The greeting card aisle seems to change with the season but if you stand in place long enough, it’s not hard to see an underlying narrative in the stories told – love looks the same, getting older means getting old, and squirrels are a treasure trove for puns.
But Toronto greeting card company To: Her is adjusting that narrative by changing who’s represented. Their cards are inspired by women of all ages, shapes and colours with modern artwork and cheeky messages on them like “congrats on leaving that asshole.” Another has the superman “S” followed by “is for single mom.” They’re notably different and unapologetically real.
“We've seen these great conversations grow from something as simple as a greeting card, which you might not initially think of as something that would spark a conversation about social change,” says Monica Romaniuc, who founded the startup alongside her sister Oana Romaniuc, and their friend Dorcas Siwoku.
The idea was spurred by a kindred revelation: both Siwoku and Oana, on separate occasions, had noticed an utter lack of diversity represented on greeting cards while perusing the shelf. Oana, an illustrator, shared mentioned this observation with her sister Monica. Siwoku did the same. And Monica, well, she became the missing link.
“Initially we just treated it as a project… we weren't really committed to calling it a company and didn't see ourselves as going down that entrepreneurial path,” says Oana. “But the more that we worked on this project and the more eyes on it like our friends, the more we (thought to ourselves) we need to make this a company.”
They researched paper and packaging, familiarized themselves with the costs of starting a greeting card line, and prepared to launch. But working in the corporate world (the trio still balances full-time jobs alongside To: Her) gave them a certain perception about what being an entrepreneur looked like. That changed when they walked through the doors at Make Lemonade, a Toronto co-working space for women.
“Being in that space and seeing the diversity of women that were there made us realize we are still entrepreneurs even though we might not fit into what we initially thought being an entrepreneur meant,” says Monica. “It also gave us access to conversations with women that had smaller businesses.”
The co-founders say Toronto itself has had an indelible impact on the type of narrative they’re crafting through the cards. “We're so heavily influenced by the mosaic of the city,” says Monica. “When we leave Toronto, we realize that other places aren't like this.”
To: Her continues to add cards to its line on the company’s website. It has also collaborated with local favourites like Toronto fitness studio BOLO (Body Love Inc.).
The aim is to continue the conversation about representation and the stories we tell, says Siwoku. Oh, and to get a card to Oprah. “I try to put that out there any chance I get,” she says. “If in the near future, Oprah has one of these cards in her hands I'd be a happy camper.”
Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)