As the openly gay co-founders of Mark It Proudthe LGBTQ-inclusive greeting card companyDaniel Malen and Mark Uhre wanted to see a change. The Toronto, Canada natives felt that there was an under representation of greeting cards for their community, so they decided to fill the gap. Malen talked to Windy City Times about the inspiration for Mark It Proud, the Kickstarter campaign and donating to LGBTQ organizations.
Windy City Times: The idea for your LGBTQ-inclusive greeting card company, Mark It Proud stemmed from the lack of such cards in the marketplace.
Daniel Malen: There's definitely a few and we didn't invent it, but when I did get married I got a lot of the same ones and I thought that was really funny. And having friends who have gotten married, you go to the store that sells greeting cards and maybe get one choice. So I just thought that there could be a few more.
WCT: Your partner in Mark It Proud, Mark Uhre, gave you a gift that also inspired you to create the company. What was that gift?
DM: My best friend commissioned a piece of art that Mark did, that was kind of the inspiration to create Mark It Proud. I asked Mark, "That piece of art that you made for me was my favorite gift, do you want to do this with me?" And he was, like, "Absolutely."
WCT: You and Mark are friends and business partners. Do you deal with conflicts that get in the way of that friendship?
DM: No! I think we work really well together. It has been almost a year since I approached him about the idea. It was one of those things where we just loved the idea and we love working together and coming up with ideas. It's been a great journey so far.
WCT: Tell me about the Kickstarter campaign that you put together this past summer.
DM: We started in June and ended in July and we raised over $10,000, which was really exciting for us. The thing about Kickstarterwhich I've always lovedis that it is a democracy. You put out an idea and it's very clear that people are going to support it and want to be a part of it and like it or not. I think that the results speak for themselves. I think that people are really into the idea.
WCT: How has the LGBTQ community responded to Mark It Proud?
DM: The response has been fantastic, people love it. First and foremost, I think Mark is an exceptionally talented artist and I think his art really resonated with the audience. In that sense, it was an easy pitch on Kickstarter because you see his art and you are like, "Wow, this is wonderful." The real idea behind Mark It Proud is inclusivity, and I think there is a bit of a void in the market for these types of cards.
WCT: How do you and Mark decide what images to create for the cards?
DM: When we sat down in the beginning we talked about what kind of cards we wanted and in terms of the art, I generally left it to Mark. Some of the ideas and text we would talk about and come up with together and then Mark would go off and sketch.
WCT: The cards are being sold on your website. Are there plans to sell it in stores eventually?
DM: We definitely want to get the cards in stores as well, but there is only so much you can do at a time. We've already had stores around North America ask if they can have the cards and I'm really excited to put them in stores because I think that is a big part of the project.
WCT: Ten percent of the proceeds from any future sales of the cards from your website, will be donated to LGBTQ-inclusive organizations such as the It Gets Better Project and The Trevor Project, among others. Why is it important for you to donate to those places?
DM: This whole project has been about community and we really wanted to give back to some great organizations. Both Mark and I live in Toronto and we are very fortunate and have very accepting and loving families. Not everyone is that lucky and there's some amazing organizations out there that help people from all walks of life and we really wanted to give back. There's so much negativity and awfulness in the world, so it's nice to be involved in something that hopefully is going to make the world a better place.
For more information about Mark It Proud, visit MarkItProud.com .