Elizabeth Fanslow is the local Laurel business owner of the Be Amazing Paper Company, a physical shop and online store that sells stationery, journals, books, candles, and gifts of all kinds. It's a small store on Central Avenue with a big heart, and Elizabeth's passion for reaching the community with a handwritten letter is unstoppable. Though her story began in Maryland, she was admittedly more fit for the hospitality-centered lifestyle found in the south.
Elizabeth's story begins, "I was born and raised in Maryland. We moved to Tampa in 1999 for a job, and I was in corporate America until 2014. Then I became a business consultant on my own. When we moved here, we worked out of our home and often traveled to work with our clients. But then COVID hit, and I was busier than ever. Travel stopped, and it just became difficult. It just wasn't where I wanted to be anymore."
Elizabeth found that her heart was no longer interested in business consulting, but instead, she was drawn to her first love — paper.
She continues, "I've always loved paper and books, and my husband said, Why don't you see about opening a retail store? We looked around downtown, and there wasn't a lot of space available downtown. I've always had this vision of being downtown, so I wanted to wait for the perfect spot."
With plenty of patience and incredible luck, a small retail space finally became available for rent. The Fanslows hopped on it, despite its obvious aesthetic needs and changes.
She says, "Well, just one thing turned into another, and we just kept changing and changing. We had a guy come in and build our cabinets and shelves for our cards. Things began to fall into place, and it started to feel good. We ended up opening in August of last year."
Through construction and renovations, Elizabeth saw her dream become a reality. She cherished the moment that her sign was painted on the window because it made it real for the first time. When customers come into her store and laugh at the funny cards and share their favorite book titles, it makes all the months of waiting worth it. Most importantly, she's excited that her customers want to share thoughts, memories, and words of encouragement in handwritten letters again.
She remarks, "When I was growing up, my grandmother lived in Florida, and she always wrote me letters, and I always sent her letters back. I've just always been the type of person to send cards and write letters to people. It feels good to receive a letter, so I like to make people feel good by sending cards in the mail, too."
"I think letter writing is dying, and it's so sad. I don't think people do it as much as they used to. It's easier to write an email or send a text, but people need to see your handwriting. It feels so much more personal."
This is why Elizabeth provides a diverse selection of paper stationery and journals in her store. To her, the art of self-reflection and passing down memories is essential.
She says, "I'm a big believer in stories. I want to make sure my kids and my grandkids have those memories. Both of my parents are gone now, and there are so many things that I'd like to ask them, but my mother and father were not writers. They never wrote down anything. So I journal a lot, I send a lot of cards, I send them a lot of note cards to send to other people."
Since opening her shop, Elizabeth has made it her mission to inspire children and adults to send letters. This past Christmas, she prompted local children to write letters and submit them to the Santa Claus mailbox in her store. She responded by typing and mailing each child a personalized note.
"My word has been intentional for four or five years, and I don't know that I will ever change it. You have to be intentional in making sure that everything you do is intentional— whether it be your actions, the way you interact with people, your goals, plans, or things you want. I want to make sure people are okay. Especially right now, that's a big thing with a pandemic."
Be Amazing Paper Company is excited to be a part of this year's Mississippi Made festival and the chance to bring along their best and newest handmade stationary. We're so grateful that Elizabeth is a part of our first Mississippi Made on March 12, 2022!