Madelyn Paper Company: Bringing kindness through greeting cards

CMU student starts a greeting card business in her dorm room


In her dorm room at Central Michigan University, Maddie VanAlstine, sophomore, bends over a handmade greeting card - a business endeavor that she began in June of 2023.    

What started out as a way for VanAlstine to raise money for her study abroad trip to Florence, Italy, turned into an activity she enjoys doing and is passionate about. VanAlstine said that she has always been the creative type and likes that she is able to benefit from her artistic abilities by drawing and using watercolors.  

VanAlstine produces greeting cards with different sayings and announcements.  

“So they are five by seven greeting cards … where some say Happy Birthday … others are general appreciation, and some are blank with a pretty design for different occasions,” VanAlstine said.  

VanAlstine was in the middle of an internship when she had the idea and found that she could use Shopify to organize and sell her products.  

“Honestly, I sat down and just did it in one day, kind of spontaneously and then the rest is history,” VanAlstine said.  

VanAlstine gets inspiration for the designs through Instagram and Pinterest.  

“I would see a cute pun, but then make the artwork for it and recreate it … and it ends up looking like my own unique version of it,” VanAlstine said. “And then some of them are just from my brain.”  

Within each small business comes a purpose and a goal. In her business goals, VanAlstine discovered something more.  

“When I was coming up with a business model, I really loved the idea of greeting cards because I love the nice gesture and spreading kindness in a cute creative way,” VanAlstine said. “I love getting cards for my friends for no reason, especially when it's personable.”  

She also designs and creates custom greeting cards by request.    

“There's a spot on my website where people can, if they have an idea of what they want, put that in and they get in contact with me, I reach out to them, and we coordinate their design,” VanAlstine said. “That’s the heart behind it …the sweet gesture of giving a card and having it be personable.”  

All of the greeting cards are hand drawn and hand painted, making each card different and one of a kind. 


As VanAlstine transitioned her business from at home to at school, she faced some challenges.  

“It’s really hard to switch my mindset from doing an assignment or writing an essay to all of a sudden trying to promote myself on social media,” VanAlstine said. “It’s been more of a challenge than I thought it would be.”  

VanAlstine also works at the desk for the Department of Philosophy, Anthropology and Religion in Anspach. Along with working, running the business and keeping up with school, VanAlstine manages two different social media accounts and is involved in the Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity here on campus.      

Although there are a lot of stressors, VanAlstine still appreciates her business.    

“It can be really nice sometimes because at the end of the day, when I’m winding down, watching TV, I like doodling or working on my cards,” VanAlstine said. “It can be kind of a creative release.”  

Now, to anybody who wants to start their own business, VanAlstine advices, "Just go for it!"

“You have nothing to lose honestly,” VanAlstine said. “You're only gaining something … and learning a new skill.”  

VanAlstine shares that it can be intimidating but has come to see that starting and running her online shop is very user friendly.  

“People will appreciate your skill and like what you have to bring to the table,” VanAlstine said.      

VanAlstine's business is easily accessed through Instagram at @madelynpaperco and Facebook at Madelyn Paper Company as well as through her online shop at  

Some upcoming designs that she is planning on creating are seasonal. VanAlstine shares that she had created some fall designs that are already posted on her website and socials. She also shared that she plans on focusing on the upcoming season such as Christmas and other major holidays.