglek and Joseph Nickisch (both 24).

The Dutch customs also come to have a look, but soon give up checking every box. Half of it has to go into a few garage boxes, the other half to Nickisch's student house. ‘The attic there could only carry five hundred kilos, and in the end we put over five thousand kilos of rolls there.’

More than a year later they laugh about it, but they have not forgotten the nightmare of then. ‘And we only paid our friends who came to lug two twenties, while we ended up spending more than six hours.’

Old trees

According to Ranglek and Nickisch, bamboo is a solution for the emissions and environmental damage associated with paper production. They believe that cutting down thirty-year-old trees for toilet paper that is only used once is a crime. Bamboo, on the other hand, can be fully grown within three months.

Moreover, Ranglek explains: bamboo grows best when it is regularly cut. When a bamboo forest is well maintained, it absorbs much more CO than a tree forest. The cut bamboo can be made into a pulp that is very suitable for making paper. Win-win, for the environment and for the two toilet paper sellers.

Nickisch and Ranglek became friends in the first year of secondary school in Amsterdam. Together they have had more than a dozen part-time jobs and small businesses, from street sales to catering. They once set up a small e-commerce platform, long before bamboo paper came on their radar. That the two would start a business together was a given. The question was only in what.

Sustainable toilet paper
Leroy Ranglek came up with the idea to bring bamboo toilet paper to the market.
Image Raymond Rutting / De Volkskrant

Ranglek came up with the idea to bring bamboo toilet paper to the market. ‘I wanted to sell something that everyone uses. The father of a friend had his own garbage bag business, and from there I thought through until I came to toilet paper. So I looked up: is toilet paper actually sustainable? It turned out not to be, because so many trees are cut down for it. Now I myself come from Thailand, where bamboo is widely used, and I wondered: why don't we actually make that toilet paper from bamboo?’ The idea then ended up on the shelf. Because, as the founders say, ‘who as a young guy is going to start a toilet paper company?’

After two years, the duo decides to go ahead; the idea is too good to let go. They write a draft for a business plan. Nickisch, who studies International Business Administration, deals with communication, customer contacts and the brand. Ranglek, a Mechanical Engineering student, knows how to get a product assembled on the other side of the world.

They ordered dozens of prototypes from as many different producers, until they finally arrived at a product that met all requirements. Softness, firmness, weight and, a matter of life and death for the entrepreneurs, made entirely of bamboo. From core to wrapper, a Bamboi roll does not contain a gram of regular paper.

Minor entrepreneurship

In the meantime, they followed the minor entrepreneurship at the HvA. ‘We used that minor to turn the first draft into a functional business plan’, says Nickisch. When that was up and running, with the watchful eyes of their teachers, they applied for a social credit of 50 thousand euros. They only got half of that. Nickisch: ‘Because we are young they did not have enough confidence.’ From their own savings, they scraped together another 10 thousand euros, just enough to order that first gigantic load.

Sales began from their own webshop and via, among others. ‘The biggest challenge was to manage our inventory. Because we had to work with a smaller budget, we did not have enough space to order a second load, while sales shot through the roof.’

Ranglek was a guest on a radio broadcast on NPO4 a small half year after sales began, after which thirty orders came in one morning. ‘If that had continued, we would have sold out at once and we would not have been able to deliver. Then we would have succumbed to our own success’, says Ranglek.

The most exciting moments for Bamboi are over. While the two finish their studies, they are more than full-time busy expanding their company. Within the start-up world, they are a breath of fresh air, among all the fast tech entrepreneurs. They win prize after prize for their entrepreneurship. And that they don't pay themselves yet? ‘We don't care’, says Ranglek. ‘In a year we can probably pay ourselves a salary, but for now that's not so important. We both intend to roll out this company and tackle the paper industry, that's the vision.’ Order our bamboo toilet paper.

Company: Bamboi
Where: Amsterdam
Since: 2020
Number of employees: 2
Turnover 2022: 34 thousand euros
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