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This Founder Is Creating A Greeting Card Line For Adoptive Parents

Dec 11, 2021

Following the adoption of her daughter, entrepreneur and Selfmade alum Jayne Alfieri realized that few people in her community knew how best to support her. To help them find the right words, she put her creative skills to work and designed a greeting card line, now called Tiny Type Studios, for adoptive communities. Thanks to our partnership with Office Depot OfficeMax, we are sharing Jayne's story and how she found her niche through a beautiful and deeply personal experience.

B + C: What motivated you to start Tiny Type Studios? What problem are you trying to solve for your customers?

Jayne: I am the mother of a son and a daughter. My daughter was adopted at 16 months old. When I went through the beautiful, difficult process of bringing her home to our family, I saw how lonely and misunderstood this path to parenthood could feel. I saw how my friends and family struggled to find the right words to say in the emotional moments of hope, sadness, and joy along the way.

Soon, I realized there were millions of people traveling this journey with no real expressions for their experiences. Friends and family needed sentiments of support and celebration to send to their loved ones adopting a child, or the ones being adopted. Adoption agencies needed words of encouragement and congratulations for their expecting mothers and adopting families. Seeing this need, I was inspired to use my artistic passion to create the first line of greeting cards bringing empathy, understanding and connection to the adoption journey.

B + C: How has the company evolved since your initial "aha" moment?

Jayne: My first "aha" moment was that nobody had done this before, and it needed to be done. Once we launched the card line and started talking to more people traveling different roads along the adoption journey, I realized many more people needed to be supported in many more ways. I saw how much understanding and expression was needed between birth parents and adoptive families, among adoptees, and in the national awareness. And I wanted each one to be seen, heard, loved. What I initially thought was going to be a beautiful greeting card line, became a conversation drawing out the beauty that is adoption in real and meaningful ways. Ways that could shift the adoption narrative from animosity to harmony, from solitude to connection.

B + C: What startup challenges have you faced along the way?

Jayne: Creativity and artistry has been my profession and my strength. Turning a strong idea into a product line, juggling all aspects of building and operating a business, along with balancing motherhood and life, was a new kind of challenge. Launching three weeks before a pandemic took over the world's attention definitely added another layer of challenge as our targeted adoption community contracted suddenly due to court closings and travel delays, fewer families sought to adopt and adoption agencies held off on spending amid the uncertainty. When the protests began only months later, aside from feeling personally heartbroken, we felt an obligation to silence our marketing and awareness messages a while in deference to what others needed to say during a time where their messages desperately needed to be heard.

B + C: What strategies helped you overcome them?

Jayne: Being patient and thinking creatively has helped us get through the beginning challenges of our business. When the pandemic hit, and adoptions were stalled and global supply chains were slowed, we reoriented our brand to focus on our locally printed products with the highest profit margins. We also quickly recognized an upcoming need within a segment of our niche, and picked up our pens and pencils to create the first ever collection of greeting cards for Birth Mother's Day, a national holiday in May, never before addressed this way. Sales from these timely products, along with our founding philosophy of launching debt free with low overhead, helped us stay profitable through the dips and delays in sales. When the protests took center stage, we used our "quiet time" to listen, hosting conversations with families affected by issues related to adoption and professionals striving to support the adoption journey. These talks strengthened our understanding and deepened both our commitment and product line.

B + C: What would you say are your top successes so far?

Jayne: As I learned in Selfmade, taking a big idea to market is no small accomplishment. I would say my top successes so far are, first, recognizing an unmet need so woven into the fabric of our world it had become invisible. Second, creating a line of more than 100 illustrated expressions speaking to what has not been spoken to, and doing so in a way that many people told us how grateful they were to finally have the greeting cards that had been missing far too long. I had to overcome my own fears and sense of "imposter syndrome" to persist in building and promoting products so full of my passion, with a mission close to my heart. Third, when we launched into a tumultuous time and people shared their hurt and anger around adoption with us, we stayed true to our mission. Others in the adoption community watched with awe (and sent us private notes saying so) as we brought empathy, understanding and love to every conversation.

B + C: How have you approached marketing your brand and raising awareness?

Jayne: When our brand was in the idea phase, we held an early focus group, which quickly led to a five-figure sale to an agency—bought off concept sketches. From there, we went to our state's annual adoption conferences attended by adoption agencies and professionals, establishing personal relationships with future buyers. Once our products were available for sale online, we slowly began to build authentic connections within the adoption community through social media. Appearing as guests on adoption podcasts, as well as being featured in our local media and on the media sites of the national morning shows Today and Good Morning America, helped build our brand awareness. Collaborations with like-minded, non-profit organizations speaking to associated nationwide audiences also contributed to raising awareness for our brand.

