On a crisp, late-September afternoon, Priyanka Rego is at the heart of Etsy Made in Canada: one of Toronto’s most anticipated events showcasing handmade goods from local vendors. As hoards of attendees stroll through the venue clutching onto coffee cups and reusable totes, Rego chats with a young couple whose attention was captured by her beautifully curated display of paper goods.
Raised in Dubai and based in Toronto, Rego moved to Canada with her family at the age of 15. In the years since, she has earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Toronto and built a career working in finance.
On the side, she dabbled in calligraphy. She looked to online resources to develop her skills and hone in on her craft, and she began to fall hard for the art form.
“For me, the practice of doing calligraphy started off as a kind of meditation. I would crave time to sit down and practice arm movements and specific strokes. That’s how I started to fall in love with it,” Rego recalls.
After seven years in the corporate world, and ready for a break from the nine to five, she decided to make a change. Rego left her job to take an entrepreneurial leap of faith and opened Paper Trails Design Co. in October 2014. She now runs the business full-time.
Paper Trails Design Co. offers custom calligraphy services, hand-printed cards and art prints. Rego’s elegant and minimalist yet playful design style has resonated with clients in an industry that thrives on word-of-mouth.
“Inspiration seems to hit me when I’m taking downtime,” Rego says. “Going for walks, reading magazines or even scrolling through Instagram. I try to take breaks from work to let ideas flow!”
Despite her success, Rego’s journey in entrepreneurship has been full of ups and downs.
“The highs are so high and the lows are very personal,” she explains. “One of my biggest struggles is trying to separate my own identity from the identity of the business. It’s a hard thing to separate, but you have to in order to stay sane.”
For Rego, knowing that the success of the business begins and ends with her is daunting, but exciting.
“I can’t even begin to explain the amount I’ve learned in the past two years,” Rego says. “I do the marketing, the accounting…literally everything to do with the business on top of making the products. I love to see what I can accomplish when I’m left to my own devices.”
Having made the brave leap herself, Rego wouldn’t hesitate to encourage others to pursue their entrepreneurial goals.
“I think people are nervous about financial security, potentially failing, and what other people will think. If you can let those fears go and just go for it, you’re going to learn so much about yourself and your abilities,” she says. “You won’t regret it. I’m totally the case and point.”
Rego’s vision for the future is limitless. She intends to continue growing the business and start teaching calligraphy to others in the classroom.
“Taking pen to paper is dying out. I really want to start spreading the love and encourage others to try it!” she says.
Priyanka Rego lives a life fueled by passion and creativity. In a society reliant on emails and text messages, her belief that handwritten items give words a meaningful permanence shines in her work—and she can’t wait to see where the journey takes her.
(All Photos Courtesy of Priyanka Rego)