Culture

February 7th is National Send a Card to a Friend Day. I know it might seem like an excuse to sell greeting cards, but let’s not let that detail overshadow what good it can do. This blast from the past could be just the thing you need in the present. Wouldn’t you like to get a card in the mail?

Technology has evolved rapidly over the years. We can contact someone via email, Facebook, Skype, text and even more forms of social media. In dire situations, we call someone. We are essentially used to getting an immediate response from people. While that can be incredibly useful, speediness doesn’t necessarily need to be the most important thing in every situation.

Think of how you would feel getting something in the mail other than a bill or an advertisement. Did you ever get love letters in high school because texting wasn’t allowed in class? Or even get a nice note from a friend? I still have these treasures and they are nice to look back on. You are instantly transported to where you were in your life and the people you surrounded yourself with. It can be invaluable to have something substantial in front of you. You can take time to gather your thoughts and really put meaning into a letter or a card. Unlike a text that will get lost in a million others, letters have a better chance of standing the test of time.

We have forgotten how easy it is to do this. Here are a few benefits to sending a card:

  1. You only need a few supplies. All you need is a pen, a card or paper, an envelope and a stamp. You probably have all this stuff at home. If not, they are extremely easy to get.
  2. You can be as creative as you want. You could make a card from scratch and decorate it yourself.
  3. Don’t forget the message. You can also send an e-card if that is easier. The true point is to reach out to those closest to you. This an opportunity to make a lasting statement to someone. Don’t waste it. This is a way to show someone you are thinking of them on a day other than their birthday or a holiday.

So take the time to reach out to a friend. It’s never a bad time to do so. You might even brighten someone’s entire day. It’s a surprise that no one is expecting.

Skills

During the holiday season, especially right around Thanksgiving, gratitude is everywhere. Starting around kindergarten, we’re taught that this is the time to list out the things we’re grateful for and say our thank you’s. It’s a wonderful thing, and our warm holiday glow often lasts a few weeks past the big day. But, most of us get caught back up in our busy routines and forget to show or regularly acknowledge our gratitude for the miraculous gifts life has given us: friends, family, love, education, health, pets… and the more simple ones (which may not be so simple to many people in the world): a sip of water, a bite of food, or a breath of fresh air.

Forgetting to show gratitude doesn’t make us bad people, but it actually would serve us and our happiness if we could remember to thank our lucky stars each day. Giving thanks daily can be so quick, but can truly impact the way we see our days.

Here are a few ways to remember our gratitude and give thanks to those who mean so much to us:

  1. Gratitude list – get a small journal, notepad or just sheet of paper, and fill it every day with five things for which you are grateful. You will soon realize how many tiny yet wonderful things have accumulated in your life.
  2. Start your day with thanks – if you happen to be religious or spiritual, wake up and thank the Universe, God, or any divine form of energy or higher power you worship. An example could be “thank you for letting me see another beautiful day.” Repeating this each morning can slowly rewire the way you see things.
  3. Say “thank you” – to EVERYONE! The person who held the door, your server, your friends, your boss for complimenting you, your teammates for working hard. Thank people for just being. Even if they try to play it off cool, no one ever dislikes being genuinely thanked for being kind or doing a good job.
  4. Write thank you notes – it doesn’t matter how long you’ve put them off, write letters to people who have recently given you gifts or cards. Write thank you notes to your friends for being the friends they are. Write a thank you note to the person who smiled at you and made your day, even if you don’t know them and have no way of giving them the note.
  5. Thank yourself – no matter what anyone says, you are doing the best you can, so thank yourself for that. You’re here, living despite any challenges you may be facing. You’re awesome, thanks for being you! Write yourself a note or just look in the mirror and say it.
  6. Share – when we truly appreciate the abundance in our lives, we are more willing to share it. I believe this can work backwards, though; when we share, we often become more aware of our abundance.
  7. Make a phone call – call a grandparent, and ask him or her to tell you a story from his or her life. Ask your dad to tell you his favorite recipe, or your mom to tell you more about her favorite hobby. Asking others about themselves is a way to show we care, we are interested and we’re glad they’re here.
  8. Take a deep breath – and notice the air filling your lungs. That, in itself, is a miracle, and the more we slow down, stop to smell the roses and feel the air in our lungs, the more we train ourselves to realize these small but beautiful things.

Thank you for reading! How do you show your gratitude? Share below!

