Pivoting into Paper

It’s almost time to pull out the holiday decorations and set tables for Thanksgiving feasts. One Lawrenceville alumna is putting a sustainable spin on hosting and entertaining with her eponymous line of paper products.

After spending a few years in a consulting job after college, Lucy Dean ’09 knew she needed a more creative outlet, and took the plunge into the world of textile design. After getting a certificate in the field and eventually finding her way into the paper industry, Dean launched her own paper goods brand last summer called Lucy Grymes, after her first and middle names.

Her first line features colorful patterned, disposable paper placemats and vase wraps, and was born out of her own experience as a young professional living in a small apartment in Washington, D.C.

“I am very social and I love to entertain, and I put a lot of time into the aesthetics of my entertaining,” Dean says, noting that every inch of her Lawrenceville dorm room was covered in pictures. After realizing that she and many of her peers didn’t have the storage space to collect glass vases or the time to press fabric placemats, Dean began experimenting with origami to create a paper vase that can be slid over a stemless wine glass or water bottle to add color and style to a table.

“People entertain and want to be aesthetically pleasing, but they have young families and careers that don’t leave much extra time,” Dean says. “These you can quickly buy and unwrap and are ready to go in minutes flat.” Dean’s coated paper placemats and vases feature her designs, are made in the United States, and are 100 percent recyclable.

Pivoting into a new industry was no small task, and Dean credits her experience at Lawrenceville with giving her the tools to hold her own at boardroom tables with seasoned industry veterans.

“I’m a 27-year-old girl who doesn’t know anything about printing and I go in and need to be taken seriously, negotiating supply chain, contracts and prices,” she says, noting that the conference tables where she met with industry leaders were reminiscent of Harkness tables. “You have to sit, ask questions, present yourself articulately and be able to feel like you’re one at the table, which really helped me. Being able to sit at a table with people who aren’t your peers in experience was huge.”

Dean also says her ability to manage her time as an entrepreneur stems from skills she learned at Lawrenceville.

“At the end of the day, I have to do my own accounting, supply chain, sales, product creation and manage a healthy lifestyle and get done a laundry list of things,” she says. “I’ve been having to schedule my own time since I was 14 – that really helped in my career and in being a successful student in college.”

Dean hopes to continue expanding her business to add more products and ramp up the wholesale side in a sustainable way.

“Every day I’m happy to wake up and do this,” Dean says. “Sometimes you don’t know what you want to do until you know what you don’t want to do. It’s important to expose yourself to everything so you know what you don’t want to do.”

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