Tallinn's blossoming paper tycoon

  • 2001-03-08
  • Devyani Banerjee
TALLINN - There's an old saying: "The secret of success is constancy of purpose."

That constancy of purpose was what Anti Sarap, 31, had when he humbly began in 1997, with his friend Andreas Mannesalu, to make designer hand-painted paper products.

Today his company Dispak has an annual turnover of 3.2 million kroons ($188,250) and his designer paper bags and boxes can be found in Stockman, Tallinna Kaubamaja and nearly every supermarket in Tallinn. His other clients include Hansabank, Liviko, Uhispank, Nycomed, the Estonian Shipping Company and the Parnu Conference Center.

"The idea of making attractive paper bags came to my friend Andreas as no company was making them on a large scale in Estonia," Sarap said.

The beginning was humble indeed.

"We began to buy paper and painted it ourselves by hand at home," said Sarap. "Then we made paper bags and roamed around all day for a market."

Sarap showed his sample paper bags at a fashion fair in Tallinn in 1997.

"People's comments were encouraging and we felt we had hit a gold mine," said Sarap.

Immediately after the fashion exhibition, Sarap and Mannisalu rented work space on Tullika Street. They hired workers and started training them.

Then Sarap's hunt for clients began.

"It was then that we realized how difficult it was to get orders," he said. "All those who had shown such a keen interest in our bags, refused to buy them.

"Our first order, for 2,000 bags, came from Latvia in 1997."

But the practical difficulties in producing so many bags were innumerable and the first order slipped out of his hands, he said.

Sarap tried to subcontract the work to various charitable organizations, but that also didn't pan out.

The turning point was provided by Sarap's mother, Tamara, a woman with excellent managerial skills . She immediately took over the administrative side of the business.

In 1998 Sarap moved to his present location on Puuvilla Street. Ten workers were hired and work began to proceed in a more orderly manner. Clients began to show an interest in his exclusive products and orders started pouring in.

In 1998 Sarap began exporting. He approached distributors in Finland and Sweden.

By 1999 the company's export market included England, Italy and Latvia.

Encouraging feedback began coming from Ireland and Spain, where potential clients called the bags "classy and exclusive."

Negotiations are in progress with Canada, Spain, Ireland, Norway and France for business, Sarap said.

At the moment Sarap has 300 clients in Estonia and clients like Ericsson, Leonia Bank, and MTV3 in Finland .

What could be the feather in Sarap's cap is his hope to obtain a patent for the unique process of making bags that he acquired for the process of painting the paper for his products. He has also acquired a patent for the round bottom wine bottle bag.

Dispak presently produces 12 color designs on nine sizes of bags and five types of boxes, flower pots, cards, bottles wrapped in strings and business cards.