Wellesley Student Co-Launches a Greeting Card Business that Blends Compassion and Coloring

October 6, 2017
examples of Gentle Cards

Wellesley College student Michelle Yu ’19 has combined her talent for writing poetry with a childhood friend’s skills in graphic design to launch a greeting-card business called Gentle Cards.

So far, Yu and her partner, April Chen, a junior at Babson, are off to a promising start. The entrepreneurs recently exceeded their fundraising goal by obtaining more than $5,000 in pledges through a crowdfunding campaign. Yesterday, Gentle Cards launched its website where cards can be purchased online. They have five card themes right now and plan to add more.

Gentle Cards differ from traditional greeting cards in that they express compassion for people with serious medical issues and sickness as well as those who are struggling with deep emotional issues that are internal and often difficult to articulate.

“It could be something like a major rejection or a failure when the person is hurting,” said Yu. She and Chen, who both grew up in Hong Kong, were inspired to launch Gentle Cards after sharing experiences with people they knew who had been troubled by personal problems. One was contemplating suicide. “We brainstormed and came up with Gentle Cards,” said Yu.

Yu said that she and Chen hope to fill a niche in a marketplace where some people would prefer not to use Twitter or Facebook to send a heartfelt message. “I think social media has its advantages, but there are times when people are dealing with emotional pain so deep that they want something that tangibly and authentically conveys empathy,” said Yu.

On the front of Gentle Cards are black and white illustrations overlaid with messages like “Take Your Time,” “This Too Shall Pass,” or “Feel Deeply, Heal Softly.” The illustrations can be colored in using colored pencils supplied by Gentle.

Each card also comes with a meaningful activity designed to cultivate healing, such as a connect-the-dots pattern or a small collection of stickers that cardholders are instructed to give to someone who has deeply touched their lives. “Thank you for fighting for me,” reads one sticker.

With its coloring options, Gentle Cards is tapping into a trend. Some experts in mental health recognize the therapeutic value of coloring as a way to reduce anxiety and stimulate mindfulness by stepping away from a problem and focusing on a simple and creative task.

“The lines provide defined borders, so all you have to do is relax and color,” said Yu. “This goes beyond sympathy cards and is more tangible and engaging than social media.”

Yu is hoping that Gentle Card recipients will be inspired to pass along a gesture of kindness. That’s why she and Chen are partnering with the nonprofit organization Bags of Hope Ministries, an outreach program of the Emmanuel Gospel Center in Boston’s South End.

Once a card recipient has finished coloring the illustration, he or she can mail it to Bags of Hope, where it will be included in the bag of supplies the organization distributes to women who are recovering from addictions, are homeless, or are survivors of sex trafficking.

“One of Gentle’s values is to establish a culture of giving,” said Yu. “Since you can only give what you receive, we hope that sending a card can spark a chain reaction of giving.”