Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Beverly Wong-Kleinjan, Founder of La Paperie & Cozy Handmade Journals, located in Liverpool, NS, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

My name is Beverly Wong-Kleinjan. I'm a self-taught book artist/bookbinder and founder of La Paperie & Cozy Handmade Journals. I make quality leather-bound journals and sketchbooks. Home has always been a small coastal town in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada. I'm a 40-something avid bookworm and artist. I have a wonderfully supportive husband. We are owned by three devastatingly spoiled indoor cats. We love wilderness camping, hiking, and canoe trips. I'm a natural denizen of the ocean. I make my way to the shore as often as possible.

Bookbinding and book arts are quite possibly the perfect creative outlet for me, as it combines three of my passions: books, writing, and artistic design. There is nothing as satisfying as creating a work of useable art – a handmade codex, in this case – the way they were made centuries ago! The creative freedom that my work allows me is something I hold dear. I enjoy creating new book designs and pairing them with favourite quotes. Some of my journals are quite rugged and 'distressed' looking, which gives them a rustic feeling, while other books are more refined and sleek. When working with natural materials such as leather, shell, wood, clay, etc., my work can easily take on a style of its own, imbued by its own naturally-occurring organic qualities. For instance, a distressed piece of leather and a weathered wooden button offer their own 'story'… I merely combine them to see how the story ends.

Generally, my journals 'take shape' after finding a quote I love. A lot of brainstorming takes place whenever I 'discover' a new quote that I wish to incorporate into a journal. What feelings does it evoke? What design would best match its theme? The journal's style revolves around that quote. I then adapt various patterns I have created ahead of time to fit each new individual design… that way, every journal is one-of-a-kind. For my sketchbooks, I aim to create a rugged but beautiful book that can accompany artists on any of their travels or simply to be used in the studio. I use quality watercolour or multi-media paper, so the pages easily accept wet media. I use my own sketchbooks in my art, so I can confidently say each sketchbook is made for artists by an artist. Tried, tested, and true!

Tell us about yourself

Prior to starting my bookbinding business, I was working a 9-to-5 job as an office administrator. In my spare time, I made handmade journals as an outlet from my unimaginative job. I have always loved leather journals and was an ardent collector of them growing up. I've always loved writing, sketching, and painting, so making my own books was a natural 'next step' and a fun way of fueling my insatiable enthusiasm for journals. When others saw my handmade books, they asked if I would be willing to sell them; others suggested selling them to a larger audience online. In 2007, I officially established my online business presence.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Sharing my craft outside of my small hometown with the entire world!

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Setting aside time apart from your craft for the less enjoyable tasks, i.e., paperwork, advertising, promotion on social media, etc., can be challenging.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Expect and be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort! You will almost certainly end up working harder for yourself than you would for someone else. Consistency is also extremely important.
  2. Always be looking to fine-tune your product or service, and be alert for ways to improve your business and make it stand out from the competition. Be in a constant state of learning and adapting.
  3. Start off focusing on a small product line initially, be aware of demand and target customers' requests and scale up accordingly.

Where can people find you and your business?




If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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