This month in #WoWWomen, we cast the spotlight on self-made successes.
It never ceases to amaze and inspire us when we hear stories of women who so fearlessly follow their hearts and their guts to do what they love, what they believe in — against all odds, and contrary to the common and popular. From the Brontë sisters and Mary Ann Evans (aka George Eliot), who wrote great classics under a male nom de plume, to Coco Chanel and modern-day entrepreneurial heroines like Sophia Amoruso and Oprah, these women are without a doubt here to put a dent in the universe.
And the rest, as they say, is
hisherstory. In collaboration with nana & bird.
The “Flatlay Queen” in question is Jaime Lee, founder of the one of our favourite stationery and lifestyle brands, The Paper Bunny. If you’d take a second to skip over to her Instagram feed, or that of The Paper Bunny, you will (a) see why; (b) fall in love 😍; (c) hit “Follow” even before your first scroll to join 12.4k and 48.3k others, respectively; (d) find yourself scrolling… and scrolling… and scrolling… for the next few minutes (at least), completely mesmerised by squares upon squares of pretty objects — lipstick 💄, strawberries 🍓, stationeries, utensils, inspirational cards, cakes, flowers 🌹, magazines, shoes 👠, coffee ☕️, rings and sunglasses 🕶, et cetera— that appear to have been randomly assembled without logic or reasonable categorisation, and yet form a visually engaging piece of photography.
Think it looks simple? I dare you to give it a whirl (not you, Margaret Zhang), and see if your flatlay can be better than her flatlay. 🙄
But Jaime’s eye for design and creativity cannot be pigeonholed into a square. For one, when the front door to her flat opens, it’s basically a Narnia moment. Outside: Run-of-the-mill corridor — ho-hum 😴.
Inside: OMG, what is this, Apartment Therapy IRL? Much kudos to her interior designer — oh wait, that would be Jaime, together with her husband, Justin, with a little help from “a very good contractor”. Photogenic and Instagram-worthy corners at every turn, if this home were a person, it’d be Karlie Kloss.
Then, of course, there’s her creations for The Paper Bunny. The inspirational quotes you see on her cards and prints? That’s calligraphy which the petite 30-year-old handwrites. Lucky, lucky me had the privilege of witnessing the master at work as she obliged my request to write something a la minute. What a treat. I could watch it all day.
The Paper Bunny hopped into existence and into our lives — homes, desks, walls, our BFFs’ mailboxes, you name it — in 2013, when Jaime was still a lawyer. (Yup, hers is classic career fairy tale of “follow your heart and you’ll find your happy ending”.) But how did it all begin, you ask? How did she discover her true love of design? What propelled her to take the leap?
When it comes to a confronting life-changing decision as such, questions abound. Don’t worry, I got you covered. I asked our WoW Woman everything you need to know so you, too, can turn your dream into the life you simply can’t wait to wake up to every day.
DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME COMPARING YOUR LIFE WITH SOMEONE ELSE’S.
How did The Paper Bunny come about?
Jaime Lee: My first brush with graphic design was when my good friends asked me to help them with their wedding stationery. That project made me realise how much I love it — so much so that I took on a few actual clients after that. I love that I could create things that could reach and impact people in their every-day lives — products that are empowering and allow my customers to empower others, that people are proud to carry around. Eventually, we started The Paper Bunny at the end of November in 2013.
You were a lawyer then. What made you take the leap and begin a new chapter?
JL: Yes, I practised at a law firm for two years before going in-house at an MNC. I wanted to have more time to pursue part-time studies and further explore the possibility of a career in design. I never would have imagined that The Paper Bunny would become a brand that people love and celebrate. At the end of last year, I had to make a decision — do I want to take that leap of faith and give it my 100 per cent? I mean, I love the people I was working with and I was comfortable at the company, but I knew I could reach and touch so many more people with The Paper Bunny, and I’ll have so much more to give. So here I am.
Growing up, what was your dream job?
JL: I never really had one. At university, I wanted to read communications studies, but I went with my parents’ wishes to read law instead. I’m glad I heeded their advice though — my mum would be so smug reading this!
We talk about “dream jobs” a lot, but many people don’t realise what it really takes to make that dream a reality — not to mention to make a living of it. What have been some of the hardest bits that have perhaps kept you up at night? And what makes it all worthwhile?
JL: Entrepreneurship is so celebrated these days; everyone wants to be their own boss. But people don’t necessarily realise how much it takes to be run a business — it’s not just about great products; it takes so much more to create a brand.
I used to wonder often if I was really cut out to do this — a trained lawyer with no experience in design, business, logistics and retail, diving into foreign territories. I have had to deal with self-doubt, and sometimes I feel like I am feeling my way around in the dark. I used to look at other businesses and wonder how we’d ever get from this point to that, because I absolutely didn’t have a clue. In the beginning, I couldn’t even call myself a “designer” because I didn’t know if other “professional” designers would judge me for not having formal training. And I’d wonder if the pieces we put out were amazing in other
What kept and still keeps me going is knowing that The Paper Bunny was a “gift” that happened to me, and I couldn’t waste it by not believing in my calling and putting my hand to the plow. I have come to realise that creating a brand and a successful business — design or otherwise — comprises so, so many factors. Seeing how The Paper Bunny has grown in the last two years is a good reminder that this is where I am supposed to be, and that I am fully equipped with everything necessary to do what I have to do.
I have grown (and am growing) to better embrace my strengths, have more confidence in my work and learn where I am weak. It makes it all worthwhile when I get feedback from customers about how much they love what we do and how they use our products in their daily lives.
What do you love most about your job?
