The Gift Cartel meets with Vanessa Boland, founder of Adulting Cards. We discuss how successfully finishing a cup of tea 4 months after the birth of her son led her to start her own business of funny, honest, and relatable Baby Milestone Cards for new mums. As the company reaches its own very important milestone; turning one year old this June. Vanessa discusses how sharing her experience of new motherhood shaped her business, how running her own business has led her to develop some serious gift wrapping skills and the joy she gets from seeing how Adulting Cards help other new mums through the 1st year of motherhood.
The Gift Cartel: For those who don’t know what are Adulting Cards?
Vanessa: We make hilariously honest Milestone Cards to support and celebrate New mums throughout the first year of Motherhood.
GC: What inspired you to start Adulting Cards?
V: Becoming someone's Mummy was the most magical thing I had ever experienced. It was also the hardest thing. I was overwhelmingly happy but also overwhelmingly sleep deprived, suffering from constant Mum guilt & well, overwhelmingly... overwhelmed! The more I spoke out about this the more I realised almost every Mum was feeling the same, they just felt too ashamed to say “Hey, this is bloody hard”.
I was sat one day with the first hot cup of tea I'd managed to drink since giving birth, flicking through some adorable baby milestone cards, and that’s when it hit me - new Mums were ticking off milestones all day long! We should be putting Mum back into the spotlight and rewarding her for her victories too!
With such a high number of women suffering from postnatal depression, it’s important that we support new Mums by showing them that it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed, and the things they deem insignificant are actually huge victories they can be really proud of. By sharing those with close friends and family, they can be better supported and feel less isolated.
GC: Running Adulting Cards is your fulltime job does anyone work with you on the brand?
V: My two very talented designers are my business partners. When looking for a designer, a friend of mine recommended I get in touch with Shy Guys Studio. Anne-Marie and Ryan owned the company and fell in love with the idea. So much so they decided to come on board and are now my partners. I love working with them!
GC: How do you juggle running your own business and parenthood?
V: I'm kind of on all of the time. My brain is always ticking and being creative. My son usually goes to nursery 3 mornings a week and has a two and a half hour nap every day... oh gosh I've jinxed it now haven't I?! You learn that jinxing is a real thing when becoming a parent. Never say they are a good sleeper out loud!!! So I work then and when he goes to bed in the evening. Lockdown has been tricky as he wants to play with me all day but my husband has had to work from home too so we have been taking it in turns daily to work.
GC: What’s the main drive behind Adulting Cards? Has this changed since you first started out?
V: The main drive behind Adulting Cards is to show Mums how awesome they are and to help them realise they are never alone in how they feel on this roller-coaster ride called Motherhood. It is so easy for people to forget about Mums when they see that brand new little bundle of joy but we need to make sure we give them the love, care, and attention they need and deserve. We still have the same wants and ethos. We did, at the start, consider if we should make milestone cards to mark all adulting victories; 'Milestone Cards for Adulting' and 'Milestone Cards For University', etc but feel we will now stay focused on supporting new Parents... it is what we know and love best.
GC: It's great to see a brand present such an honest and refreshing take on parenthood, how important was this to you, and what has the feedback been like from other parents?
V: It was really important. I wanted mums to realise that they weren't the only ones finding it tough sometimes and make them laugh when all they wanted to do was cry. Parents have loved them and found it really funny and comforting. We find lots of Mums who have gone through that beautiful but crazy, sleep-deprived first year of Motherhood are buying them for their friends and family members who are about to embark on it. We have had such an amazing response. I think people really enjoy the honesty and relatability of our cards.
GC: How did you decide on the Milestones and how important was research into the final collection?
V: I put together a list of 100 Milestones and made a survey which I then posted on social media. I asked people to choose their top 10 and put them in order of importance. They could also add one of their own that was not on the list. To my surprise, the majority chose the same milestones. I thought that 'I made it through the day without caffeine' would be a high scorer but it really wasn't. Maybe because it's impossible to do so!! So although this was my favorite it didn't make the pack. It was not surprising that the top three were: 'I finally managed to sleep through the night', 'I drank a cup of tea whilst still hot' and 'Today I became someone's Mummy.' Reading through all of these amazing women's stories was a wonderful and emotional experience. It made me all the more inspired to create 'Milestone Cards For New Mums'.
GC: Do you have any favourite milestones? Were there any you didn’t reach?
V: I have two 'Today I became someone's Mum' and ‘Today we did it for the first time'. “I became someone's Mum’ because the feeling is like no other. Euphoric even. I had a scary birth and couldn't spend the first few hours with my baby BUT when I did, I remember feeling so lucky that I got to experience being a Mum!! Everything changed.
I also love 'Today we did it for the first time' Milestone. I met an amazing group of friends at pregnancy yoga... we are still very close, our children have grown up together. Right from the moment we met, we started a WhatsApp group. Whilst up all night with hungry babies we would message and support each other. All of us would ask; "Have you done it yet?!". We were all terrified of 'Doing it' and it was the last thing on our minds. That's where the inspiration for this card came from. It is for all those Mummy groups to have a giggle and be proud to share the card when they finally ticked off this scary Milestone. I can proudly say I have ticked off every Milestone. The 'I FINALLY slept through the night' nearly didn't happen and definitely not in the first year!!
