‘I never got cards or gifts with Black people on them’: A new marketplace takes on Hallmark and fills a historic gap in the greeting card industry

The world’s first online marketplace for greeting cards featuring and designed by diverse and underrepresented communities launched on Saturday to mark Black Pound Day, a day that encourages spending at Black-owned businesses in the UK.

Kutenda aims to normalize the portrayal of marginalised groups in cards and gifts so that they can buy products that accurately represent them. This includes the LGBTQ+ community, the BAME community, and those who identify as disabled. Despite the UK spending around Â£1.7 billion ($US2.25 billion) annually on greeting cards, the industry doesn’t accurately represent marginalised groups.

Kutenda also platforms the work of up-and-coming artists and entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, saying that “large retailers either ignore minority artists or steal their ideas.” Alongside cards, the marketplace also sells gifts including mugs, stationery, and bookmarks.

Founder Avila Diana Chidume said Kutenda hopes to “create a sense of belonging in a world created to not adequately provide representation.” The young entrepreneur named the company after the word for “thankful” in Shona, a language spoken in her home country of Zimbabwe.

Chidume was motivated to create the business by the cards she received growing up. “I could never relate to, or understand why, I never got cards or gifts with Black people on them,” she said, adding that the first ever birthday card she got featuring a Black person was for her 21st birthday — and it was one of her own designs from her greeting card company Avila.Diana, which she launched in response to this problem.

Chidume isn’t the only person to recognise this underrepresentation in greeting cards. Nearly 60% of respondents to a GlobalData survey in 2019 agreed that card shops should offer more gender neutral designs.

Other entrepreneurs have also responded to this problem. Huetribe was launched in 2017 after its founder struggled to find greeting cards reflecting her interracial relationship, and donates some of its profits to charities supporting racial, cultural and LGBTQ equality. Since 2005 The Afro Card Company has also been creating greeting cards that represent the Black community.

But Kutenda is the first of its kind to act as a marketplace for marginalised artists and entrepreneurs to showcase their products.

Though the business launched on Saturday, it has also set up a crowdfunder to raise £10,000 ($US13,200) to maintain its website and support the brands selling their products through Kutenda.