Image: MTSOfan

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We love discovering people who are just as passionate about reading as we are, and Matthew Richardson is one of these people. We learned about Matthew Richardson through his company, Gramr Gratidue Co., which helps people make gratitude a habit through the form of thank you notes. Amazing, right? Matthew’s campaign to start a cultural movement for gratitude involves encouraging others to send thank-you notes, articles on The Huffington Post educating people on how to incorporate gratitude into their lives, and by sending thank-you notes himself. This is exactly the type of campaign we can get behind 100%.

Matthew is passionate about his pursuits, and when he finds something that moves him, he explores it further. Case in point: Matthew took a year off during his studies at Claremont McKenna College to hitchhike across 14 countries after reading the works of Henry David Thoreau. Inspired yet? Even now as a busy entrepreneur, Matthew makes time to read, write, remain curious about the world around him, and express gratitude daily. And we couldn’t agree more with the advice Matthew would tell his 15-year-old self: “Read.”

Name: Matthew Richardson
Age: 25
Education: B.A. in Literature from Claremont McKenna College
Follow: Gramr Gratitude Co. / Twitter / MattRyanRich.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Matthew Richardson: I think that it means very nearly the same thing as “Seize the Day” — that is, for as long as you’re able to see the importance of taking ownership of your own life and circumstances, then you have that spark of youth in you… you have as much energy and passion as it takes to create something of value for the world.

Also, I may be biased but as an entrepreneur with an academic background in Literature, I can’t help but equate siezing one’s youth or life or day, with creating something artistic, something that wouldn’t otherwise exist if you didn’t step up and pull resources together to make it happen.

CJ: You majored in Literature at Claremont McKenna College. How did you determine what to study?

MR: Like most every undergraduate I changed my major a few times before hitting my stride. I started out as an economics major with a focus on finance… but really couldn’t get passionate about anything that I was learning. It seemed both overly practical and totally impractical. I saw the value of economics in everyday decisions, but that very fact seemed soul-less to me.

I took a course in Russian Literature, read Tolstoy; which allowed me to see the infinitely reaching application of classic literature and philosophy. This led to Thoreau, which caused me to leave CMC for a year and hitchhike/camp across 14 countries, and read everything I could get my hands on. I returned to school with a passion for literature, and I felt as if I had made up for some lost time by reading dozens and dozens of classic works during that year off. Without going into it deeply here, I feel as though Literature is the best liberal arts discipline if your interest is ultimately in becoming an entrepreneur.

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CJ: You are the Co-Founder of Gramr Gratitude Co., a company that helps people make gratitude a habit through the form of thank you notes. What inspired the idea for Gramr Gratitude Co.?

MR: In the beginning we wanted to shake up the greeting card game and create an alternative to Hallmark that was so cool and trendy that they wouldn’t be able to help but acquire it. Very quickly, Brett (my co-founder) and I found that we were trying to run before we could walk and that we also didn’t care much about greeting cards in general. One niche that was particularly compelling, however, was the thank-you note. It didn’t depend on a holiday or an obligation — it had the potential to suggest a lifestyle. Gratitude seemed very important to us, and often overlooked as a virtue because it had no tangible commodity to represent it.

Meanwhile every business under the sun was developing programs for social benefit — following the lead of TOMS shoes which gives one pair of shoes to underprivileged children for every pair of shoes they sell. Generosity, then, was booming, because you could wear it on your feet, or chest, or wrist. But gratitude didn’t have anything like that, and we decided to make a concerted effort at becoming the face of the virtue. It was a word and a concept that was up for grabs, and we were the first to market — now we are continuing to try to think of ways to cement our concept into the contemporary context that is consumed by technology and efficiency. It is challenging but infinitely rewarding.

CJ: What responsibilities do you have as the Co-Founder?

MR: I lead creative projects, design, and partnerships.

CJ: How do you and your Co-Founder balance the workload?

MR: My Co-Founder is in charge of operations and business processes. But there is huge overlap — we are both frequently consulting each other and helping carry different loads that fall outside of the bounds of our broad responsibilities.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from running your own company?

MR: It’s very hard and there are many hundreds of things you don’t think about or plan on when idealizing a company from the outside looking in.

CJ: What do you wish you had known before starting Gramr Gratitude Co.?

MR: That your website should be a minimum viable product because building something before you know how people will interact with it is a guessing game. We guessed wrong on several things, including our web host, and e-commerce platform. Both mistakes that are costly and time consuming to redevelop.

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CJ: What advice do you have on how to finance and budget when running your own business?