B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?

Jayne: I was a grateful recipient of the Office Depot OfficeMax Selfmade Full-Ride Scholarship Summer 2021. Being in a community of women and learning from female founders, who have taken their big ideas to fulfillment with heart and hustle, made a huge difference for me. I was able to network with top leaders in the stationery industry, who could introduce me to the landscape ahead. As a Selfmade alum, I now know some smart, savvy women on the same journey to build a business and can tap into their insight and expertise when I need to. One of the most valuable takeaways from the 10-week course was a shift in my thinking — from overthinking to acting and adjusting to what resonates. I never really thought about how men and women think differently, but these powerful women teachers and coaches illuminated some of the ways women think that create self-imposed barriers and unrecognized boundaries. I could see my personal struggle for perfection may have prevented me from launching sooner or taking bolder risks that could have led to unexpected rewards. My takeaway: Leap before it's perfect.

B + C: Who and what inspires you?

Jayne: Well, Brit inspires me. I am amazed by her early and continued success, while raising children, too! (I wish she would write a book so more women can see how she is doing it all.) The other women in the Selfmade workshop also inspired me with their fearlessness and confidence and no-barriers approach to achieving what they set out to do. Seeing all the women who had an idea and followed a passion to greatness, inspires me to keep going. I have always been inspired by the generations of women before me — my mother, my grandmother, who staked their own paths in their own situations and circumstances. Now I have a cadre of women leaving a shining trail, like a compass, I can follow along my own entrepreneurial journey.

B + C: What's one piece of advices you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?

Jayne: Building a passion into a profitable business is a marathon, not a sprint. Be sure what you are doing it for and that what you care about is BIG enough to carry you through the challenges. The learning curve can be steep and fast. Do not be afraid to ask questions and learn. Read books and blogs, listen to podcasts, and always trust your own instincts. Most of all, do not try to get it all right up front. Start the journey and you will discover and grow along the way.

B + C: What's next for Tiny Type Studios?

Jayne: So much is next. I cannot wait to apply all I have learned in the Selfmade course toward fulfilling on the mission and vision of our business. As we continue to build our product line to meet the greatest needs, we will be connecting to our market through social media and email marketing campaigns using many of the insights gleaned through Selfmade. Stepping up our public relations to target media quarterly is a key priority for reaching mass audiences who may not be in the adoption community but wish to support those who are. And several collaborations are underway with national organizations sharing our commitment to bring the beauty forward in the narrative of adoption and bring more waiting children and waiting families together.

B + C: What has receiving the Office Depot OfficeMax scholarship to Selfmade done to help you grow your business?

Jayne: Being a part of Selfmade has empowered me to engage with the entire package of what an entrepreneur needs to focus on to succeed. Much like adopting a child, building a business is a beautiful, difficult journey. Thanks to my scholarship, I have seen a blueprint of the pathways to business success from launch to fulfillment. I have been able to fill in some of the blanks and gained tangible tools for tackling new aspects or streamlining existing operations draining precious time and talent. The results are already in progress. Only weeks after the course, we started offering our products wholesale to retailers so people can find us when and where they need us. With inspiration and information at hand, I have renewed confidence I can use my artistic creativity and newfound entrepreneurial skills to make a profitable business that also makes a social difference dear to me and all those who know the love of adoption.

B + C: How have Office Depot OfficeMax services/products helped you accomplish more in your business?

Jayne: I typically purchase my office and art supplies online, but after hearing great things about Office Depot OfficeMax through Selfmade, I decided to tour my local store to see what I might be missing there. Immediately, I was greeted by the friendly staff, who were eager to help me find what I needed. As an artist, I am always wooed by drawing tools, and I was overwhelmed by the store's variety of pens and pencils and markers in every color of the rainbow. I was pleasantly surprised to also find an array of some of my other favorites: sketchbooks and journals. Before taking a trip into the store, I thought of Office Depot OfficeMax as a source of copy paper and printer ink, but now I see it as a multi-faceted resource for fulfilling my business needs and fueling my artistic creativity.

Thanks Jayne! You can follow Jayne's journey at adoptionlyyours.com and @adoptionly.yours.

Ready to take your business to the next level? Office Depot OfficeMax can help you stay organized save time with a suite of business services to help you accomplish more - from signs, posters banners to get your business noticed to marketing materials to help bring your brand vision to life. With Office Depot OfficeMax by your side, you can reach your full potential. Learn more at Office Depot's Selfmade page.

Want to join the next Selfmade cohort? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.

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