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Why this S’porean ex-lawyer decided to bring her online lifestyle brand offline after 8 years

As far as local brands go, few are as iconic and established as The Paper Bunny. They have firmly cemented themselves as the go-to for gorgeous planners and stylish cardstock.

With their move into sustainable products and lifestyle goods, we’ve found even more reasons to love them.

Like some homegrown brands that have enjoyed massive success online such as Love, Bonito and SOJAO, they have made a move to open brick-and-mortar stores. As much as we are creatures of the internet, we eventually have to crawl out of the covers and venture into the real world.

For Jaime Lee, founder of The Paper Bunny, there was no rush to move from the online world and to the real one.

After all, Covid-19 has severely put a damper on retail but for her, opening The Paper Bunny’s first retail store was a serendipitous opportunity that came at the right time.

Eight years of online success

The last few days of December are always synonymous with new beginnings and pastel-hued planners from The Paper Bunny, at least for me anyway. With each notebook and greeting card, The Paper Bunny has amassed a cult following that gave Jaime the confidence to grow her product range to what it is today.

While Jaime was not actively looking for a physical space, it was apparent that The Paper Bunny customers were looking for something more.

After eight years of successfully building our digital presence, it has become more important than ever for us to provide an in-person experience to our growing base of customers where they can experience the brand and our products in real life.

It seems like a risky time to try something new, but we believe that this is the right time for The Paper Bunny.

Jaime Lee, co-founder and creative director of The Paper Bunny
The Paper Bunny store
Image Credit: The Paper Bunny

The Paper Bunny is not a brand to rest on its laurels. When this particular unit came about, Jaime knew offhand that this was the right place to open its first store, even in the midst of all the uncertainties that we are facing now.

Indeed, the store is an oasis of calm of curated goods from their own line and brands like Stasher and Slow House. An island in the middle of the store covered with their signature line of paper products form the bedrock of The Paper Bunny.

Everything in The Paper Bunny store is a conscious effort not to be just “another place to buy things”.

Jaime noted that customers are constantly bombarded by offerings everywhere; what people are looking for is “new encounters, a holistic omni-channel shopping experience, a brand story to get behind.”

After all, their goal has always been to create functional, practical, everyday pieces for intentional everyday life. It is the hope that these pieces offer new perspectives that continue to value-add to the customers of The Paper Bunny.

A physical store in a digital world

The Paper Bunny store
Image Credit: The Paper Bunny

For online mavens or digital nomads, having a physical notebook or even greeting cards might seem redundant in a world that runs on Google invites. However, the need to have something tangible to write and hold on to endures.

“Digital processes are great, but nothing can replace a heartfelt handwritten note or penning down your thoughts in a physical book,” explained Jaime.

“There’s something about the raw, organic authenticity of a scribbled thought in a notebook versus the cold uniformity of the digital type in a digital folder somewhere in your computer.”

Jaime attributed this to the freedom that a pen and paper offers — a quality that is just not the same as typing on a phone or easily replaced with all the conveniences of the digital world. Well, her philosophy has certainly paid off.

The warm reception at The Paper Bunny store is a testament to the brand’s strength and how we still crave that physical touch.

Of course, as any entrepreneur will tell you, the path to where they are today is paved with crippling self-doubt, anxiety, and uncertainty. Jaime was no stranger to this, and even as her business continues to scale, new and different challenges begin to arise.

From practicing law to selling stationery

the paper bunny loungewear
Image Credit: The Paper Bunny

Before the launch of tropical-themed loungewear and functional four-way bags, Jaime was a practising lawyer with a love of design, fashion, art and aesthetics.

A chance to design wedding stationery for a friend was the lightbulb moment for her. “I could create art that was truly my own but have it reach so many people,” enthused Jaime.

She launched the brand in November 2013 and officially left the corporate world two years later.

“It was not an easy decision, but I truly believed that The Paper Bunny still had so much to give and so much we could do.”

Running a business is never easy; there is a lot more that goes into designing stationery. There are the not-so-fun bits that Jaime, with her co-founder and husband, had to cut their teeth on.

We had to pick up everything on our own and guess as we went along as we had no prior experience in e-commerce, business, shipping methods, pricing, and so on.

Learning to deal with discouragement, failures, mistakes and negative feedback, and learning from each of that, was just a very integral part of the process. 

Jaime Lee, co-founder and creative director of The Paper Bunny

Eight years later, those initial challenges have evolved along with the business. As mentioned earlier, the brand has graduated from paper products and entered into designing clothing.

“The bigger you become, the bigger your problems become, and the learning never ends. Everything and anything good is achieved one little step at a time, with resilience and perseverance.”

This mantra, which she hopes to share with budding entrepreneurs, has helped Jaime through her low moments and difficult times.

“You don’t need to know everything or be everything to do something you’re proud of,” continued Jaime. “I try to remember that no one is good at everything.”

For Jaime, the way to work around that is having self-awareness of one’s abilities and knowing that social media can be a double-edged sword.

I realise that when I am real with myself about what I’m good at and what I’m not, coupled with hard work and resilience, I can focus on what I’m good at and work on surrounding myself with the right team to complement my strengths and weaknesses (both at home and at work).

Jaime Lee, co-founder and creative director of The Paper Bunny

The future of the local marketplace

The Paper Bunny
Image Credit: The Paper Bunny

As one of the first few brands to burst onto the scene, Jaime reflected how far the local brands have come.

“The local creative scene is nothing like what it was eight to 10 years ago when we started,” said Jaime. “In the past, online shopping was not the norm, and creative jobs or education were seen as the alternative.”

If the burgeoning local brands are any indication, it’s clear the local marketplace is a creative and vibrant space.

With more impetus to #supportlocal, this would only embolden local creators to improve their craft and continue innovating.

“This healthy cycle gives the local creative industry hope, options, better talent, and a brighter future.”


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Featured Image Credit: The Paper Bunny

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