MR: In the beginning, ask people you know, who you trust, and who can give you more than just capital. We happen to have a very strong core of advisors, and that is more important than capital. We also raised 63k on Kickstarter. Crowdfunding is a good option for bootstrappers, but it also has scores of drawbacks that you can’t know until you’ve been hosed by them.

CJ: What can a teenager or young adult who wants to start their own company do now to set themselves up for success?

MR: Read.

CJ: What would you say to people who are uncertain about starting a business? What motivated you to take the leap?

MR: Surround yourself with people who fit more into a day than you fit into a week.

CJ: You write articles for The Huffington Post about gratitude. What are your favorite ways to show gratitude?

MR: Writing thank-you notes, or Gramrs. Especially to people who wouldn’t expect it. One of my favorite thank-you notes I ever wrote was to the server at Dr. Grubbs, a year after I last went there, for being such a joyful and wonderful person over the few years that I patronized that incredible restaurant.

CJ: You are an avid reader. How do you fit reading into your day, and which book has had the greatest impact on you?

MR: When I am in a good rhythm I am getting up at 5am and reading for an hour before I start my day. This allows you to get through about a book a week. This is my favorite time of the day.

I recommend East of Eden by John Steinbeck to everyone I meet. Sometimes before I introduce myself. It is enormously valuable.

CJ: Describe a day in your life.

MR: Wake up at 5. Make coffee. Read for an hour. Write for an hour. Sometimes workout for an hour. Start trying to get through the three biggest priorities I’ve set for the day — try and finish this before 12. Meetings, calls, work from 12 to 6-ish. Wind down in a variety of ways. Drink wine and Yerba Mate. Try and read some more. Write down the three things I must get done the following day before noon. Go to sleep ~11pm.

CJ: How do you balance your career roles and goals? How do you stay organized and efficient?

MR: This is something I constantly try and optimize — but OmniFocus is good, and Mailbox App keeps emails organized and out of the way. The best thing I’ve found is that figuring out what the three things you need to get done before noon are is the best way to get stuff done.

CJ: How do you like to enjoy your free time?

MR: I read, eat tacos, spend up to 10 minutes creating cups of single origin coffee, and tinker around with a handful of side projects.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

MR: Read.

Matt Rich Qs

Skills

The season of giving should really be year-round. We often weather storms of stress and worry, but there are certain people that provide us with much needed hope or just the right kind of advice. Showing gratitude is a healthy practice for us all (and doesn’t have to be expensive either). Here are four thank you gift ideas that your wallet will thank you for.

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1. Something Old, Something New & Something To Say Thank You

Write this out on a tag so that your celebrant knows exactly what this gift package contains. The simple rhyme is easy to follow and adds a fun touch while the mix of gifts allows you to spend your money carefully.

Here’s what I did for a best friend:

Something Old– A tattered copy of her favorite book (since she’s been wanting one to travel with)
Something New– A silver necklace
Something to Say Thank You– A handwritten note of gratitude chock-full of inside jokes

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2. Teas & Thank You

Clever titles will make any gift better. I re-used an empty jewelry box as a peek-a-boo type package and some string to keep the tea packets together. Add a nice mug and a thank you letter and your recipient is ready to steep in gratitude! This is a great option for professional settings at work or school.

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3. Jars of Light

Show appreciation for those guardians in your life. Wrap yarn around a clean jar and tie the ends snugly. Hot glue can also help keep the ends of the yarn attached to the glass. Red, orange, and yellow yarn created this gradient look. Place a small candle inside and attach a note to your homemade lantern.

Here are a few suggestions for those warm words:

“You have been a light for me lately. Thank you.”
“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames. –Rumi”

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4. Framed Quote Art

Dollar stores and thrift stores have very affordable and eclectic frames. Grab two complementary frames and insert a quote and a picture. Song lyrics are another great option for quotes paired with a mix CD (remember those?). These decorative gifts are semi-homemade but 100% thoughtful.

Let’s consistently remember and recognize those around us who make our day-to-day easier. Simple acts of kindness can speak volumes, so let your appreciation be heard by those who matter most.

How do you say thank you?

Images: Marian Rose Bagamaspad

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We first discovered Katie Leamon’s gorgeous luxury cards and stationery during a trip abroad. When we stumbled across her notebooks, we were immediately smitten. Based in England, Katie runs her own company devoted to making beautiful paper goods. Having studied art and design in school, Katie followed her passion and turned it into a successful brand. We adored learning more about the woman behind the stationery, and Katie is hardworking and very sweet. Katie shares a glimpse into her busy days, how youth interested in running their own business can set themselves up for success, and her favorite things to do in London.

