On a Saturday morning, Claudia Duncan wakes up at 5:30am, makes coffee, turns on the radio, and starts pushing paper. For many of us, that may sound like a mundane start to the day. But for Duncan, by manipulating paper—whether it’s an elegantly-bound journal or a simple invoice—she’s assembling a dream.

Duncan is the founder of Lala & Papel, a small, eco-minded journals and stationery company that offers a personal touch to journaling, note taking and letter writing. “Some of us like to write (things) down,” she explains. “With a piece of paper there’s a more romantic connection. You can feel the notebook. You can scribble and make happy faces. It comes more naturally.”

Duncan’s love for paper started in her native Panama. As a little girl, she used her diario to write poetry and cut and paste images from magazines. The romance with pen and paper eventually brought her to the States. “I met my American husband in Panama in 1992. For two years, we wrote letters,” she recalls. She eventually immigrated to get married and start a family life in Nashville, Tennessee.

Claudia Duncan Dreams of Pushing PaperIn her job as Marketing Director for Thomas Nelson/Grupo Nelson, she got to promote the books of celebrities she admired as a child, such as Ricardo Montaner and Barbara Palacios. “One highlight of my career was a moment when I was able to meet with the team for Ricardo Montaner. I grew up listening to his music. I spent some time with him and got to see what happens behind the scenes.” She also learned valuable lessons that pushed her to follow her dreams. “I’ve given my career my best shot and I think that’s the key. I look at myself and appreciate the opportunities and learn from the ups and downs.”

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She talks about technology with admiration, but also mentions that she feels sad about the ways things are changing. “Maybe I’m one of those that (still) uses things that go out of style. Handwriting is such an art, I’m afraid it’s disappeared.”

The idea for Lala & Papel started as pitch to create personalized agendas for Thomas Nelson and evolved into an independent business. Duncan felt that “the connection with paper” was an original business idea, but she was hesitant to go out on her own because of concerns about financing and affordability. Her aha moment came one sleepless night last June, while her husband was traveling. “I knew I wanted to keep it local and help the environment. I sat (at) the computer and wrote the business plan. All the ideas and dreams were transferred to a document and looked a lot more possible then.”

After 11 years as a highly successful marketing and public relations executive in the Spanish publishing industry, last November Claudia left her job. Her career development was fundamental as a stepping-stone that got her closer to fulfilling her dream, but now she finds happiness in balance: spending more time with her children, helping her husband run his mortgage company and using the skills she learned in her profession to make Lala & Papel a sustainable business.

“Lala & Papel is a gift that God put into my heart,” she says. Her faith and hope have helped carry her through tough times and realize her projects. “In my case, I shot for the stars and went after my dreams, whatever they were.”