JL: I love the ability to create, inspire and empower through our designs. I love having discovered my love and knack for styling. It’s allowed me to meet new people, other entrepreneurs and inspiring individuals who have been very precious in my personal and business journey so far.
I used to wonder often if I was really cut out to do this… sometimes I feel like I am feeling my way around in the dark.
It’s a very good time to be a woman now, wouldn’t you agree?
JL: It definitely is, although I think the idea of #girlpower is not new at all — the idea of empowered women taking charge, being strong and confident has always been a very uniting factor.
How important do you think it is that a woman works, and finds work that she truly loves and has passion for?
JL: I believe women — and men for that matter — need to find something they truly love and have passion for, and do it well. That said, I don’t think everyone is called to “work” in the common understanding of work; I know women who are called to be full-time mothers, who do it with passion and verve, and they are pretty darn good at it. That is work, too, and if that’s where your calling and purpose are. Whatever it is, do it well and do it with all your heart.
What’s your definition of success?
JL: Success is doing your best with what you have, and becoming the best that you can possibly be.
Would you consider yourself successful by that definition?
JL: I am learning and growing, and working towards it every day.
Running a business is a 24/7 job. Do you think it is really possible to be successful at work and at home?
JL: Yes, I think so. I think in life, you have to prioritise the things that matter to you, and organise your life in a way that reflects that. Everyone’s definition of success at work and success at home are different — and you should define them for yourself in a way that works for you and your family. I try to make time to cook dinner at least once a week, so we get to eat something healthier. It means spending less time on work, or getting a little less sleep, but it’s about finding more efficient ways of doing things.
How do you balance work and life and family?
JL: No matter how busy we are, spending time with each other and our families fuels our fire, and we make time for it no matter what. Work is work, but people that matter, and life, are everything.
What’s your take on failure? And what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from it?
JL: Arianna Huffington says that “failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success”. I think how you view failure depends on how you define it.
The fear of failure is greater than failure itself. With every setback big or small, you can choose to give up or learn from it. Of course, I fear failure — I’m only human. But I’ve learned (and I constantly remind myself of it) that failure and setbacks are pretty insignificant in hindsight. You can allow it to overwhelm you, or you can let it be your stepping stone to greater things. Failure is the destination only when you stop trying.
I had to make a decision — do I want to take that leap of faith and give it my 100 per cent?
What’s a typical day for you like?
JL: On weekdays, I wake up when Justin gets up for work and make breakfast for us. I have my coffee, spend some quiet time reading the bible and get in a quick workout before diving into work, which involves everything from designing and planning, to emails and meetings, to appointments and attending events. In the evenings, I usually have dinner with my family, friends or spend the night in with Jus over dinner and Netflix.
What about on weekends — how do you like to spend them?
JL: We love meeting our friends for brunch and dinner on weekends. Church on Sundays — always. Otherwise, a simple home-cooked meal to unwind and prepare for the week ahead.
THE FEAR OF FAILURE IS GREATER THAN FAILURE ITSELF.
What are some good habits you’d recommend one cultivates to make her day more efficient and productive?
JL: Prioritise and plan. Make time for the things that matter, and then for everything else, draw up a realistic to-do list and try to complete it within the allocated time. As your own manager, it is even more important to be disciplined and make your time count.
Do you have a mantra?
JL: Believe in your capabilities, focus on the positives and be the best version of yourself.
Your work relies so much on creativity. Where are your sources of inspiration? What’s your secret cure for creative block?
JL: Very often, nature and fashion. I love fabrics, textures and fashion — and how I can translate them into our designs. When I feel uninspired, I do something else — a quick workout, admin work, finish other things on my to-do list. Usually it is fatigue or stress that prevents creativity from flowing, so it’s better to recharge before coming back to the drawing board, than to force it.
Let’s talk power: What’s your idea of a…
Power suit? A maxi dress.
Power breakfast? Quick-cooking oats in milk, topped with baked almonds and fresh fruit.
Power workout? Thirty minutes of high-intensity training with Jillian Michaels.
What is, for you, the surest way of feeling empowered?
JL: Spending time with people who know you, love you and believe in you and your strengths.
The surest way of losing power?
A woman is most powerful when…
JL: She believes in herself, and celebrates her own strengths and beauty.
WORK IS WORK, BUT PEOPLE THAT MATTER, AND LIFE, ARE EVERYTHING.
What’s the best advice you could give your 21-year-old self?
JL: Don’t worry so much about what people think of you, because there’s no way you could earn the approval of everyone. Don’t waste your time comparing your life with someone else’s, because the best thing you could do for yourself is to be the best you can be. When you’re done being affected by other people’s words, actions, or even their strengths, realise that you’re better off putting your time, energy and ability into what you are good at, and share that with the people who appreciate it.
What would you pick?
Phone call or Whatsapp? Whatsapp.
Heels or flats? As I get older, flats.
Night in or night out? Tough one. Night out, because I love spending time with my friends and family, even after an incredibly busy week. But nights-in are essential for rest and sanity.
A book or Netflix? Netflix!
Instagram or Snapchat? Instagram. Although I love how surprising and real content on Snapchat is.
What’s your favourite emoji?
JL: Always be a first-rate version of yourself, and not a second-rate version of someone else.
Who are your WoW Women?
JL: My mum, and some of my closest girlfriends.
Complete the sentence: When sh*t happens…
JL: Pray really hard.
Black dress, Samuji // Striped drape top, Ylin Lu // Asymmetric black culottes, Ylin Lu // Tassel choker in black and white, Mosstories // Bangle, Edge Of Ember. All labels are available at nana & bird at 1 Yong Siak Street.
Photography & Styling: Karman Tse
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