Name: Katie Leamon
Age: 29
Education: Loughborough University Woven Textile BA Degree; First Class Honors
Follow: Katie Leamon | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Katie Leamon: Be open minded, try new things, challenge yourself every day, believe in yourself, and take the opportunities that life throws at you, and if it doesn’t then go and grab them yourself!

CJ: You majored in Textile Design at Loughborough University. How did you determine what to study?

KL: I loved art and design at school, and I concentrated on textile design throughout my foundation course so it was the next natural step. I then choose to specialize in woven textiles because I wanted to learn a new skill while I was at university which would not be overly accessible following my time in school.

CJ: You are the Director of Katie Leamon, a company devoted to making gorgeous luxury cards and stationery proudly made in England, which you launched in 2010. Where did your love of making beautiful stationery come from?

KL: I am a bit of a perfectionist and pay a huge amount of attention to the detail of a product, so when I set about starting my own thing, it seemed clear to me that it was going to be a high end product. Initially it was just about the design. I didn’t think about starting a stationery business, I was just building my portfolio and getting back into drawing. I have always loved paper products and stationery seemed like an obvious avenue to try and an accessible one for a young designer, so that’s where I started!

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CJ: What responsibilities do you have as the Director?

KL: I am directly responsible for the design and finish of a product, but as it’s my company, all major responsibilities come back to me. We have a great little team, but I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to my work and I still take on a lot more of the daily responsibility than I should!

CJ: How did your education and past work experiences prepare you to start Katie Leamon?

KL: I worked in a small fashion design company for two years before starting up on my own and the experience of running a small company was invaluable. I did a lot of the wholesale side of things which helped when I first set out, and the design experience throughout education and work was all influential in my first collection, and continue to be.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from running your own company?

KL: Don’t try and run before you can walk. You can kill your company by moving too slowly and equally by moving too fast and making bad, ill-considered decisions. Things have a way of working themselves out so don’t lose too much sleep about things out of your control. Also, don’t hold back on making decisions. As long as you’re making decisions, they won’t be the wrong ones – the worst thing you can do is stay still.

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CJ: What is your design process? Where do you find inspiration?

KL: My design process is a little back to front… I tend to visualize a finished product and then work backwards to get it down on paper and make it a reality.

I am constantly being inspired, and normally have too many ideas, often unrealistic, running around my mind! I can be looking at patterns in the pavement to latest fashion trends, and think of something that could transfer to paper. Sometimes I don’t think we are even aware of many of our influences. I take intentional inspiration from vintage typography, I scour secondhand shops, and the images and style are always inspiring.

CJ: How did you go about the process of selling Katie Leamon luxury cards and stationery in high end retailers in the United Kingdom and across the world?

KL: I was very lucky in that my first stockist was Liberty of London; I was a successful candidate in their Open Call day in early 2011, and following that success gave me the confidence and money to try a trade show and I gained another few stockists, including Selfridges so it grew organically from then on. I think you need to know where you want to pitch your brand before you start, there is no point designing a high end product and targeting mass market chain stores.

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CJ: What can a teenager or young adult who wants to start their own luxury card and stationery company do now to set themselves up for success?

KL: Work hard. There is no way around it, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I think it’s also very important to experiment and know your brand identity and style before you pitch to the market, have a strong unique product, and target the right places.

CJ: What would you say to people who are uncertain about starting a business? What motivated you to take the leap?

KL: I wanted to work for myself and I wanted to make beautiful things. It’s very hard at first, you’re on much less money, if any, than all of your friends, but the hard work is starting to pay off now and I would always recommend doing it if you can. I was working on such low money before I decided to start my own thing that I decided I had nothing to lose, I’d always wanted to do it, I am self-motivated, and I work hard, so I wanted to reap the benefits of working that hard for my own thing! I could get the same money from a part-time job initially, so I did that for the first couple of years while the company grew. I also had the support of my family, I shared my studio with my brother, and he paid the rent for the first couple of months and they were all so supportive. They helped me take that leap so I was very lucky.

CJ: What is the best moment of your career so far?

KL: That’s a hard one, I have a couple. My success at the Open Call day at Liberty was really the start of it all so that was a huge game changer and a huge accomplishment for me. Also, the building and opening of our production studio in Essex. We built the studio as a family, and now my mum and sister run all our production from there. It was a real “Wow, look how far I have come” moment for me.