GC: Did you have any previous experience in the gifting industry before starting Adulting Cards?
V: Before starting my business I was an actress living in London. Whilst acting I used to work for a greeting card company selling them into high street retailers. So I had some experience in the 'Gift' industry but had an idea (yet) about design or how to run a business.
GC: ‘Adulting Cards’ is about to reach its own very important milestone by turning 1 this year! (Congratulations) How are you going to celebrate and what has been your biggest achievement and proudest moment to date?
V: It’s our 1st birthday on 28th June! I can't quite believe it. We are going to drink champers and party over zoom! To celebrate we are also planning on offering FREE GIFT WRAP and handwritten messages service to all customers.
I absolutely LOVE seeing our cards being posted on social media by New Mums! When I see the supportive comments and people laughing with the new Mum, it makes all the hard work worth it. I am always so proud when someone writes about us. Mother & Baby recently did a feature and Pick Me Up Magazine. I was over the moon!!! They are actually framed in my office.
GC: We’ve talked a lot about the rewards and enjoyment you get from your product and running your own business is there any aspect of the business that you don’t enjoy as much and how do you manage it?
V: I hate bookkeeping and the legal side of things. Working out the numbers. My brain doesn't work like that easily... I just like being creative. I gave this job to my wonderful business partner. She is amazing with numbers.
GC: How do you deal with setbacks and creative blocks? Any advice?
V: Have a little cry, learn from it, drink some wine, and start again tomorrow. I take a break and try not to put too much pressure on myself. I arrange a meeting with my business partners...it always gets the creative juices flowing. The first printers we worked with could not produce the high-quality finish that we required. That was non-negotiable for us. It was really important that our cards were high-end. This set us back a few months. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the new printers we found are amazing and we have a finished product that we are really proud of.
GC: Since starting Adulting Cards have you discovered any hidden talents that you didn't know you had? Is there anything you particularly enjoy that you maybe didn't think you would?
V: Gift wrapping! We offer a gift wrap and handwritten message service so customers can send directly to the recipient. I never knew I was any good at gift wrapping but I love it. I have watched a million youtube tutorials and really enjoy the creativity! I could be a professional gift wrapper now!
GC: What would you say is the best, most important thing you have learned since starting?
V: The most important thing for us was getting the very best quality we wouldn't settle for anything less than perfect. In order to do this, we had to do a great deal of work ourselves. We get the cards delivered to us in 29 separate boxes and one with the outer boxes. I have to fill each box with the 29 cards. This is a long process and takes HOURS but this way we have a high-end quality product without paying more than we could afford, as a new business sticking to our budget is very important. I am so happy with the look and feel of our product. It also means that there is never a mistake as Adulting Cards is my baby and I put my everything into every box.
GC: What are your favourite free resources? What do you use them for and why?
GC: Both are really great tools, I used Canva to create The Gift Cartel logo! How big a role does social media play in your business?
V: People like to see the person behind the small business. I used to post on social media as if I was this huge company as I thought that was the only way that people would take you seriously. I have since learned that people like the fact that we are a small business ran by a Mummy.
GC: If you could collaborate with anyone who and why?
V: I would love to collaborate with Giovanna Fletcher or Sophie McCartney of ‘Tired and Tested'. I love their honesty and humour when it comes to Motherhood. They are wonderful and showing Mums that it is OK to have hard times when being parents and help them to laugh at the craziness of it all.
GC: Let's talk about gifts! What is the best gift you have received? Why did you love it so much and who was it from?
V: One Christmas my Dad made me the most wonderful gift. He got a huge box and covered it in photos of me and him over the years. He filled it with makeup and products he knew I loved. It was so thoughtful.
GC: Do you have a 'Go-To' shop for gift buying? Who and why?
V: I love Thortful for buying greeting cards. They are small businesses and designers and I love their humour and style. I got an email when purchasing and a thank you card for supporting their small business. I loved this!! So now whenever I sell a box I always handwrite a thank you card to show how much their order means to me.
GC: Do you enjoy buying gifts for other people?
V: I love buying gifts for people. Christmas shopping is my favourite thing. I love walking around the shops with an Amaretto coffee in my hand. What I dislike about it is I never have enough money to buy everything I want to buy people... I have a huge family.
GC: Do you have a favourite person to buy for? Who and why?
V: My son. I just imagine his little face when he opens it. I know him better than I know anyone I know so I could shop for hours.
GC: And do you have anyone in your life who's a bit more tricky to buy for?
V: My Dad. He's my best friend BUT he never tells me what he wants. He's one of those people who already has everything he wants and changes his hobbies every day!
GC: If you could only have Christmas Presents or Birthday presents what would you choose? Why?
V: Christmas! Christmas is the best day ever.
GC: Is the value of the gift more important than the thought?
V: It means someone has thought about you and that they care.
GC: Finally what's the best gift someone can buy a new mum?
V: It has to be Adulting Cards For New Mums ;-) Mums can quite often be forgotten when the bundle of joy comes along. With Milestone Cards For New Mums, you can help them to realise how awesome they are and that those Milestones they deem as insignificant are actually a huge deal. You give the gift of being noticed... trust me, she will really appreciate it.