What is the name of your company?
Design With Heart
When was the company founded and why did you start this company?
In 2014, after being a couple for 19 years, my partner and I got engaged. And then, with our two adopted children at our sides, we got married at City Hall in NYC. This was all before marriage equality became the law of the land. We went to send out an announcement of our marriage to our friends and family, and I was struck by how few options existed celebrating the LGBTQ community. Not liking any of the available designs - and having worked as a graphic designer since the age of 16 - I set out to design something that was respectful and honored the enduring love of our family. I enjoyed the process and dirtied some pages with design work. When our friends and family sent along their congratulations, we kept getting the exact same card. I saw an opportunity to design an inclusive line of cards with a crisp sense of design and heartfelt messages. Design With Heart was born!
How did you feel when you launched it?
I announced in the third grade that I wanted to be a graphic designer. So, design is kind of the lens through which I see the world. I've worked as a designer since the age of sixteen - and I own a graphic design firm. So, when I decided to launch a product line, I treated Design With Heart like I would treat work being done for any of my clients. It was an exuberant time of creativity! I really concentrated on the messaging and the “white-space” I saw in the marketplace. Within a few weeks of working, I could see the entire collection coming together. Six months later, armed with a fresh new website, catalog and a fair amount of chutzpah, I launched at the National Stationery Show in NYC. One of my very first wholesale orders came from The Museum of Art and Design in New York. It was at that moment that I finally exhaled and recognized I had been fortunate enough to create something very special. All 6'1" of me wanted to do a cartwheel!
Why was it important to you to create an “out and proud” LGBTQ+ company?
Design With Heart was inspired by a simple but powerful premise: love is love. It’s how we live our lives and it’s what we think everyone has in common. Love is love, no matter who you are or what the occasion.At Design With Heart, we believe LOVE is the greatest gift we have been given. We also believe LOVE is the greatest gift we can share. For me, it is a great honor to put striking designs with inclusive messaging out into the world. It is a privileged to design for the LGBTQ community - my community. I hope Design With Heart inspires folks to stay connected... to begin important conversations... to share a bit of love and good humor.
What has been the reaction of customers to your brand?
It has taken a lot of hard work, but proudly, Design With Heart products are available in over 1,000 retail stores across the country. We also have a number of stores in Canada, England and Australia that carry our products. Maybe the biggest surprise came from all of the museum stores across the country that carry our products. As a designer and creative person, that feels really good to know that the design-work itself carries that level of design integrity.More importantly, I hear from customers who have thanked me for creating a line of cards that have helped them express themselves. One mom sent me a note thanking me for creating our "Just Be You" card - she gave it to her son when he came out to her. That was very special to me.
Tell us about the FRUITLOOTS products we have chosen?
Working with David and Allan, we put together a custom collection of our very favorite Valentine's Day Cards in a boxed set of 8. The cards are all very modern and graphic - and printed on gorgeous, premium FCS certified-sustainable paper. Good for the environment - and good for sharing LOVE with those you care for!
You've been through a lot since launching your brand. Tell us about it. Where do you see your company in 10 years?
Blessedly, my partner and I married in 2014. It meant so much to us - and to our two adopted children. In 2017, he was diagnosed with Acute Myloid Leukemia. We spent 21 months as a family, fighting with all we had. Cancer is a wicked thief. Chris passed away in late 2018.Design With Heart was born out of the love and respect we had for each other. 23 years together. I still very much feel inspired by that LOVE - and inspired to help others share LOVE. Let's face it - greeting cards are only a folded piece of paper. But if the designs and messaging I'm creating help people connect - maybe even share an emotional connection - then I am proud to be a part of it! Like life, my product line continues to evolve and change. Certainly, I've learned a lot about matters of the heart over the past few years - learning new ways to process the grief of losing someone so important in my life and in the lives of my children. More importantly, I continue to learn new ways to carry all of that LOVE forward in my life. Hopefully, I'm inspiring others to do the same. 10 years from now? Yep. I imagine I will still be creating. Still challenging myself to craft something beautiful and special.
Any advice to queer entrepreneurs?
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Last question - if you could be any fruit, what would it be and why?
I guess I'd go with a green pear. I understand the ancient Chinese believed that the pear was a symbol for immortality and strength. I kind of like that!
For more information on Design With Heart and to check out the rest of their collection, click here
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