Cardboard Furniture Startup Chairigami Launches YEI's First Kickstarter Campaign

chairigami standing desk

New Haven, Conn.: Zach Rotholz just wants to dance. And make cardboard furniture. Preferably at the same time. The founder and CEO of New Haven-based cardboard furniture startup Chairigami and former Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) Summer Fellow is making a case for working on your feet with a new Kickstarter campaign to produce 500 cardboard standing desks. He has 30 days to raise the necessary $25,000 to make the standing desks once the campaign kicks off on Thursday, March 13 here. The accompanying video shows Rotholz spinning, sliding and kicking to old-timey music while demonstrating the durability and easy assembly of his latest cardboard creation.  It’s the first Kickstarter campaign from a YEI startup.

“I want these standing desks to be available to everybody,” says Rotholz. “Cardboard is a fun, open-source material. People can ‘hack’ their own workspace—decorate it, cut holes for power cords. They can take initiative.” The cardboard standing desks will be available for $70 on his Kickstarter page.

Backers to the campaign can also get various “extras” depending on their level of commitment: for $160 you get a desk with graphics; for $1,800, Rotholz will outfit your office with standing desks and a Chairigami lounge area.

And Chairigami is very much a one-man operation. Rotholz, who participated in the 2011 YEI Summer Fellowship and graduated from Yale the same year with a degree in mechanical engineering, began making his cardboard furniture from a storefront on York Street in New Haven, primarily selling to students. He soon generated interest from trade shows and startups who needed easy-to-assemble, efficient-to-ship cardboard furniture and who responded to the eco-friendly materials involved. Chairigami chairs, tables, desks and shelves are made from 70% recycled cardboard and 30% Forest Stewardship Council-certified virgin fiber. In addition, all manufacturing and assembly is done in Connecticut. The increased interest allowed Rotholz to move from hand-producing pieces to using computer-controlled cutting. “I was even able to die cut 2,000 stools for a camp,” he says. High-profile clients include Whole Foods, Atmel and the Yale Library.

Currently, Rotholz operates Chairigami out of a storefront on Whitney Avenue in New Haven, just downstairs from YEI. “Yale has been so supportive,” he says. “There are faculty advisors and there’s a great entrepreneurial community at YEI, the new Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, and the School of Management. I work with local businesses like the Grove’s co-working space and Go Greenly. People know me here—I’m the cardboard guy.”

CONTACT: Brita Belli, YEI Communications Officer, brita.belli@yale.edu; (203)436-4933