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Running a business

How The Paperhood spreads holiday cheer with sustainable paper goods

In 2012, Malika Pannek embarked on a creative journey with a single goal: to bring her illustrations to life. What started as a side hustle selling hand-painted greeting cards at small craft shows soon blossomed into a bustling paper goods design studio called The Paperhood.

Today the Toronto-based company's products grace the shelves of hundreds of shops across Canada and the United States — their catalog includes calendars, tote bags, art prints, and even puzzles. Run by Malika and her husband, Tomas Urbina, The Paperhood is renowned for its commitment to sustainability, plastic-free compostable packaging and products made from 100% recycled paper.

Secrets contributing to their success

As they brace themselves for the upcoming holiday rush this year, Malika reflects on the humble beginnings that led to their success.

“Doing smaller craft shows in the beginning of our journey helped us find out what people like about our products," says Malika, a German-Canadian who previously worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world. “We tapped into those preferences to make our products as desirable as possible. I believe a big part of the success of our holiday line is the style of our products, which spark memories and feelings of coziness and nostalgia."

Offering products at a range of price points has also helped to boost sales, which Malika and Tomas are managing this year by hiring seasonal staff. “The volume of orders from shops and customers gets kind of crazy once we hit mid-October, which is great, but can be a bit stressful because we're also preparing for the big Toronto holiday craft market, the One Of A Kind Show," she says.

Teamwork made the dream work

One of The Paperhood's biggest challenges was overcoming the fear of making the investments they needed to grow. Initially operating from their apartment, the prospect of renting a proper studio, hiring additional help, and scaling up production seemed daunting. However, these investments paid off almost immediately, propelling the business to new heights.

While in the early days, Malika handled everything from creating artwork to fulfilling orders on her own, she brought her husband Tomas on board full-time in 2021 so they could scale even further. This move not only accelerated their sales growth but also led to the implementation of new systems, including a self-serve wholesale portal on their website.

A picture of a puzzle from The Paperhood company

Unwinding after the holiday rush

As a relatively small company, the entire team at The Paperhood enjoys a holiday dinner together as an expression of gratitude and thanks for all their hard work. After the holiday rush subsides, Malika finds joy in celebrating Christmas traditions, which take on even greater significance for her as a mother. Baking, tree decorating, and quality time with family and friends provide a well-deserved break from the year's hustle and bustle.

Future plans: expanding to B2B

Looking ahead, The Paperhood aims to further expand its B2B offerings. “We get a lot of requests from businesses for custom messages on our cards and we're now getting that side of our business off the ground," says Malika. “Our puzzles have been a big success since we launched them last year and we have a few new puzzle ideas in our back pocket. We'll also be expanding our city and neighbourhood designs that have been so popular."

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Running a business can be hard and exhausting and there will be setbacks, but it's also so rewarding. Trust yourself and don't be afraid to go for it."

Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs

For those considering starting their own small businesses, Malika emphasizes the importance of daily practice. “Practice your craft every day to improve, listen to your customers, adapt accordingly and ask for help to not burn yourself out," she says.

Malika encourages entrepreneurs to trust themselves, overcome their fears, and start small, knowing that they can grow over time.

“Running a business can be hard and exhausting and there will be setbacks, but it's also so rewarding. Trust yourself and don't be afraid to go for it."

QuickBooks: The Paperhood's essential holiday helper

During the holiday rush, QuickBooks plays a pivotal role in keeping The Paperhood organized, Malika says. This powerful tool ensures that the financial aspects of their business run seamlessly during the busiest season of the year. “Besides regular bookkeeping, we track our inventory, collect payments and compare our performance to previous years through QuickBooks," says Malika.

Looking to prepare your business for the holiday season? QuickBooks Online can help you track and record all the expenditures you make during this busy time. With automatic tracking and categorizing expenses, filing for deductions can be straightforward. Learn more and start tracking your small business expenses with QuickBooks Online today.

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