Creative Conversations are interviews with artists, makers, and creators that strive to investigate each artist’s creative journey and process. This interview was originally recorded on July 23, 2021. Content may be edited for brevity and clarity. To listen to the interview, click here.
Danielle Nelson is founder and Chief Card Curator at Pretty by Post, a bi-monthly snail-mail subscription service of gorgeous & fun indie-designed cards.
Danielle is a creative who’s passionate about snail-mail and wants to make it easy & fun to make deeper & more meaningful connections & to bring back the joy + beauty of handwritten correspondence.
She hand-selects each card which can be purchased through a single curated collection or bi-monthly subscription.
I’m Gina Clark from Gina Clark Creative, and I’m here today talking with Danielle Nelson, the Chief Card Curator at one of my favourite small businesses, Pretty by Post. I’ll let Danielle, explain what her business is and what she does, but I just want to say that I’m a consumer of her products and I absolutely love them.
Thanks for joining me today, Danielle, I’m so glad you could do this.
Thank you Gina I’m so excited to be here. I really appreciate it.
Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about your business and how you got started.
I actually celebrated my six-year anniversary on July 20 . Pretty by Post is a snail-mail subscription that’s bi-monthly, so that’s every other month, and I curate cards and send them to your door so that all you have to do is write a little note and put a stamp on it and send it out to your loved ones.
I started Pretty by Post because I used to hand-make all of my cards, and while I loved doing that, it’s very time-consuming. I thought there’s got to be a faster way to send cards, but still send cards that are unique and thoughtful.
No offence, anyone who does go to the big box stores to buy cards, but that’s just not my style or my preference.
I want cards that are letterpressed or foiled and are really thick. I decided to start a snail-mail subscription using cards that I love and that are made by other female business owners (and a couple of men).
That’s so cool. I love your business because I’m also not somebody who likes to go to the drugstore and look for cards. It’s always such a horrible experience. You stand there in front of the rows, thinking this isn’t quite what I want to say, why are they so lame? Or, they’re too sappy.
Then you get to the till and you’ve picked out three cards and it’s $35. And, you’re going, “Are you kidding me? I don’t even like these.”
So, I loved when I saw your business. It’s a beautiful halfway between the ease of buying cards and making beautiful cards that you love and want to send.
Yes, that’s awesome. It’s supporting not only my small business but other small businesses. It’s such a feel-good cycle.
So, you said that you just celebrated your six-year anniversary. I’m curious about your journey along the way. How has the business evolved? Has what you do evolved over the six years? Talk about that a little bit.
When I started off, I actually offered monthly collections, instead of bi-monthly. And, six months down the road I also offered a quarterly stationery box which was filled with paper products like notebooks, journals, planners, pins, etc.,
A lot of feedback that I got was that people couldn’t keep up with all the cards, because let’s be honest, we all have the best intentions but sometimes we don’t send out cards as quickly as we would like.
People were amassing cards and not sending them, so then they would unsubscribe. This makes sense because if you’re not using your cards then you don’t want to pay for it. There was probably a little bit of feeling bad if you had a pile of unused cards.
I then switched it to bi-monthly and also offered a mini-subscription. These have half the cards. The regular subscription is four to five cards and the minis have two to three. People really like that option.
I hear what you’re saying about too many cards, but I love the bi-monthly because there’s always a card or two I can use right away. Then I have this nice little stash of cards for when I need them and I don’t have to run out and get them.
I’m curious how you go about curating the cards. I know you said that you work with some women and men and some other small companies, but what’s the process like? And, how fun is it? It’s got to be fun.
It’s my favourite part! When I did change it from monthly to bi-monthly, even though it was a lot of work. I missed curating the cards so often.
My most requested cards are birthday cards because everybody needs a birthday card, so I make sure to have one. Then I look back at past collections and see, did I have a thank you card, because those are also popular. If not, it’s time for a thank you card.
Then I try to have some non-specific cards like everyday occasions because I personally think those are the best cards to send. It’s great to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and big, big occasions but it’s even better to send a card that just says I miss you, or I’m thinking of you or to surprise somebody.
I try to put in those types of cards that could also be used for a birthday. It’s just figuring out what I put in the previous subscription and what I think should go into the current one.
And, then, of course, it’s like a little bit of my mood and if I think a card is incredible – just, including it, because it’s fun, interactive, and I love it and I think everybody else will love it too.
I love that about the card packs that you have those “just because” cards. It’s an excuse to send mail to someone. I love getting mail for no reason and I love getting a card, so when somebody else does it for me, it makes me think why don’t I do that more often?
It’s probably because you don’t have the stuff on hand to do it. I sent one of your cards to a girlfriend and she absolutely loved it. She was so touched. It was such an easy thing to do.
I just wrote a little bit about why she was special to me. We’ve been friends for a really long time and it was an awesome thing to do. It made me feel good and it made her feel good. I just love what you’re doing.
I’m curious do you have a favourite card if you could pick one or two?
It’s funny because when I’m talking about the current collections, whether that’s in emails or social media I say this one’s my favourite one, and I mean it. I forget, well not forget about the past cards, but I get so excited about the current collection. I feel like I’m improving with the help of my subscribers because they answer my surveys and let me know what they’re looking for.
In the past, some of the cards that have been my most favourite have been anything that’s interactive, like a pop-up card last winter. It was a winter bloom, pop up, and so the envelope, opened and these amazing beautiful paper flowers came up. The message was gold foil and then you could write on the other side of it and that was a hit.
So, something like that. The craftsmanship that goes into that alone. What a unique way to say hello to somebody. So that was probably one of my favourites that comes to mind.
