Interior architect and designer Olivia Chylinski believes that there’s no such thing as “small business,” including her own. “I think we get into this thing of calling businesses small or large, but actually there’s just ‘business,’ and all businesses deserver consideration and respect regardless of their turnover and number of employees. Even if it’s just one person!” Olivia says.
Her own business, The Brown Paper Movement, which she runs in addition to her interior design work, speaks to this philosophy; she’s happy with the business as a side endeavor and isn’t trying to make it her full time job, although, as she says, “I would love that if it happens! But it’s not the goal. The goal is just to create something I love that other people will love, and have a creative outlet.”
Olivia, originally from Australia and of Polish descent, moved to Copenhagen in 2016. The Brown Paper Movement, a design studio that specializes in calendars and other custom paper goods, launched Sydney in 2014. “I was working in a candle factory while studying interior architecture, and we always had these deliveries of candle wax in these gorgeous, crisp brown paper boxes. I started collecting the boxes because I just thought they were so beautiful and useful,” Olivia explains.
“I fell in love with brown paper and even used it for my final architecture project. Then I couldn’t find a minimalist calendar that I liked, so I made myself one. This was 2012. Soon after that, friends began asking for calendars too. I finally founded the company two years later and I’ve been having a great time with it since then, creating simple, beautiful desk and wall calendars.”
When Olivia moved to Copenhagen in search of an adventure, she brought the business with her. Soon after that, she got a call from Swedish fashion brand COS. “I am honestly not sure how they found me, but I would guess Instagram, as that’s how a lot of people find the brand,” she explains. “They made a huge order for all of their employees; they wanted the calendars for their company Christmas present. I remember they told me the volume they needed and asked if I could do it. I didn’t even think, I just said ‘yes!’ Then afterwards I was like, oh, this is going to be really hard. My general rule with opportunities is to always say yes. I ask myself, ‘what could happen if I said yes?’ and I go from there.”
Olivia lived up to the challenge, getting all the calendars printed and delivered on time. “I had to scramble to find a printer who could do it in time, at the quality I wanted. But I think that’s the thing about running your own business – you just get it done!”
The Brown Paper Movement has continued to grow since then, albeit slowly, just as Olivia wants. The most popular product is the recycled paper calendar. “I’m happy with the pace right now. Sometimes there are big orders and I’m really busy, and sometimes it’s more quiet. That’s fine with me. I get to create something I love, and that’s a massive reward for me.”
So what do you need to know about paper before ordering your calendar? Let’s take “Paper 101” with Olivia:
Don’t forget its roots and where it comes from. Be mindful and aware of the process of creation – it allows you to be more connected to the paper you choose and use.
Maybe this sounds obvious, but paper is a blank slate: you can use it to plan, but also to be wild and creative. Having different kinds of paper for your different needs can help you stay organized.
If you’re into the tactile feeling of paper, if you’re into minimalism and sustainability, get into recycled paper! People think of it as quite rough looking, but there are newer recycled papers that are very refined and have a great aesthetic.
As for her advice for people looking to start a business, Olivia notes that patience essential. “You have to understand what your needs are, what your boundaries are, and how much time you can actually devote to something. I totally think that even if you can’t (or won’t) devote all your extra time to a side gig, you can still do it, and do it well! You just have to be organized and, again, patient.”
Olivia also stresses the importance of mentors. “Find your mentors! And then, when you do well, don’t forget about them. When you’re in a position to mentor, do it. I think that people who lift others up are the ones that do the best in life. Don’t be afraid to take help, and definitely don’t be afraid to give it.”
That’s a movement we can get behind.
Order your new calendar from the Brown Paper Movement here.