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Interviews

Adversity to Artistry Alyssa’s Journey with KapwaPaper

Meet Alyssa, the creative force behind KapwaPaper, a stationery brand born from a passion for journaling, vintage aesthetics, and sustainability. Alyssa’s journey from the fashion retail industry to starting her own business is a testament to resilience and creativity, particularly after facing the challenges of a layoff during the pandemic. Through KapwaPaper, Alyssa channels her love for unique, handmade paper goods and vintage ephemera, all while promoting sustainable living. Her story is one of turning adversity into a beautiful, purposeful endeavor, inspiring others to embrace their creative passions and make environmentally conscious choices.

What inspired you to start KapwaPaper, and how did you come up with the name?

KapwaPaper was born out of my love of journaling and stationery along with an enthusiasm for vintage and sustainability. With a professional background in the fashion retail industry and witnessing the waste of the industry firsthand, I was excited to put a sustainable and handmade twist into my own journey with stationery and journaling. “Kapwa” comes from the Filipino words that can be translated from the English words “togetherness” “kindred” and “community.” I know how stationery nerds like myself can find comfort in the analog community of paper and stationery, so I saw it fitting to bring these together through KapwaPaper.

Can you share a bit about your personal journey and how it has influenced your work with KapwaPaper?

KapwaPaper came about after being let go from a job that I loved which left me feeling empty about what to do next. If anyone who has been through a mass layoff knows, finding a new job is stressful and difficult especially as it was in the midst of the pandemic so I found myself embracing journaling including creative and collage journaling. This then grew into KapwaPaper and its focus on vintage ephemera and handmade paper goods. In addition, my work is fueled by the unique one-of-a-kind vintage find, which I believe creates a deeper connection to its buyer and makes for a more intentional shopping experience.

What challenges or struggles did you face when starting your business, and how did you overcome them?

The challenges were plentiful and there’s always a struggle of some sort, but I think one of the biggest challenges in the beginning was imposter syndrome. With so many amazing stationery shops out there, it’s easy to feel like you don’t measure up, especially as an introvert. Sometimes, the mind can play tricks on you as you scroll through social media, making you doubt your own capabilities. While there’s always a bit of imposter syndrome lingering, I overcome it by reminding myself that social media and the internet often don’t reflect the full picture. Recognizing the value and uniqueness of my own work helps me push through those doubts.

How does journaling contribute to mental clarity, and how is that reflected in the products you offer? 

Journaling provides a space for self-reflection and emotional expression, helping to organize and understand one’s experiences. It requires no creativity but can inspire it, much like the pieces in my shop. Each product at KapwaPaper is thoughtfully curated and crafted to inspire creativity and emotion, whether it’s using vintage ephemera to decorate a journal or gifting a handmade bookmark to a friend. I hope the care and attention I put into every item inspires others on their own creative practices.

What advice would you give to other women looking to start their own creative projects or businesses?

Fear regret more than failure. There’s nothing worse than that “what if” feeling. If your gut says go for it, then go for it. When someone wants to start their own project whether they are pursuing it as a hobby or a business, there really is no time like the present. Just stay your authentic self and go!

How do you infuse vintage vibes into your work, and why is this aesthetic important to you?

Vintage is at the heart of my work. I believe there’s a unique beauty in items that once held significance in the past. They add character and depth to my creations. Plus, using vintage materials is sustainable—no new resources or waste are generated, as I repurpose what already exists.

Can you describe a moment or experience that validated your decision to pursue KapwaPaper?

One moment that validated my decision to pursue KapwaPaper was when someone referred to my work as “art.” Initially, this began as just a hobby and something to give my days purpose after losing my job, and even though I opened an Etsy shop that grew alongside it, I never saw my creations as “art.” Hearing someone refer to my work as “art” shifted my perspective and made me understand there is actual value and creativity in what I do.

How do you balance creativity and practicality in your designs and business approach?

I’m fortunate to have a passion for both my creative and analytical sides. While I love fashion, color, and art, I also enjoy organization and spreadsheets. Though I’m a maximalist at heart, as I’ve grown to value minimalism and intentional choices, including being sustainable thanks to my experience within the fashion industry. This balance between creativity and practicality is essential to me, guiding my designs and business approach.

What impact do you hope KapwaPaper will have on your customers or the community?

I hope KapwaPaper encourages people to become more aware of and passionate about living sustainably. By offering vintage ephemera and handmade paper goods, I aim to show how beautiful and meaningful repurposed materials can be. I want to inspire my customers to incorporate sustainability into their creative projects and even their daily lives, fostering a community that values both creativity and environmental responsibility.

What role does sustainability play in your business practices, if any?

Sustainability is integral to every aspect of my business, especially considering the shop’s focus on vintage ephemera and handmade stationery. I’m dedicated to minimizing waste by recycling, reusing, and repurposing materials whenever possible and as creatively as I can. Additionally, I prioritize eco-friendly packaging, opting for biodegradable and recycled envelopes to minimize environmental impact.

What are your future plans or goals for KapwaPaper?

My future plans for KapwaPaper involve expanding its product offerings by sourcing more creative vintage ephemera suitable for journaling and other stationery purposes. Additionally, I aspire to become a source of inspiration for others to live more sustainably and intentionally even outside of their stationery and creative lives. In pursuit of this goal, I aim to hold workshops on creative journaling and with vintage ephemera, fostering a community dedicated to sustainable and intentional living and creative expression.

Lastly, how can people best support you and your business?

People can best support by following me on Instagram (@ kapwapaper) and being an active follower through comments! I love discussions! People can also take a look at my Etsy shop (kapwapaper.etsy.com) to see if anything catches their eye!

Social media links:

KapwaPaper Etsy: https://kapwapaper.etsy.com/KapwaPaper Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kapwapaper/

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by Harness Editor

Harness believes that freedom of expression equals female empowerment. The truth? We’re a badass authentic community of fierce women, and we exist to help your voice be heard. Harness is here to be your safe haven. A place to shed the competition, the insecurities. This is a place to rise by lifting others. This is who we are.


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