March 4, 2019
Q&A with Culture Greetings
Dr. Dionne Mahaffey has a diverse background. She is a business psychologist and also coaches startup companies (tech startups specifically), but she began her career as a software developer before evolving to executive management and entrepreneurship.
The original concept for Culture Greetings came to Mahaffey approximately five years ago. Over the years she would consider her ideas for this endeavor, but it wasn’t until 2018 she decided to build upon her foundational ideas. “I put it off initially because of time constraints. Finally, in 2018 the idea overwhelmed me and knew I had to find the time and just do it,” she explained.
Within 6 months Mahaffey launched Culture Greetings and did so by programming most of the programming herself and even integrated it with other custom, technology solutions. Every aspect of getting the platform ready for market fell solely on her shoulders. With her professional background, she handled the challenge well and launched prior to Thanksgiving 2018.
“I personally send out more than 30 cards a year,” said Mahaffey. “If I hear someone is sick, I immediately send out a card. I have an aging mother and always send her cards. I send thank you notes to clients. I’m a consumer of greeting card products.”
Her passion for greeting cards coupled with her love of technology created the perfect marriage to this industry newcomer.
What was the inspiration behind Culture Greetings?
We all buy greeting cards and are prompted to walk down the greeting card aisle at a store. Sometimes you find what you want. Sometimes you don’t. I’m always looking for something that speaks to me. As an African American, there isn’t a wide range of cards with diversity. We need more diversity and racial inclusion in the social expression industry.
It’s been interesting to see that busy millennials are the leading purchasers and consumers of greeting cards. I wanted to figure out how to marry that generation’s desire to send the classic, traditional card, with their technology habits. Culture Greetings solves for that — you can send a card just as fast as you can write a Facebook post.
How do you know which artists to work with to keep an array of options for your customers?
Initially, I uploaded my own designs and I started [looking for artists] in my networks first. I went to individuals whose art I’ve collected, or designers who have done graphic design work for me in the past, and requested designs and to license their work. Another gentleman was working on character development for an animation product for me and I asked him to develop for me. Some artists came to me directly.
What are your future aspirations for Culture Greetings?
I want Culture Greetings to become the premiere destination for minority consumers providing a diverse line of cards reflecting who they [consumers] are and what they say. We all have a premiere destination for things we need: burgers, oil changes, etc. There is a place that comes to mind for consumer purchases, and I want black consumers to consider us as a destination when they are acknowledging people in their lives.”
Statistics show there are seven billion cards sold a year, I think that was last data released. Considering African Americans are 13 percent of the population, I want to secure at least 13 percent of the overall market.
How do you grow your business?
I want to see growth and increase traffic to Culture Greetings’ site. Through the use of online marketing tools such as Facebook ads and TV ads on OWN and Oxygen network I am spreading brand awareness. Additionally, Culture Greetings is using Google ad words in conjunction with PR and marketing initiatives.
Describe your business model.
Primarily Culture Greetings utilizes the business to consumer approach. Our platform is like taking a walk down the greeting card aisle. I do have integration available for business to business solutions. For instance, a business can use our system to immediately send out a card. Relationship marketing helps them create the right touch points with their clients.
We have about 20 realtors using the business instance of the platform which allows them to input their prospects and customer’s information which is integrated with their CRM systems. We also hope to grow the wholesale offerings in 2019 as well.
What are your top-sellers?
Our Christmas cards were a very big part of our sales when we launched during the holiday season. But this year, every week the number one card category sold for us are our birthday cards. Another top-selling type of card is the ‘any’ occasion card, which are blank notecards. A lot of our artists cards sell very well. In February 2019 Quinn McGowen, an animator and cartoonist, created a line of black history cards which we posted, and they have been selling like hotcakes.
Tell us about your add-on services and quality of your greeting cards.
Consumers have the option at checkout to include a gift card — a variety are available for purchase (i.e. Target, Amazon, iTunes, Starbucks). We can insert a gift card and this is a time-saver for our customers. The cards we offer are quality cards, comparable to the top-quality brands all are familiar with.
What are some of your favorite cards Culture Greetings has offered?
My favorite cards are by two different artists. Doreen Erhardt designed beautiful birthday and Mother’s Day cards. She is a wonderful designer. And Steve R. Allen’s work is amazing. His cards are a top seller. Doreen did our Hanukkah cards as there are people in the black community who are Jewish and there are black people in LGBT community. I love these cards for both their artistic and diverse nature.
What other information do you wish to share you feel would be valuable to share with our readers?
As a minority business owner, I intentionally support brands which support my community. I look for small family owned businesses, something which is not corporate. I look for small business first because it has an immediate impact.
I want people to think about Culture Greetings, about the immediate impact, the people who receive the cards, the artists who design them, and the impact the sales of those cards sold have on those involved in the creation and sales process.
I was a consumer in this industry first so I am very familiar with the various products. I’m going to get more involved and will be attending Noted and want to meet others in the industry to learn more about the entire social expression ecosystem. I’m committed to learning more, becoming a student of the industry and want to meet suppliers and vendors who would be a natural fit for our future growth.