Books bound in tradition

“I use a notebook for everything,” says Alistair MacLellan.

As the executive director of Waterloo-based MacLellan & Baetz Publishing House, MacLellan will jot down lists, sketches and design concepts in his notebook as a place for safekeeping ideas. Consulting his notebook so often, MacLellan began to look beyond the pages.

“I was looking at this notebook. Where was it made? Who made it?” he questioned, while thinking, “a hundred years ago, if you wanted a notebook, you would get it made by someone.”

Inspired to learn more, MacLellan began to research traditional book-making techniques.

Three or four poorly made notebooks later, MacLellan was beginning to get more proficient at all the measuring, cutting, folding, sewing, and gluing required to bind together a handmade notebook. Thinking other people may be into what he was creat- ing, the idea of beginning a Kickstarter campaign to fund the purchase of raw materials and raise some brand awareness popped into his head.

“If there is a market for handmade notebooks, Kickstarter is the perfect platform. So I started a campaign and it turned out really great.”

Really great indeed.


Offering up handmade notebooks in a variety of colours at 25 bucks a pop, MacLellan managed to reach his financial goal of $1,500 in the first three days of his Kickstarter going live.

“I was blown away,” he admits, “my thinking was, I am some dude who wants to make notebooks. I thought I would be calling distant relatives to give me money to finish it.”

By the end of the campaign, MacLellan had more than doubled his goal by raising just over $3,600, backed by 147 people from as far away places as Sweden, Malaysia and Australia. “In that respect, I sort of bit off more than I could chew,” noting it was a challenge to get all the notebooks made and shipped in a timely manner.

Despite the manufacturing challenges, McLellan really values the experience.

“The process you have to go through from concept to delivering product is a great learning opportunity. If you’re a creative person or are interested in making things and you have a good idea, this is the best way to learn about the business process.”

Being responsible for every part of the operation, from marketing to distributing, accounting, supply chain management and customer service, are all part of the deal, says MacLellan.

“You’re literally doing everything. You’re wearing every hat. I got to learn firsthand what it takes to make something, deliver it and support it.”

The success of this endeavour has inspired more ideas that MacLellan hopes to pursue.

“What I am going to do is finish the Kickstarter campaign and ship out all the notebooks and then I want to relaunch the website and try selling the notebooks online.”

As that gains traction, MacLellan would like to see MacLellan & Baetz Publishing House expand into other areas of business. Offering various design and digital media services, MacLellan & Baetz focuses on providing the tools to help inspire people to create.

“The publishing house is more about creating a company that enables people’s creativity. We want to be a patron of enthusiasm.”

You can follow M&B on Twitter at @mbpubhouse.