Do you know how planners and notebooks are designed?
How your journals are crafted? And what’s the story of the people who brought them to life?
On the blog today, I’m opening a new series of posts to take you behind the scenes and make you meet the people who are working hard to create the perfect organization tools and stationery products that you love.
For this very first post of the “Meet the maker” series, I’m happy to have Jerôme Bacquias, the founder and CEO of paper republic!
My love story with paper republic goes way back, so I’m thrilled Jerôme agreed to share his story and paper republic’s with you all!
[photo credits: paper republic]
Let’s start with introductions!
Can you tell us a few words about you? And about paper republic?
Our mission at paper republic is to create beautiful and functional journals that look good, smell amazing and feel fantastic. I have created the brand 6 years ago in Vienna, Austria. We are now a team of 10 people and still craft our journals here in our worksop. paper republic has a strong European identity: I am a Frenchman and the team is from 5 different countries, and all the material we source all our materials in Europe, from Italy to Sweden and France.
What’s your strongest “paper memory” before the Paper Republic adventure started?
I have a very different background. I studied political sciences in France and then started a career as business consultant. I always liked and used notebooks but the real trigger was a trip to South Korea, where I visited a family-run facility making traditional Korean paper (Hanji) by hand. The process was absolutely fascinating. A few months later I quitted my job and started to work on the paper republic project!
What did the Paper Republic project looked like at the very beginning of the adventure? How did the brand evolve since then?
paper republic started as a one-man business where I did everything, from logo design to accounting and sales. The very first product line also included hardcover notebooks made with traditional Japanese handmade paper.
I started by visiting myself shops and wholesalers in Austria, trying to convince them to stock my products! I then extended the product line, attended international trade fairs (like Maison & Objet in Paris) and managed to grow our stockist network internationally. The brand has been growing very fast online, too, and we also now have our own corner shops in Vienna and in the US. Even though a lot of things changes when a company grow, I think (and hope) that the core values of the brand have remained the same!
If you had to describe the Paper Republic style in 3 words?
…authenticity, simplicity and elegance.
What’s your most iconic product? What makes it so very special?
The grand voyageur [xl] has been from day one our best seller journal. I think the success of this product is based on 3 elements. First, the journal is crafted by hand from truly exceptional vegetable-tanned Italian leather and fountain-pen friendly Swedish paper. Second, it is fully customizable – one can adapt the content as needed, for example with several dotted refills to create its very own, flexible bullet journal, and adding a card & cash holder and a weekly planner. Third, it is truly a personal companion – customers can emboss initials or their favorite quote on the leather, which gets a stunning patina over time.
paper republic’s grand voyageur [xl]
We’d love to have a peek behind the scenes…
Can you tell us a bit about the design process behind the Paper Republic’s products?
I wouldn’t say there is a design process per se. We speak a lot within the team and have ton of ideas – which we cannot always implement. Three of paper republic team members have a background in leather design, which obviously helps a lot to put ideas into reality. We are also very attentive to what customers tell us and suggest.
For graphic design, I’ve been working for a very long time with graphic designers in Vienna and Paris – they have helped a lot, too. But at the end, we only launch products we want to use and own ourselves – that’s really the baseline. On average, new products take a least three months from idea to launch.
What about the manufacturing process?
What makes paper republic different is that we control the entire production process. We actually produce most of the stuff that we create, personalize all online orders by hand and work with a family-run printing company down the road in Vienna. There are practically no middlemen, and all the materials that we source are from family-run companies that we personally know. We know the story behind each material and each product, and do our best to convey this story to our customers.
How many people are working at Paper Republic and what do they do?
We’re a team of 10 people, working in production, design and order management, operations, digital marketing, sales, customer service, translation…and calligraphy (writing the hand-written personal notes that we send to all customers!)
What does a regular day in the Paper Republic HQ look like?
To be honest, I am usually not the first one to arrive in the office, so I am not sure what happens before 9:00 am 🙂 But a regular day is pretty dense.
Teresa and Steffi, who oversee customer service, start to check all new customer messages, so the order management team ( Marlene, Evelyn, Lisa) can start preparing the daily online orders. Handwritten cards have already been prepared by Ivone the evening before. We have peaks of 100 orders / day and need to be finished by 14:00 when orders get picked up by our shipping partner, so the morning is usually pretty stressful.
We have a “management team” meeting on Monday morning to prepare the week, too. The morning is the time when Paul (digital marketing) and I check the daily results of the online campaigns and adjust things if necessary. Most days we have lunch together, and we usually have less time pressure in the afternoon. It is the time where Steffi and Evelyn plan the production and check that we have enough products pre-prepared. I also try to keep time to think about long term and strategic projects – not always easy. In between we give our best to reply to customer requests as soon as possible, plan the next shipment for our US distributor and reply to tons of emails…
Three days per week I leave the office at 3 to 4 pm to pick up my kids from Kindergarten, so what happens after 4pm is most of the time a mystery, too 🙂
Time to wrap it up…
Any tip to share on how to choose the perfect journal and writing tool?
For me, the perfect journal is the one that you want to keep for your lifetime. As for writing tools, I am not a perfectionist: I use everything I can find ( from pencils to fountain pens) as long as it writes, I am happy. But my favorite are clearly fountain pens.
Where can we find the Paper Republic’s journals?
To buy directly from us, go to www.paper-republic.eu or at Supersense, Praterstrasse 70, 1020 Vienna. In the US, visit the Top Drawer stores. In Paris, try the Boutique du Musée des Arts Décoratifs 107, rue de Rivoli.
Thank you Jerôme for answering my questions!