A Testament to a Town
“We love this town. Our bank is across the street, we get lunch two places down, these frames come from our neighbor.” In Paper Fiesta, a paper goods and gift store in Natick, Massachusetts, owner Paula Dunbar’s passion for her community is visible on every shelf. In one corner, running-themed books and art work pay homage to the store’s location on Mile 10 of the Boston marathon. By the register, greeting cards by local artists illustrate scenes of the Natick farmer’s market. The store, in many ways, is a mirror to its own town.
Taking a Leap
Paula began working in the gift store industry when she was 18, taking a job at a similar store in Brookline, MA, that she would continue to work in for 21 years. With an outgoing personality, Paula quickly fell in love with the industry. “I love talking to customers and making people happy. I’m a huge people person.” Yet her commute to work was long, and she noticed many customers were in a similar situation. “People would tell me that they traveled all the way from the Natick area, a good 40 minutes away. I realized there was a need in that area for a store like this.” After two decades of experience and attending a series of Center for Women Entrepreneurs Program classes, Paula felt ready to take the next step. “I wanted to pursue my love for making people happy into opening my own shop.”
In order to transform the former dry cleaner space into Paper Fiesta, Paula knew she would need financial assistance. She discovered Accion through the SEED Corporation, and with her SBA 7a Community Advantage loan, she and her husband Walter were able to renovate the space and purchase starting inventory. “Our loan consultant went through the process with us step by step. She made us feel really comfortable. Whenever I was nervous about asking a question, she would just put me at ease.”
Growing Roots and Sparking Kindness
With a son and a daughter, Paula’s business has become a family affair. “My kids love coming in and helping on the weekends. My daughter is great with customers. She’ll greet people and help someone with the door.” Paula and Walter are also constantly finding new ways to deepen their involvement in the community, valuing their close relationship with local residents. “We have regulars already coming in who we’re on a first name basis with.” The couple also features the work of local artists and is currently collaborating with SPARK Kindness, a local group dedicated to spreading kindness and goodwill. “We want to connect with as many people as we can and grow our message within this town.”