Your cards are so unique. You’re just not going to find them at a store.
Talk to me a little bit about what it brings to you? It’s so creative for you to be able to pick these cards out. I’m just curious about what that brings into your life, even though you’re not the one sending the cards all the time?
It’s what you just shared in your story with me about your friend. I get a lot of emails with people sharing things just like what you said. They send a card to someone, and they tell me how it made that person’s day, and it made their day because it is it’s such a feel-good effect when you sit down and you write a card to someone.
Whether it’s sharing what you love about them or just saying I miss you, or whatever it is. You get this huge rush of love and happiness when you put it in the mailbox. You don’t need to hear from the other person but hopefully, the recipient responds and lets you know how it made them feel.
To me, that is the greatest feeling in the world. I love hearing all the stories and I also really do love shipping out the packages of cards. I just imagine when someone opens it, how they’ll feel seeing them and who they’ll think of that they can send the card to. Or, like you said, they’ll put it aside for later but know that they have a great card for later. It’s so rewarding and fulfilling.
It’s pretty visceral for you then.
The other thing that I love about your curations is that some of your cards have some salty language. I adore that. Do you have a certain supplier that you work with or do you just come across cards that you think are funny and cute and throw them in there from all different places?
I definitely have my favourites. I’m sure you’ve noticed that some of the same designers show up, but it is just what you said, it’s trying to find new cards and new designers to include.
I’m glad that you appreciate them! I’ve received feedback that some people don’t like language which is why I also try to offer customization where people could choose the non-swearing version.
For me, that’s how I speak. I thought this is real, this is what I would say.
Let’s get into what your subscriptions look like, and the cost.
I offer a regular subscription, which is four to five cards, and usually 95% of the time there’s a snail-mail-themed gift for subscribers only. Then there’s a mini subscription which is three to four cards and the gift. I also offer gift subscriptions for the same packages.
They come with a little postcard that tells you about each designer, where they’re from, and their mission or purpose for creating cards so that you see that there’s someone behind the card.
It’s $25 (USD) for a regular subscription, plus shipping, but you can get a free shipping code for your first box if you sign up for the email list.
I try to make it easy for people to reach out to others and to connect with them versus text or DM, which are great and I do that too, but there’s something extra special about sending a card.
We don’t get into things in a DM or a quick text message like we might say in a letter or card. It’s like quality over quantity.
Right. It’s tangible. I have cards that I’ve saved. I love having those treasured mementos to hold on to. For me, that’s an important part of my life and the people in it.
There’s a saying on your website that you have: paper over pixels. That’s so cute.
Where can subscriptions be shipped?
US and Canada only. Sorry international people, but the shipping costs are insane! It’s not even worth it for me and definitely not for the person that would subscribe, so just US and Canada.
Anything else that you want to share about your business or anything else that you want to just talk about? You have such a lovely background behind you and I can see that you’re a very creative person. So do you ever make your own cards anymore?
No, I don’t. One of the perks of running Pretty by Post is having the cards right here. I have all these cards at my disposal, even though I don’t send them out as often as I would like, or as I used to before I started a business. Having a business is wonderful and fulfilling and rewarding and also very hard work, so sometimes I don’t get to spend time sending cards.
I admire the cards that I see other crafters make. I still follow that community. I’m a scrapbooker for personal hobbies.
Do you have any cards handy that you could share with us?
Yes! I’ve got this one birthday card. It’s an interactive one. You can pop the mailbox door open and write your note there and then you know your recipient can raise the flag, I just thought this was the cutest card for a birthday card.
For this collection, I’ve been in the 1980s. Loving the 80s right now. This one is an Etch-a-Sketch. It comes with this sticker so you can write your message, stick it on, and the person that receives it gets to scratch it off.
I haven’t seen these cards everywhere and for me, that means a lot. And, believe it or not, when you’re doing a subscription like these cards that someone made and designed, maybe they use recyclable paper or non-toxic inks, it’s cheaper than if you go into a regular store and just buy a generic card.
I’m finding it much cheaper. And, I like these cards! It’s like a win-win.
You had posted about some 80s nostalgia and we talked a little bit about stickers, and that just brought back so many funny memories for me. I totally forgot about those sticker stores that we used to go into as a kid and rip off the stickers that you wanted from the wall.
I have a couple of my sticker books from back in the day, down in a box in the basement. I want to pull them out now and take a look at them.
I’m so jealous! I wish I had kept them. I do like good design inspiration. Scratch and sniff ones. I love it.
This was fantastic. It was so fun to talk to you. I really enjoyed it and I think everyone else did too. Tell everybody how they can find you.
I also want to mention that you do some writing on your website with your blog. What kind of things are on there if people were looking.
I used to run this challenge in April for National Letter Writing Month, but I called it Letter and Card Writing Month. We’ve had tutorials, like how to put a wax seal on your envelope or articles with templates on what to write in certain situations.
We also have some great guest posts where we have what to say to someone who’s sick or if they’ve lost someone, or someone had a miscarriage. I find that people say their number one barrier to sending cards besides time or procrastination is that they don’t know what to say. And so we do try to cover that a lot.
I’m inspired by you so I’ll be getting back into the blog for a bit. It was a little neglected but we’ll be updating our content and again it will be things along the lines of, what to say and other tutorials. One of our most popular blog posts is from someone who wrote about how to do a bullet journal,
I love the prompts on what to write because yeah, sometimes it can be difficult and that’s a great resource.
Okay, well thank you so much for hopping on here with me today, Danielle. Thank you for joining us, everyone.
All photographs courtesy of Danielle Nelson.
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