Paper, Scissors . . . Wrappily Rocks!

This Maui mom turned a throwaway commodity into a flat-out brilliant business model.


Story by Rita Goldman | Photography by Nina Kuna

eco friendly gift wrap

Sara Smith arrives at Maui No Ka ‘Oi’s office, pops open her car’s hatchback, and starts handing out boxes of wrapping paper, empty boxes wrapped in wrapping paper, and a pair of kindergarten-worthy wooden crates containing scissors, staplers, glue dots, buttons, raffia, clothespins and twine . . . the whimsical implements of a serious quest to make the world a better place.

Smith is an entrepreneur whose startup company, Wrappily, is at once so simple, multifaceted, creative, eco-friendly and socially beneficial, one wonders (as she did) why nobody thought of it first.

Did we mention it’s also fun?

We’d wanted to do a story on Wrappily for a while — and not just because Smith was Maui No Ka ‘Oi’s associate publisher before she became a mom who cares about leaving her kids a healthy planet. We just thought Wrappily was a brilliant idea: giftwrap that is printed on newsprint with nontoxic soy-based inks, so it’s compostable and recyclable; and printed on newspaper presses, so it provides work for that beleaguered industry. Even her display stands are made of salvaged wood.

The day she shows up at our office, Smith has just come from a meeting with Ka Lima o Maui, a nonprofit organization that serves adults who have developmental disabilities. She’d like to employ them to create the paper flowers and other embellishments she makes out of scraps of wrapping paper. “These flowers are handmade by the CEO — me — so I can’t afford to wholesale them. But I could pay a nonprofit to make them.”

She’s also planning to create kits for the DIY crowd. Showing us how easy it is to make those embellishments is why she has hauled all the aforementioned materials to our office. As she settles into stenciling and cutting out flower petals, Smith explains her trip the previous weekend to the Seattle Gift Show.

I launched Wrappily here in Hawai‘i,” she says. “It’s a great beta market, but I need to take it bigger. Four-million tons of giftwrap get trashed every year, among them shiny papers that have plastic laminates, foils and additives. Glossy gift bags, rhinestones and other decorations are resource heavy. Wrappily is newsprint, which can be recycled up to seven times, and will decompose in a landfill in as little as six weeks. The paper is nonarchival — it’s fleeting beauty, which is why it’s great as wrapping paper. I want to get this eco-friendly product into enough households to make a difference.”

She’s also exploring new uses for Wrappily, such as food wraps that could replace Styrofoam cartons for sandwiches.

Wrappily gets printed on Maui, O‘ahu, and, since September, in Seattle. Smith’s goal is to employ newspaper presses across the U.S., both to achieve economy of scale (as CEO and sole employee, she’d like to pull a regular salary one of these days), and to keep the business local to whatever community it’s in, reducing its carbon footprint, and enabling collaborations with nonprofits like Ka Lima.

Which is why we decided to feature Wrappily in our holiday issue, in this season of generosity and goodwill. You see, when it comes to doing well by doing good, Sara Smith has it covered.

Wrapping Up

For more information, visit You can purchase paper there, at or Wrappily is available on Maui at HUE in Kahului, Pearl Butik and Mana Foods in Pa‘ia, and Holiday & Company in Makawao. See website for retail outlets elsewhere in the Islands.

Step-by-step instructions for making a Wrappily flower

DIY gift wrapTurn scraps of giftwrap into a whimsical and reusable flower. You will need: cardboard, scissors, pencil, stapler, clothespins, buttons, and hot glue or glue dots (available at craft stores).

Steps 1 & 2: Create a cardboard template for your petals in the shape of a symmetrical paddle. (Think Dixie Cup wooden spoons.) Trace and cut out 8 petals. Because Wrappily is newsprint, it’s easy to cut through multiple layers.Use your creativity to mix and match.

Step 3: For the base of the flower (shown in foreground, steps 3 thru 6), arrange 4 petals in a fan and staple them together in the center. For the upper part of the flower, pinch each of 4 petals in the center to create a pleat. Adding a small piece of tape on the back helps hold the pleat in place.

Steps 4 & 5: Layer the 4 pleated petals in a fan pattern, keeping the center pinched between your thumb and forefinger.

Step 6: Staple the 4 pleated petals together in the center, then staple the flower base and upper petals together.

Step 7: With hot glue or glue dots, affix a button or similar notion to the center. (Hot glue may seep up through the holes in the button.)

Step 8: With hot glue or glue dots, affix flower to a clothespin. This lets you easily clip the flower to a gift, and encourages recipients to reuse them.

You can also save this Wrappily Gift Embellishment from our Pinterest page.


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