Three weeks ago, TiffinTalk launched. We told you we would. And we did.
This came after 15 years of writing cards just for my daughters.
And it came 3 years after my business partner changed my daily handcrafted construction paper note cards with their stick-figured artistic drawings (Well, I do a damn decent willow tree...) into beautifully designed masterpieces with puzzle pieces of fun photos that end in full reveal for the fronts of the weekly-themed cards with their clever (and educational) “tiffin tidbits” on the back.
He realized that I had actually written over 4000+ different thought-provoking, open-ended questions and notes – serious, silly, inspirational, and everything in between. For me, it was an act of love that my girls insisted that I continue to do every year. (Believe me - I asked! Because the truth is it took a lot of construction paper… well, more than that… it took a lot of work and creative thinking on my part. Since I never missed a school day, I often dreamed of maybe getting a few weeks, months, or just year off even though I secretly hoped they’d never want me to stop because the time together was worth every damn creative moment and painful drawing done late into the night.)
I wrote 4000 cards? Honestly? Yes, honestly.
And for years, other parents had asked how they could get my construction paper cards. My kids took them from their school packs and read them at lunch and the conversations with friends sometimes spilled into the classroom and teachers began to ask about them. Parents wanted to know about how to have conversations with their kids that didn’t involve the silent stare with shoulder shrug or the laundry list of “And then I said... And she said…” They were amazed at the ‘teacher affect’. They confided that they had resorted to texting with their kids (even in their own home – sound familiar?); and while they were grateful for at least that, they realized that something was missing.
Together then, my partner and I created seasonal sets of cards for parents to share with their children, ages preschool through high school. For one-on-one, face-to-face personalized conversations that inspire talk-time that both can enjoy (beyond “How was your day?” “Fine.”). To help with critical and creative thinking skills across a variety of content. To create stronger relationships. To focus on emotions, not emoticons.
That’s what my cards ended up being. All that. And more.
Technology has its place
but our children should have first place.
The launch also came 2 years after my business partner and I added another product line for therapists and clients. As it turned out, therapists liked the parent-child cards and they wanted them for their clients – but the cards had to be different, of course. So we developed cards tailored for mental health professionals to give to their adult, young adult, or teen clients that address specific themes that clients are working on in session. The FindingYourVoice cards, like the parenting cards, are meant to be personalized; they are meant to strengthen the connection and the level of trust; they are meant to gently remind the client that therapy and healing don’t just happen Tuesdays at 4:00; and they are meant to let the client know that they are well enough, strong enough, and capable enough to continue thinking and processing on their own because an important point of therapy, after all, is to encourage clients to do just that and be just that.
We created dozens of themes, a dozen questions per theme, and added beautiful graphics to the front so that anyone would be touched deeply to receive a signed card with a message addressed to them that didn’t have a front graphic that yelled “THERAPY!” And wasn’t homework. Ugh.
Instead our cards whisper, "You can do this.” And the message inside reassures that truth.
Finding your voice.
Finding your self.
And the launch came 1 year after we were encouraged to create cards that would reconnect senior parents with their adult children; cards that contained messages to invite conversations with enough room to personalize them. Thus, we have Talking Across Generations, 2 sets of 60 paired cards covering 4 themes with light and serious topics all mixed together. Because you can’t, for example, call your Mom or your adult son out of the blue to ask, “I was thinking: Did you want a cremation? Or did you want a burial in your grey flannel jammies and an open casket?” At least, you can’t do that if you haven’t talked about music, sports, dating, and all of the shared and not-yet-shared life stories in between. In other words: If you haven’t had a real conversation with your parent (or child) in a while (or ever), then it’s going to be awkward when your first genuine communication is about end-of-life options.
To talk with you now
Is to know you forever.
We listened as people requested cards for couples; cards for educators and student advisors and occupational therapists; cards for businesses whose millennials text but can’t talk. And we said, “We hear you we love those ideas and we will be ready for you.” Soon. Not yet. Because we were getting ready to launch. To launch.
This launch came 3 months after our first runs of 24,000 cards were brought to life by a local printer who masterfully handled a card design that tested the limits of digital printing, deftly operating within razor-thin margins of error. Our amazing and organized intern then collated and hand-folded and loaded them by year and season (Parent – Child & Teen cards) or by theme (FindingYourVoice) or by age (Talking Across Generations)
into our boxes... boxes that my partner designed specifically for our cards; boxes made in the US by a manufacturer that took us two years to find. Reusable, solid, elegant, magnetically-sealing boxes.
