Gift Shop Plus Winter 2024
A Sense of Belonging: Four makers forge an industry path forward By Carly McFadden

From wholesalers to retailers and consumers, the gift industry continues to embrace diversity. Four makers share their stories with Gift Shop® Plus.

The evidence is clear: Diversity helps businesses thrive.

Diversity is crucial in every industry as it contributes to better conversation, employee participation and decision-making. In fact, diverse teams (made up of a range of ages, genders and geographics) make better decisions 86% of the time, according to a Cloverpop study.

“For the gift industry in particular, [diversity] is especially crucial as women- and minority- owned business make up the majority of small businesses and, yet often face the most hurdles,” said Anjarae Hamilton, head of retailer sales at Faire. “It’s important that we empower them and level the playing field so they can thrive.”

This sense of empowerment can also be extended directly to the gift industry’s end user. At the end of the day, customers want to feel represented when shopping. This notion is more prevalent than before, with Gen Z being the most racially and ethnically diverse generation ever, according to Pew Research Center. And as that generation continues to gain purchasing power — the oldest Gen Zers turn 27 in 2024 — they will continue to prioritize brands whose values align with their own.

“Consumers today are more attuned to spending based on their values and principles than ever before,” Hamilton said. “This presents a huge opportunity in retail, especially for Gen Z, who have an estimated $360 billion of disposable income that will only increase as they reach financial maturity. … Stocking your store with a diverse range of makers and businesses widens the scope of consumers you may attract based on their individual values and beliefs.”

Gift Shop® Plus interviewed four makers across Faire’s “community” categories (Black- Owned; LGBTQ+ Owned; AAPI-Owned; and Latino-Owned) to learn the stories behind their businesses and gather their insights on diversity in the industry.


ASHA BANKS, CHEERNOTES

Asha Banks Cheernotes

Tell us about your company and its mission.

CheerNotes celebrates and amplifies the voices of underrepresented communities through our greeting cards and stationery products. We partner with talented, diverse artists, aiming for authentic self- expression and genuine representation of diverse cultures and experiences. By creating a platform where these artists can showcase their work, we are not only enriching the stationery industry but also promoting economic empowerment and growth for creatives who might otherwise be overlooked. Our mission is to create a ripple effect of inclusion, representation, connection and cultural celebration.

What inspired you to launch your business?

As someone who loves the tradition of sending cards, I often found myself searching for cards that resonated with my culture and experiences but was left feeling unseen by the options available. It only took a few conversations to learn I was not alone. Like me, others turned to indie makers but were facing the challenge of finding what they needed in time.

This gap spurred me into action. I left my corporate job, determined to be the change I wanted to see in the world. I launched our online shop in 2020 and by 2021, I embarked on the adventure of developing our own line. My aim was to co-create with our community and bring forth designs from artists who don’t have their own stationery lines. With each collaboration, I find fresh inspiration and encouragement to persist in our mission to normalize and expand the availability of designs by underrepresented artists beyond heritage months.

What are some of your latest product offerings?

CheerNotes is poised for an exciting expansion of stationery products, including and beyond cards. The successful recent launch of our vinyl die-cut stickers featuring Black Literary Icons, which sold out during our pre-order phase, marks the beginning of this new chapter. We’re also bringing our most- loved designs, plus some exciting new ones, to notebooks and notepads. These new offerings are timed to coincide with our presence at industry events such as NY NOW, Atlanta Market and *Noted + Gifted in early 2024.

Personal favorite?

My personal favorite has to be our award-winning ‘Cool Birthday Girl’ card. This design holds a special place in our collection, born from the wishes of the CheerNotes community who desired more diverse options for children. Its charm and popularity were further cemented when it won the 2023 Children’s Card $5.50 and Under Louie Award.

Why is it crucial to foster diversity in the gift industry?

Diversity in the gift industry is essential — it’s a force of transformation. When our products celebrate this diversity, we’re not just acknowledging the vast spectrum of human experiences and identities; we’re affirming their significance.

But the impact of fostering diversity goes beyond representation. It’s about dismantling long-standing barriers and carving out spaces for minority artists to prosper and share their unique gifts. Through platforms like CheerNotes, these artists don’t just grow — they help reinvent the industry and enrich our communities.


KATELYN WOOLLEY, THE NOBLE PAPERIE

KATELYN WOOLLEY, THE NOBLE PAPERIE

Tell us about your company and its mission.

The Noble Paperie is a stationery line supporting those struggling through miscarriage, loss, infertility, NICU stays and complicated pregnancies. In other words, The Noble Paperie is a line dedicated to the bereaved and everyone in between.

It feels like life started after two back-to-back pregnancy losses. The pregnancy that followed my second loss was extremely difficult. Immediately, my priorities changed and I quickly realized the journey to motherhood doesn’t always come easy.

In 2021, our world was further rocked when we understood that our 5-year-old rainbow baby, the same baby born after the storm of our miscarriages, is transgender. I am now the fierce Queer Mama Bear to my transgender daughter, and I will protect and fight for her, and the entire trans community, with all I’ve got.

What inspired you to launch your business?

What initially inspired the launch of The Noble Paperie were my two pregnancy losses. In 2016, there were a lot of sympathy cards, but none that focused specifically on supporting someone struggling through a pregnancy or infant loss. After launching our first six cards, it became abundantly clear that there were so many other situations on the road to motherhood that were often overlooked and likely warranted a more specific greeting. I found creating these cards a cathartic exercise, and it also allowed me an avenue to share about and honor the babies I had lost while supporting other bereaved parents in the process.

