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This entrepreneur built a paper empire in the digital age

Ashley Reynolds, 36, has been using paper planners as an organization and productivity tool, and as a great way to keep track of her feelings. But in the end, she was never able to find a product that had the exact same design or function as what she was looking for. So when she left her job at Capital One in 2014, she decided to turn her passion into a business. The following year, she started Richmond, Virginia-based Cloth & Paper, a company that made planners. The company has thrived during the pandemic, with more than $7 million in revenue in 2021. This number is an 880% increase from 2018, landing the paper at No. 717 on the Cloth & 2022 Inc. 5000 list. – Tell Xintian Tina Wang

I have worked for nine years in the Fair Credit Reporting Act Compliance Capital One and I hope my work will have more creativity work. We relocated from our hometown of Richmond, VA when my husband Ryan got a new job in Raleigh, NC. Then I asked myself if I would like to work for another bank. When I was trying to plan my future, I went and bought a planner. I went to Target, Staples, and Home Depot, but none of the existing planners were the way I wanted them—they were gorgeous, neon, and too girly. I just want a simple planner where I can prioritize my schedule. It was then that it occurred to me that I could do a planner business.

I love paper products, especially planners. The Planner is where I release my feelings and keep track of the things I’m grateful for. Jotting down my plan every day has been therapeutic for me. I love what people can do with paper. That’s what I want to share with our audience.

I provided a $10,000 line of credit for this business, Cloth & Paper was officially born in 2015 in a spare bedroom. My husband runs a business in Richmond, so we use that space for warehousing and are officially headquartered there.

I’m trying to make my first daily planner insert on Microsoft Word, which is definitely a no-no for a graphic designer, but I don’t have a design background. Surprisingly, people love its simplicity. In the left column, it has a space for priorities, to-do lists, and notes. In the right column, it has a space for tasks and schedules. This prototype led to the creation of our flagship planner.

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One year after the company was founded, Ryan Quit my job to join me in managing and expanding it. For the first three years, we had no paid advertising. But I think Cloth & Paper stands out because our starting point is to really help people understand planning and maximize productivity. On our social media platforms, we include instructional videos to show our audience how to best use our products. Last year, we also launched our Quarterly Lifestyle Subscription Box, which contains a wide range of beauty products and household items to enhance your productivity and lifestyle.

During the epidemic, we certainly benefited from the rise of social e-commerce and e-commerce, and our business grew wildly. Revenues grew more than 240% in 2020. We went from a 330 sq. ft. warehouse to 12,000 sq. ft.

Our company has also increased from 10 to 40 employees. We’ve really focused on high-quality hiring over the past few years, but the “big resignation” has been a huge challenge. We created a team happy hour and a monthly company meetup where we talk about everything going on in the business to keep everyone engaged and happy. Still, you don’t have much control over your employees’ mental state during a pandemic. It’s so important to acknowledge their struggles.

Now, our audience is young professionals and entrepreneurs who value time constraints. We primarily sell our products on Shopify. We are also seeing a lot of customers now buying directly from Instagram and Facebook. This has been a growing trend over the past six months.

There are still people who are not ready for the digitization of their calendars. If desired, we can simply push a button and publish all of our products digitally. But in our consumer research, people are asking us to keep publishing.

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