The launch kept getting closer. With one week to go, another 24,000 cards made the final print runs and ended up in the warehouse at the dining room table to be collated, folded and boxed as well. And brochure cards. And business cards. The intern rallied troops. And people appeared from nowhere. Extra chairs were found and space was made at the table. There was an assembly line ‘thing’ happening with people laughing and chatting. (No food or drink, please. Clean hands!)
In the meantime, we prepped the logistics. Piles of miscellaneous items that one needs for a launch at a major conference were being carefully amassed and catalogued in Google Docs while we ran out for oh-yeah-just-one-more-thing but more than one-more-time because there was always another-one-more-thing we hadn’t thought of.
There were half-packed suitcase for 2 co-founders and 2 daughters plus a temporarily adopted daughter (my best friend’s) – all going to “help” launch, though, admittedly, not a one of us knew what it would mean “to light the fuse”.
There were cats – completely confused cats – who were most definitely not going, but still had the nerve to have an attitude about all the chaos. Such is the nature of cats.
Then within days of the launch, we were launching something else: our new website and online store. Because timing is everything. And everything was crazy.
Sanity was taking a vacation, I assure you. And it didn’t seem keen on coming back any time soon.
The launch arrived. On time. Because a major conference with an exhibition hall with a booth with your name on it arrives on time whether you are …
And we were ready.
And not. (Probably more not than we wanted to admit.)
We were ready with product. We knew people liked what we were creating. We knew they had been asking and waiting for us to finally give up on our time-consuming search for investors who want primarily to back tech startups and biopharmas; who aren’t looking at a company whose tagline is “Tech Off. Talk On”; who want proof of sales – which is exactly what we needed the initial investment for – by the way. We spent a year searching for investors who, as it turned out, weren’t interested in a fully documented business plan that was well-researched with proof of concept, with market and demographics laid out, with valuation done in 3 different ways, and with the competition evaluated on every aspect to show that there was no one in our exact space but that there was plenty of proof that people had been clamoring for what we were creating. We showed that researchers in almost every field (from traditional sciences to psychology) have been screaming that the world is needing exactly what we have created and trademarked and that we need to reach out to our children, our clients, our parents -- the important people in our life. Now. To know the people, not the profiles.
Tech Off. Talk On.
It was time to reconsider the financial side and the (wasted?) year.
We chose to take on the risk that involved my daughters’ college plans and to self-finance this on a shoestring and courage.
It’s what entrepreneurs do. And we did it.
We set up our booth. We waited for the breaks between sessions.
But this is what we were not ready for, what we did not expect:
We did not expect the overwhelming response. We did not expect to be the busiest vendor there. I personally did not expect to be repeatedly hugged, to be thanked over and over … and then over again. I did not expect anyone to cry as they read through the cards and to stay to chat with me and tell me their stories of the people they know that these cards would help them to connect with – not to – but with. They ‘got it’.
I was not ready for other vendors to approach us and ask what the commotion was about. For them to ask how they could possibly work with us, use TiffinTalk cards in their business – education, publication, treatment facilities, etc.
We were not that ready… in that good kind of not-that-ready way.
To all who came to meet us, to talk with us, to listen to us talk, to buy, to think about buying, to leave business cards … thank you. So very much. If we haven’t reached out to you to express our gratitude, please forgive our tardiness.
My younger daughter summed it this way, “Mom, I knew TiffinTalk worked because you have been doing this with us for 15 years and look at us. And I knew that our family and friends bought it but I just always figured it’s because they are family and friends – it’s not that they were being nice, it’s just that they think like we do so they understand how important it is and how cool it is. But, I had no idea, Mom, how much everyone else would “get it”; how much they wanted it; how much they needed it.”
And then she added, “I am proud of you, Mom.”
Because she just blew my heart away.
TiffinTalk is now out there. In the wild. Cards have gone to all corners of the US, as well as Canada, New Zealand, and Singapore. We are still working out how to log sales even while we try to make more sales and flesh out our existing product lines and plan the soon-to-be-released product lines and get in front of people and tell them that we can help them be even better parents and more effective professionals and more loving adult children of senior parents.
Because we’re …