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Interview: Laura Brooks, The Paper Collective

Laura Brooks is the founder of an exciting new stationery store called The Paper Collective. They originally launched online but now have a physical store as of October 2022! You can find them here at The Corn Exchange, 8a King Street, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 1PS. I love talking to fellow stationery lovers and business owners so it was a great pleasure to interview Laura for our journal.

1. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and how The Paper Collective came about?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020, I realised I wasn’t enjoying my job and had a conversation with my husband who spoke with me about everything that I did enjoy. Music and using stationery to improve mental health were top of that list. Simon, my husband and our finance director, encouraged me to start the business which was originally called Laura-Ellen selling stationery, gifts and homeware.

In early 2021, we rebranded to become the Paper Collective and niched in stationery and paper goods. Since then, we have gone from strength to strength launching our first subscription box in August 2021.

In February 2022, I quit my job as Human Resources Manager and signed on the dotted line for the Paper Collective’s first retail premises in Belper, Derbyshire.

The retail store has been a dream of ours from the very beginning and we can’t wait to bring The Paper Collective to even more people, following a positive response from our pop-up events and markets.


2. Why stationery? What does it mean to you?

My love for stationery started at school, as I am sure it does for most stationery addicts. That back-to-school stationery shopping started the passion and its ability to help me plan and organise my life and help my creativity is what keeps my passion burning.

We believe that everyone should have access to beautiful, well-made stationery, no matter their budget, so we offer a range of affordable products, as well as luxury items for those who want the best of the best.


3. What advice would you give to someone who also wants to make their passion their career?

Figure out what it is you're passionate about! You need to know what it is that you're passionate about before you can even begin to think about making a career out of it. So, ask yourself, what are you interested in? What do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies? When you know what it is you're passionate about, it's time to turn that passion into a business. This can seem daunting, but it's not as difficult as you might think.

First, you need to come up with a business plan. This doesn't have to be anything too complicated, but it should outline your business goals and how you plan on achieving your goals, understanding your competitors and whether your business has a place in the market.

Once you know if you have a place in the market, you need to understand what financial support you need to launch and how you will ‘survive’ until your business is making enough money to pay you a wage. I opted to work weekends and evenings whilst still working so I had a wage until I could live TPC full time.

But if you can make money from your passion, I would say ‘go for it!’


4. What's in your pencil case right now?

I’m currently using three pencil cases. The first has my day-to-day stationery such as a my Kaweco and Ferris Wheel Press fountain pens, Caran d’Ache ballpoint pens, blackwing pencils and highlighters. One has stationery items for bullet journaling and the other has colouring pencils, HB pencils and erasers for colour therapy.


5. I know this is an impossible question but…if you had to pick one piece of stationery, what would it be?

It would have to be my Kaweco Collection Fountain Pen with an infinite amount of Ferris Wheel Press Inks. The range of colours are vast in both products, and they are like nothing I have ever seen before.


6. What is a book you would recommend and why?

I don’t normally read many books, but I have recently purchased ‘Don’t Worry, 48 Lessons on Achieving Calm’ by Shunmyo Masuno and I am loving it so far.


Thank you Laura for taking the time to answer these questions! I really loved the advice on starting a business. Make sure you visit The Paper Collective either online or in person if you are near Belper.