It was a string of tedious, all-day and unproductive board meetings that prompted Jo Haden-Smith to break away from the corporate world and start his own business. And thus, the first truly independent, designer-focused paper merchant was conceived.

Two weeks after resigning he flew overseas to source the papers currently in fashion in the European Market. While there, he was able to secure the exclusive distribution rights from some of the largest speciality mills.

With the existing paper merchanting trade being dominated by a few large, international companies, many quality suppliers in Europe and the States were disenchanted with their ability to enter the market. The large merchants all had existing ranges and were unwilling to expand their range for fear of “conflict of interest” with existing suppliers. This opened up the whole world of paper to a new hungry merchant.

In 2003, Jo handed over the reins of his business to his son, Rob Haden-Smith who is currently the Managing Director.

Since its inception, Papersmith has continued to grow its range of products exponentially. Papersmith also represents both of the leading speciality mills in Italy, Fedrigoni and Gruppo Cordenons, with trend-setting products like Wild, Plike, Savile Row, Stardream, Natural Evolution and most of our CSI grades coming from them.

Papersmith & Son offers the design industry far more than just a nice range of papers and a sampling service. When Rob travels overseas he visits leading merchants to find out what gives them a competitive differential. These concepts and new ranges are evaluated for suitability in the South African market and either introduced or discarded. The two most important characteristics among the winners in Europe boiled down to two things: stock availability and designer-related services. Every designer has experienced the situation of a client accepting a job on a specific paper and by the time it goes to print there is no stock in the country. Papersmith & Son can, at their discretion, and do airfreight the stock within a ten day lead-time. We also run an exceptional reserve system as a service to our customers, allowing them to reserve stock for a specific job.

In March of 2004, Papersmith & Son decided to extend their services by launching the PaperCafe, in Melrose Estate. It allows graphic designers, the printing industry as well as corporate customers and members of the public to see the transformation of the paper in the sample library, get a feel for Papersmith & Son’s range, and enjoy a delicious cappuccino while at it.

Being small and independent, Papersmith & Son do not have the logistical problems, which the bigger merchants experience. No job is ever too big or too small and the philosophy that “there are no problems, only opportunities” is pervasive throughout the company.

The niche in which Papersmith & Son is operating is premium quality imported papers. The business is geared around designers, who recognise quality paper, incorporate it into their design, and thus require a special and dedicated service. Papersmith & Son incorporate the freshness of a small merchant with a wealth of experience and the support of some of the oldest paper mills in the world.

At board level, Papersmith has over 65 years combined experience in the paper market (between its two executive directors).

In more recent years, due to its own values as well as those of our suppliers, Papersmith & Son has successfully positioned ourselves as South Africa’s leading environmental paper merchant. We are proud to represent mills that are at the forefront of utilising alternate energy resources during manufacturing. These include wind-power, biomass plants, solar and hydro energy sources.

This mixture of innovation, experience and support allows Papersmith & Son to be the
“Creative merchant for creative people”