Elad Burko

Taking a concept or art from idea to reality requires initiative and a willingness to see it through.


Elad Burko is the founder and CEO of Paperwallet, an ecommerce shop that specializes in unique, eco-friendly wallets and other accessories. Paperwallet works in collaboration with established and emerging artists around the world to create a one-of-a-kind fusion of design and functionality.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

Back in 2007, I was in my last semester of college when a friend of mine took a trip to Italy. He brought back with a wallet that was made of paper, laminated with vinyl, then cut and sown to make a wallet. It certainly wasn’t the most functional wallet I had ever been given, but I loved the concept. I wanted to make something similar out of a functional material that would break from the traditional leather wallet, but be equally as functional. That’s when the idea for our Slim Wallet ) was born. Our mission from the beginning was to create a functional yet stylish product while supporting artists around the world. After months of testing various materials, the answer had been in front of us all along. The envelope the samples came in was made out of Tyvek, a space-age material that is as thin as paper, yet durable, waterproof, and tear proof.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I usually hit my stride in the early afternoon, so I like to take care of the more automated tasks (answering emails, calling suppliers, etc.) in the morning, before working my way into the creative parts of my job, like product development and marketing. I like to schedule meetings in the late afternoon when I’m still feeling alert, but my energy is lagging slightly. Following this natural rhythm helps me stay productive by taking advantage of my energy levels at different times of the day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Paperwallet is all about bringing art to life– getting it off the canvas and giving it legs. I think it simply takes action. Taking a concept or art from idea to reality requires initiative and a willingness to see it through.

What’s one trend that excites you?

In the retail and consumer goods space, there is a huge demand for custom consumer products. I think this represents an underlying cultural shift towards valuing individuality and a move back to the old way of producing goods. Originally, apparel used to be individually made for their users– by cobblers or tailors and dressmakers. Consumers are starting to value craftsmanship and customization for everything from custom wallets  to shoes and even cosmetics. When goods are high-quality and exactly what the customer wants/needs, I think our current “throw-away,” wasteful consumer culture will come to an end.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I rather meticulously plan out my days at the beginning of the week. Every Sunday I sit down–sometimes for hours– and plan each day of the coming week in blocks. This ensures that I don’t spend too much time on any one tasks and give me a clear game plan for the day. While it does take time, planning this way keeps me focused and on-task throughout the day.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Good people are hard to come by, and they can make or break your business. Be as selective as possible with new hires to ensure that you’ve found the right person that will bring value to the position and fit in with company culture. Essentially, do your due diligence and be selective about who you bring into the family.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Being comfortable in your pants is being one step closer to overall happiness – doesn’t matter if its wearing comfortable underwear or having a slimmer thinner phone or wallet – if you’re comfortable in that area you are more likely to be at peace and one step closer to happy. I’ll give you an example- imagine Buddha wearing a pair of scratchy wool boxers… no way he can attain nirvana then.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

In general, I’m very resilient. Running a business is hard work; you’ll have your fair share of failures and critics. I watch too many business owners throw in the towel too quickly. You have to roll with the punches and keep your head down if you want to succeed.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Providing mutual benefit and connecting with an amazing community of people. At Paperwallet, one of our missions is to support up-and-coming talented artists. We give them a platform and in return, they provide us with amazing designs that set our products apart from competitors and define our brand image.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

While we’ve had our rough patches, luckily, things have never been so bad that we’ve almost gone out of business. In the beginning, when starting the business, we definitely experienced the normal growing pains – but we learn fast, adapt, and work hard to get our beloved customers what they want and expect.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’ve always thought it would be fun to build a replica of the banana stand from Arrested Development. After all, there’s always money in the banana stand.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought a pair of wireless earbuds. They really changed my life. Commuting, running, or working out at the gym is a lot easier without getting tangled in wires.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

I love Trello for staying organized and on-task. As I mentioned, I separate my day into blocks. Trello provides a quick and easy way to map out my time in a logical way.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. It’s a really quick read that can absolutely change your mindset and help you live a more positive life. I think positivity and optimism are two really important traits for an entrepreneur to have. As I mentioned in a previous question, being a business owner is trying. Maintaining a positive outlook will help you preserve through the tough times.

What is your favorite quote?

Robert H. Schuller: “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

Key learnings:

  • By taking time at the beginning of the week to plan out each of the coming days, you’ll remain on-task and have a clear game plan of what needs to be done each day.
  • Work with your natural rhythm. If you’re a morning person, do all of your most important tasks, and creative work in the morning. If you prefer nights, save it for them. There’s no one-size-fits-all schedule for running a business.
  • The key to entrepreneurial success is providing mutual benefit. People you help are a lot more likely to help you.