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Waukesha West Graduate takes the plunge into entrepreneurship

Jan. 18, 2014

In a high-ceilinged warehouse space in the trendy French fashion district of Montreal, Canada, Anna Van Tuinen is preparing her business’ website for its official launch. A 2006 graduate of Waukesha West High School, Van Tuinen’s new line of jewelry, entitled Paper Anniversary, will officially launch on January 25th. Selling from her website at, the line features exotic papers from Nepal, Japan, Italy and Thailand.

Van Tuinen, 25, has always experimented with paper since she was a child, but never dreamed of making a business of it until after retirement from her job as a speech pathologist. "I always knew I wanted to be self employed as an artist, but I didn’t think I'd be fortunate enough to pursue those goals at such a young age,” says Van Tuinen, who recently made the plunge, leaving her day job to keep up with the high demand for her unique paper jewelry.

“The age-old tradition is to give a paper gift for the first anniversary,” explains Van Tuinen, who now sells her designs to men around the world looking for the perfect first anniversary gift. “Business is all about discovering a need, and fulfilling it. I realized that there is a strong market out there for first anniversary gifts, but nobody was offering the kind of high-quality paper gifts that I specialize in.” When Van Tuinen stumbled across a website selling first anniversary toilet paper, she knew she had found her niche.

Van Tuinen now handcrafts each piece in the Paper Anniversary collection herself, but that’s likely to change as things grow (she’s thinking of taking on an assistant). "The amazing part of running an online business is that the world is your marketplace. My customers are from all over the world, from Australia to Greece.”

Van Tuinen credits her education at the School District of Waukesha for cultivating her creativity. "It all started in 4th grade, sitting in Ms. Hanson’s class at Summit View Elementary School. She challenged the class to make one thousand paper cranes before the end of the month while we were reading the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes." While the other students were fumbling, Van Tuinen’s hands took to the paper like second nature. "I think I made nearly 800 cranes for the class!"

Having a creative outlet at school let Van Tuinen connect with learning in a deeper way. She developed her entrepreneurial spirit at Waukesha West High School, where she took part in the Future Business Leaders of America Club. "Our instructor Mrs. Laveau encouraged me to experiment with marketing and graphic design, which are such integral parts of what I do every day now."

Freedom and flexibility are what drove Van Tuinen to pursue entrepreneurship. "When you do what you love, you don't feel like you're working. You’re just living!"

Anna Van Tuinen's unique collection of first anniversary gifts can be found at

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