After our daughter’s social transition, I became aware of yet another underserved group in the gift and stationery industry: parents of LGBTQIA+ youth. I have since worked to further round my line to celebrate and support the LGBTQIA+ community. Given the continuous rise in anti-trans rhetoric, and in honor of our now 7-year- old transgender daughter, The Noble Paperie makes a monthly donation to Trans Lifeline, a trans-led nonprofit that offers micro- grants and support to the trans community.

What are some of your latest product offerings?

I am so thrilled with our luxury gift bags. Not only are they extremely durable and high quality, but I am also so proud of the fact that they are completely printed and manufactured in the U.S. Additionally, my production partner who prints and assembles our bags is located 10 minutes from my home.

Personal favorite?

My Big Gay Bag. It’s been a bestseller since I launched the design back in July 2023. I also designed a complementary birthday card that complements the Big Gay Bag perfectly. The duo makes it super easy for someone to easily choose a gift bag and card combo.

Why is it crucial to foster diversity in the gift industry?

Fostering diversity in the gift and stationery industry is so important to me that it’s actually a part of the mission for The Noble Paperie. It can be really hard to find the right words in specific situations, especially if you have never personally experienced the situation yourself. Designing products for previously ignored or underserved communities in the gift and stationery industry has been the greatest gift. Allowing someone to feel deeply seen, loved and supported may seem small. But I’ve come to realize that the little things in life often end up being the big things. And supporting someone with specific words that are applicable to their own life is my greatest joy in the work I do for The Noble Paperie.


JASMINE WALL, THE IMAGINATION SPOT

Jasmine Wall The Imagination Spot

Tell us about your company and its mission.

The Imagination Spot is where imagination comes to life in the form of fun, colorful and sometimes quirky greeting cards, stationery, gifts and décor items.

My mission is to bring smiles to faces and joy to create products that hearts.

What inspired you to launch your business?

I was born and raised in India and started doodling at a very young age. I have a background in textile printmaking, illustration and classical animation. The Imagination Spot started as a little part-time creative adventure for me. After working in the gift industry for many years as an illustrator and graphic designer, I fell in love with the idea of gift-giving and celebrating people who are important to us. In 2014, I launched my own stationery brand.

I started with selling my greeting cards at local art and craft shows. After expanding my line to other stationery products, I entered the wholesale industry. In 2019, I opened a brick-and-mortar stationery shop in Goshen, Indiana. I have loved having a retail shop for over four years now but have missed having enough time to create new designs and products. I am currently in the process of moving my business back to online-only so I can focus on getting back to my sketchbook and working more on my product line.

What are some of your latest product offerings?

Some of my latest product offerings include blank notecard sets with fun patterns and vinyl stickers. I also have a line of vintage-inspired national park and state postcards and art prints; they are one of my most popular product designs.

Personal favorite?

My personal favorites are my notebook and notecard designs. I really enjoy working with colors and patterns.

Why is it crucial to foster diversity in the gift industry?

It is important to foster diversity as it encourages creativity and innovation. We all come from different cultural backgrounds and bring unique artistic perspectives to this industry. When you bring various experiences and thinking together, you can create a variety of products for consumers of all backgrounds.


KAREN MARTINEZ, FIORIBELLE

Karen Martinez

Tell us about your company and its mission.

Fioribelle is a Latina-owned business that offers gorgeous stationery and gifts designed to be fun, feminine and functional. My love affair with paper started with wedding invitations, and I wanted to bring that special feeling you get when opening a wedding invite to everyday paper goods.

What inspired you to launch your business?

After working on my own wedding paper goods, I realized there was something there to explore. I wasn’t happy working as an engineer in corporate America, so I took a chance and opened an Etsy shop back in 2013. Over the last 10 years, my business has had tremendous growth and allowed me to quit my job and work from home while being present with my husband, daughters and dog.

What are some of your latest product offerings?

In Q4 of 2023, I launched wrapping paper sheets and acrylic drink markers, and I added stickers and cards to my Spanglish collection. They are all super cute and have been a huge hit both on wholesale and retail.

Personal favorite?

Oh, this is so hard! But if I have to choose, I am currently loving my brand new Red Lips Wrapping Paper and my Feelin’ Bonita sticker.

Why is it crucial to foster diversity in the gift industry?

I noticed that it was always hard to find cute greeting cards in Spanish at stores. Being able to design cards, stickers and art prints with beautiful sentiments in my native tongue allows me to share a bit of my heritage and hopefully gives people the chance to keep their traditions and language alive. It always warms my heart when I get reviews that thank me for designing cards in Spanish that mamás and abuelas love.

Carly McFadden

Carly McFadden is the editorial director of Gift Shop Plus, Stationery Trends and Lawn & Garden Retailer.




Social Connections


The Gift + Stationery Spotlight Awards is back!This year we will honor 12 outstanding individuals making meaningful contributions to the industry. Nominations are encouraged from all segments of the industry – men and women who are demonstrating innovation, creativity and commitment.For more information and to nominate, visit here:giftshopmag.com/gift-stationery-spotlight-awards/DEADLINE: AUGUST 23#spotlightawards #giftandstationery #retail #stationery #innovators ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook
Gift Shop Plus Spring 2024 cover
Get one year of Gift Shop Plus in both print and digital editions for just $16.

Interested in reading the print edition of Gift Shop Plus?

Subscribe Today »

website development by deyo designs