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Daniel Malen recalls a lot of people saying they got him “the greatest card” on his wedding day. But after opening numerous envelopes and finding the same two generic bowties with “Mr. and Mr.” scrawled across the bottom, he wasn’t so convinced.
A handdrawn card from his friend Mark Uhre finally offered some variety, along with the inspiration for a business idea: LGBTQ-inclusive cards.
Since then, Malen, 37, who co-owns a juice company, and Uhre, 35, who works on Broadway in New York, have launched Mark It Proud, to help end the parade of generic “Mr. and Mr.” cards.
“We don’t pretend to be like ‘We’re inventing LGBTQ-inclusive cards,’ but if you go into a Hallmark or whatever, there’s maybe one. And I think there should be more,” Malen said.
Malen believes that their cards will help make the LGBTQ community more visible and “visibility becomes acceptance.” Uhre hopes their cards will help “spread love, spread happiness, because that’s what a greeting card is about.”
“I think there’s so much hate in the world. But I really believe when you have a connection to a community your opinion changes,” Malen said. “Anything that makes visibility and acceptance more common helps.”
The duo has come up with 13 designs so far. Their cards cover a variety of themes, including weddings, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, birthdays and coming out. According to Uhre, the two sit down together and discuss ideas before he starts a general sketch. Throughout the process, Uhre bounces ideas back and forth with Malen before ending with “the strongest image that will get people excited and send love through an image.”
“There’s a reason cards are still around. People might not be able to find the words,” Malen said. “To be able to give a card that says thank you for coming out, or I love you unconditionally, it’s really powerful and we really want to be able to make that easier for everybody.”
The pair launched a Kickstarter campaign in June to help raise initial funds for their project. According to Malen, they also hoped to receive “validation from the community to say yes, this is a good idea, this is something that we’d like to see out in the world.”
Already, Malen and Uhre have been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received from around the world. To help launch their company they offered free Mark It Proud temporary tattoos to anyone who wanted one and were willing to post a photo of themselves with the tattoo on social media. Malen was bombarded with requests and ended up sending tattoos to countries including Australia, New Zealand, France, Brazil and Russia.
Once they start selling cards, Malen and Uhre also plan to donate 10 per cent of their earnings to LGBTQ-inclusive charities.
When the Kickstarter closes on July 5, they will launch their website, start printing their cards and begin selling them online. They also plan to reach out to greeting-card stores to see if they can get cards onto shelves, even if Malen has to go door-to-door.
“Anywhere there are cards, I want to see inclusive cards,” Malen said. “You never know who’s going to walk down a greeting card aisle. It could be a young kid who is thinking, ‘I don’t think I’m going to marry someone of the opposite sex.’ And I just love the idea of them seeing a card that’s for them.”