Turning the pages to entrepreneurship with sustainable material

After giving birth in 2021, 26-year-old Trudi-Ann Cunningham struggled with depression and anxiety. During this time of “hopelessness and mental exhaustion”, she rekindled her passion for writing poetry and started binding books.

Soon, her new therapeutic pastime also became her business – Paper Fyah Press.

“I decided to launch my business with a mission to help others improve their mental health through creative self-expression. I strongly believe that despite the digital era, nothing can beat the humble notebook and the power of putting pen to paper,” she told Loop News. “Having a blank page and being able to write, journal, doodle, sketch, or plan is underestimated in keeping us mindful and mentally clutter-free.”

Paper Fyah Press sells eco-friendly handmade journals and jotters made in Cunningham’s home studio in Kitson Town, St Catherine.

A softbound journal (left) and a notebook made with natural cork

She emphasized that it was very important for her to use sustainable materials for her products.

“The inside pages of most of my books are from sources certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to ensure responsible management of the world’s forests. For the covers, I use natural cork, kraft paper, vegan leather, recycled chipboard, and other sustainable options,” she said.

Describing Paper Fyah Press as a “work in progress,” Cunningham shared that it took her months to overcome her social anxiety and expand her customer base beyond family and friends.

And even as she’s now “fearlessly” promoting her products, she is aware of the challenges she may face but believes that what she offers is so much more than journals and jotters.

“Undeniably, it is not easy to build a new stationery brand in such a digitized world,” she said.

“My goal is to show people that my products are thoughtfully made for both people and the planet. It’s not just handmade books; it’s a lifestyle of being able to slow down, express yourself, spend time in nature, and ignite the inner spark inside you without worldly distractions,” Cunningham added.

Softbound black notebooks

Her convenient and portable pocket notebook is among her best sellers. And the University of the West Indies English Literature graduate is foreseeing immense growth for her business.

“My business is still very young. We have significant growth and development to look forward to. Given that I operate in my home studio, my short-term goal is to make it easier for people to customize the covers of their softbound journals or jotters so that they can be gifted for special occasions,” she said.

She’s also encouraging anyone that can make their business more eco-friendly to do just that.

“Sustainability is the future. We all have a part to play in protecting our ecosystems and preserving the natural resources for generations to come. Robert Swan said, ‘The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it’.

“We should all do what we can. I encourage anyone who wants to incorporate sustainable practices in their business to totally do it because no matter how small, your actions will make a difference,” said Cunningham.

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