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CJ: Describe a day in your life.

KL: My day varies largely depending on the time of year and on how close we get to a trade show! But generally speaking, I arrive at the studio at about 8-8.30am, and run through my emails while eating my breakfast. When my assistant Georgia arrives, we will run through our current projects and where we are with them. I will then catch up with my mum and sister who run the production studio in Essex and iron out any issues that might have come up and discuss any projects or new accounts that we are working on.

I then try to concentrate on the design side of things. Whether it’s working on new design projects, selecting and sampling colours and paper stock or actually getting my head down and doing some drawing. I always start with doodles in my sketchbook, then edit and try things on the computer. As to be expected with a small company, my day is interrupted with various queries, but I try to structure my day around our current projects and deadlines. Currently I’m trying to finish off our catalogue for Top Drawer, so I’m finalizing samples for a photo-shoot next week, and selecting some new envelope styles for a limited edition run of neon!

CJ: How do you balance your career roles and goals? How do you stay organized and efficient?

KL: Luckily I am naturally organized. But as a company we plan our weeks with what needs to get done and other things we want to achieve with the tasks at hand. I think you need to be flexible, you can’t plan too far in advance or you might miss an opportunity. Up to now I have let the business dictate a little of its own path, stores have approached us which has led to new and exciting things, and we obviously have goals but I think they are constantly changing and evolving. We evaluate things as often as possible and try to identify as quickly as possible if we are going off course.

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CJ: How do you like to enjoy your free time?

KL: I am a bit of a foodie so I love eating out with friends and trying the wealth of London’s food markets! I also love being outdoors and keeping active so I love camping, going to the beach, and keeping fit.

CJ: Which book had the greatest impact on you?

KL: Gone Girl, I was thinking about it for ages after I read it!

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

KL: Work hard but worry less. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

CultureSkills

‘Tis the season for Christmas music, holiday decorations, and…holiday cards? Each holiday season, you might give your friends little gifts and cards, and your family might send out cards to family around the globe. In addition to sending holiday cards to just family and friends, you may want to consider sending cards to previous internship supervisors, family friends who gave you advice, and mentors who sat down with you for coffee and informational interviews. Holiday cards can be short and sweet, and they are a nice gesture to show your network that you are thinking of them and to keep you in their minds. Before jumping into just sending off random holiday cards, we have compiled tips that we have learned over the years…

  1. Gather information: If you collected business cards from those you worked for or worked with, there is usually an address listed on the front. If you only have an email, you can simply send a message to the person who you want to send a card to asking for his or her mailing address. It is more convenient to have all of the necessary information before you start writing cards so that you can easily seal them up in the envelopes and send them off all at once.
  2. Send cards to your network: Send holiday notes to your old bosses, mentors, and people you have met before and admire. Just as you would email them every now and then with a ‘hello’ and update, holiday cards are a great way to stay in touch.
  3. What to write: You don’t need to write a novel. Simply (hand write!) a brief note wishing them a happy holiday season, a great new year, and perhaps one sentence about what you have been up to or a couple of sentences about a memory or important lesson learned from your experience together.
  4. Keep it ambiguous: If you aren’t sure whether your previous internship supervisor celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah, keep the message a little ambiguous by sticking to: “Happy holidays!” This way, you won’t offend anyone or make any assumptions. You can’t go wrong with wishing someone a ‘Happy holidays!’ or a “Happy New Year!’
  5. When to send: Since the holidays can be a crazy time to send letters and packages, it’s better to send your holiday cards earlier rather than later. Get your cards written, sealed, and stamped by the end of November or early December, and try to get them out by the end of the first week of December. This gives the cards plenty of time to make their way to their destination.
  6. Types of cards: The cards you send don’t need to be expensive. If you want to hand-make your holiday cards, that would be great! If you are looking to purchase nice cards, here are some good options: Papyrus / Tiny Prints / Shutterfly /Paper Source / Target / Barnes and Noble. If you get your cards in early/mid-November or at the end of Christmas from the year before, you can score some pretty sweet deals and save a couple of extra dollars.
  7. Plan ahead: For next Christmas, buy holiday cards from this year that are on-sale. That way you can save money and be prepared for next year’s round of holiday cards! Also, maintain a list of contacts with their addresses to make next year’s information gathering super easy.

Will you be writing holiday cards this holiday season?