Gabriel Balaceanu, the founder of HARPAI, is an ambitious, optimistic, dynamic individual with principles and a desire for continuous development. That’s how we discovered him in casual conversation and later in the interview he granted to our magazine. When overlaying all these qualities onto his role as an entrepreneur, we understand how the idea came about, what the vision was, and how the implementation was carried out. Of course, there’s a story behind it all. The choice for the interview stemmed from curiosity during a discussion with a paper straw manufacturer – because we wanted to learn how such a producer adapted to legal requirements and what perceptions surround this new type of product.
C&B: Briefly introduce us to your business!
Gabriel Balaceanu: First and foremost, it’s essential to mention that HARPAI is the first paper straw factory in Romania. Our activity involves the responsible production of paper drinking straws – our products are of superior quality compared to those imported. Essentially, we address the need for environmental protection, adapt to the laws governing the field, and provide correct solutions for the market and consumers.
C&B: Can you tell us the story of this business? How did it all begin?
Gabriel Balaceanu: With your permission, I’ll tell the story in an unpolished, popular version. On a winter night at the beginning of 2019, after getting over the holiday festivities, I went out with an old friend to “patch things up” with a mulled wine, “like the boys,” to breathe in some fresh air and start the new year with vigor. However, our “guy talk” brought us back to reality, swiftly moving from the present to the future, from family to business, from student life to the first million, discussing how we could develop and what new trends awaited.
After numerous business ideas, especially necessity-based business ideas, the shortlist included: environmentally friendly products/sustainable products, future products – pioneering on the global market and nonexistent in Romania at that time but expected to appear following the transposition of European directives into national legislation.
Once home, I researched the machinery needed to produce this product, and that’s how it all began. Since I was in a constant search for a business idea at that time, something palpable seemed to be taking shape.
C&B: How did you choose the name?
Gabriel Balaceanu: The name HARPAI was born in the summer of 2019 in Cerașu, on a sunny afternoon when my friend Marc Bortun from Rusu+Bortun was working on creating a brand for a client. During one of his breaks, I asked him to think of a brand for the future little straw factory. I can almost see him saying, “I thought of something; does it sound strange if it’s Japanese?” Me: “No, I trust what you do,” and after a few dozen minutes, he came up with the name “HARPAI.” The foundation of the project was a magical formula that is now reflected in the name we proudly carry: paper + straw = HARPAI.
And so, our story began, with the desire to develop and create new things in Romania.
From idea to action, there was only one step, which I took with commitment and responsibility. Thus, we started producing 100% biodegradable and recyclable paper drinking straws.
C&B: What were your visions in childhood/adolescence, and what are they now?
Gabriel Balaceanu: The desire to have my own business has been with me since adolescence, nurtured during college, and this is thanks to my family.
In adolescence, I wanted to become a high-performance athlete. I reached a point where I realized part of what I dreamed. If I look to the future, I want to have the same development trajectory, and I am aware that this can only be achieved with work, effort, and sacrifices, but I know I can do it.
C&B: What are the principles of life and activity that you do not deviate from, and what is their explanation?
Gabriel Balaceanu: The most important principle for me is optimism, as reflected in HARPAI’s slogan, “Keep the thirst for life”. Alongside this, every day I learn, smile, am grateful, and enjoy everything that happens around me, whether good or less good.
C&B: What advice do you have for those at the beginning or undecided?
Gabriel Balaceanu: I encourage those at the beginning of the road to have confidence in themselves, work hard, learn every day, and dedicate themselves to their business. Nothing can be achieved without work; I haven’t met people who succeed otherwise.
They must believe in what they do more than anyone around them and always seek solutions for any situation.
At this moment, you have access to almost any information on earth with a simple click; you just have to want to learn and develop.
C&B: What are your perceptions of society, business, and careers in Romania?
Gabriel Balaceanu: I believe that Romanian society is continually developing in the business area. I see more and more communities of people, especially young people, helping and supporting each other in their businesses.
Referring to society, the latest census disheartens me, showing the level of education in Romania, which is painful. Let me be clear; I only mean that we can be better; we just need to want to invest in our children and everything around us.
Romanian society has an extraordinary chance from all points of view with everything happening right now through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) and other European-funded programs.
For example, through the PNRR program, investments are made in education, infrastructure, health, etc. – it can change our standard of living and education.
So, I hope that Romanian society will be better and look towards the common good, and I believe this will happen.