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Why Ludovic Siouffi quit being a wealth advisor to start Fox Fold and innovate toilet paper

Fox Fold launches the world's first refillable toilet paper and facial tissue dispensers

Photo: Fox Fold

Fox Fold, a Vancouver-based startup disrupting the $60 billion tissue market, launched today the world's first refillable toilet paper and facial tissue dispensers tailored for hotels and is already in talks with some of the world's biggest brands.

According to the company, the average hotel goes through nearly 40,000 rolls of tissue paper per year and up to half of inventory is thrown out — generating billions of dollars in sunk costs annually. 

Fox Fold’s solution includes patented single-sheet toilet paper and facial tissue dispensers, along with its own — and the only — line of paper-wrapped, ultrasoft, two-ply and three-ply bamboo sheets. All three offer hotels cost-effective, hygienic, and sustainable solutions in several ways.

The toilet paper dispenser removes the need for hotels to throw out unfinished rolls when preparing rooms for new guests. It also reduces consumption by up to 40%, given that people are likely to use fewer sheets when offered individually rather than on a roll. The system is also more hygienic since sheets are in a fully enclosed unit, whereas those on a roll end up trapping bacteria from being exposed.

Photo: Fox Fold

As for the facial tissue dispenser, it allows hotels to do away with tediously opening and throwing out unfinished tissue boxes — removing the plastic and folding it up before recycling — since they can refill the system with the provided paper-wrapped sheets. Bamboo was an obvious choice for the sheets as it's the fastest-growing plant and eliminates the need to cut down trees further.

Fox Fold's toilet paper and facial tissue dispensers also save significant CO2 emissions, given that the sheets are packed flat and make room for three times more supply when compared to rolls. Because rolls are cylinder-shaped, they lead to excess air being packed — making them more expensive to ship and store.

Another Fox Fold plus is that its dispensers can be made in sleek and customizable designs to match any hotel’s brand through partner Box Clever — the industrial design firm behind award-winning brands like Away and Caraway.

Photo: Fox Fold

The ‘TP Boys’

Two years in the making, the story of Fox Fold starts with a ‘TP Boys’ WhatsApp group.

Co-founder, Ludovic Siouffi, then one of B.C.’s top 50 financial advisors, was running on a treadmill at his community centre gym.

At the time, Siouffi had been tuning into many podcasts featuring Shopify’s president, Harley Finkelstein, who often talked about tinkering with an idea and maybe taking that leap to entrepreneurship one day.

“I was like, if I had to reinvent something, what would it be?” Siouffi shared. “A few different ideas popped up, and one of them was toilet paper, maybe, because I have a five and seven-year-old, and they keep unrolling them [...] and it’s so inefficient. Why hasn't anyone thought it through?” 

Siouffi couldn’t shake off the question. After hopping off the treadmill, he called his best friend, Julian Hakim, and cousin, Gregory Hegger. “What now?” they answered. Siouffi dived right in, asking them what they thought about toilet paper. Fortunately, like Siouffi, Hakim and Hegger immediately recognized an untapped opportunity in an outdated industry. 

That same day, the ‘TP Boys’ WhatsApp group was created. The three started brainstorming how they’d reinvent the “big, plastic honky-looking” toilet paper dispensers into what became their final product. Then, they decided to ask their contacts and friends behind some of Vancouver’s popular luxury hotels what they and their network thought about the idea. 

“I got to present it to a few different people,” said Siouffi. “It was like inventing fire in front of their eyes. That was the moment where I was like, ‘Okay, we're onto something here.'"

Going all in

Fox Fold wasted no time reaching out to different manufacturers to turn their vision from idea to product. Their search brought them to San Francisco, where Box Clever is headquartered. Bret Recor, founder of Box Clever, was keen not only to work with Fox Fold but also to become an equity partner. A few weeks later, the two companies made their partnership official. 

“Needless to say, this was a big early win for us and validation,” Siouffi shared.

As the product was being prototyped, Fox Fold kept in touch with the hotels they met with for feedback. One comment they weren’t expecting turned their plans into something bigger than they imagined.

“Originally, it was just about the toilet paper dispenser on the wall,” said Siouffi. “They were like, if you can solve for that and the 12 paper rolls, can you also solve for the cardboard facial tissue box that we all have sitting on our counters that usually just have a cover on top?”

Fox Fold accepted what would become their biggest challenge yet.

“We had to solve both creating the dispensers and the refillable packs of sheets that don't come in a cardboard box and aren’t packed in a plastic sleeve,” Siouffi explained. “Finding a company that could do paper wrapping of our sheets took a long time and a lot of patience. We ended up partnering with two different companies [...] and had to co-build a production line.”

Photo: Fox Fold

What helped to make things happen aside from personal funds was Vancity’s Be My Own Boss Loan microloan program. Fox Fold turned to Vancity for support after getting rejected by the big banks and was able to secure a $50,000 loan — only two weeks after applying. The company also raised seed funding from friends and family for an undisclosed amount.

As interest in Fox Fold’s refillable dispensers grew, Siouffi, Hakim, and Hegger realized it was time to confront the same decision: quitting their jobs to go all in on the business. All three took the plunge, but it didn’t make the choice any easier.

“The hardest part was convincing our wives like, 'Hey, remember that toilet paper idea? I'm going to leave my entire career and the safety net of all that with a mortgage, kids, and everything else to chase this dream.' That did not go well,” Siouffi shared, adding how grateful he is to his partner for joining him on Fox Fold's journey and supporting him despite the uncertainty.

What’s next 

While Fox Fold just launched today, they’re already in conversation with several global brands — some of which have massive portfolios in the thousands — and boutique hotels. 

The company has also partnered with Veritree, another Vancouver-based startup founded by apparel brand Tentree, to verify, digitize, and store data on tree-planting initiatives and their impact. Fox Fold will plant four trees for every dispenser sold, and another tree will be added for every carton of paper sold. 

“So if a hotel has 1,000 rooms and they convert all to one of our dispensers, that'll be 4,000 trees that we plant overnight,” said Siouffi. “If they convert both the toilet paper and facial tissue dispensers, that'll be 8,000 trees on top of the paper. So it'll be above 10,000 trees planted within the year.”

With momentum underway, Siouffi had the chance to meet with the VTJ team and share his advice to aspiring or current entrepreneurs: “Be open to having a co-founder.”

“I have a whole other level of respect for sole founders because [...] there’s so many roadblocks that come at you, and you're like, ‘Oh, this is impossible.’ To have someone else that sees your vision and is on board 100% is massive.”

Siouffi added that one should not get carried away by equity since having a co-founder is worth "the saving grace" and "can help you move so much faster."

“I think it'll be worth twice, if not three times as much, especially if you find the right partner. I think people are so hung up on that exit piece. Most people don't even make it to an exit. Trying to keep [your idea] alive, or getting it to be alive, is really hard.”

As for what he'd say to anyone thinking of taking the risk of transitioning from a lucrative career to becoming an entrepreneur, Siouffi shared: “You only live once. You'll never know unless you go all in, but you must have a very supportive partner if you're in a relationship.”

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