ROCKVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — Carrie Cheatham and her husband Andrew run Snail Mail, a small greeting card and ornament business out of their home in Rockville. While Carrie works full-time to create these small and touching mementos she says the cards are really just a “vehicle” for their social mission.
Carrie studied sociology at Randolph Macon College and interned with local nonprofit Reestablish Richmond where she became familiar with refugee and migrants living in the community. Carrie says that in 2017 she began feel extremely frustrated and felt that new legislation was targeting a specific group of people. After working with middle eastern refugees in the Richmond, she said the travel ban placed on certain countries “really struck a chord” with her.
“I knew of so many great hearts and great neighbors that we had,” Cheatham said. “That changing political climate definitely took me to a really hard place for a couple of months.”
She felt a need to help and Andrew helped her realize card making which was normally a small hobby for her could become something more. Cheatham got to work painting greeting cards and hasn’t looked back since.
Now they have greeting cards, Christmas ornaments made from recycled beer cans, prints and stickers for sale online and in shops around the area. Carrie also paints custom portraits, wedding guest books and home pictures.
A portion of the proceeds from each sale goes towards organizations helping migrants and refugees. For six months at a time Snail Mail gives 15% of their profits to one of five nonprofits filling their mission’s goals. Right now they are working with Reestablish Richmond but they switch between them, International Neighbors Charlottesville, Sacred Heart Center, Church World Service and Miry’s list.
Through 2017 the business was more of a side hustle while Carrie still worked a full-time job, then she switched to splitting her time 50/50 and once the pandemic hit she dove into her small business full-time. She handles the designs, production and painting.
Andrew works another job full-time but helps Carrie with packaging and organizing.
Everyday she wakes up and starts going through outstanding orders and working to get products to customers on time. When there is a lag in card orders she starts planning new designs.
Andrew and Carrie say Small Business Saturday has always been a huge thing for them especially in the Richmond area where the community supports local businesses all year round.
Andrew says catering to holiday needs definitely helps sales in November. “Christmas ornaments stuff like that, Christmas cards definitely helps with the revenue,” Andrew said.
Snail Mail ornaments feature local businesses and Virginia products that people in the Richmond area can relate to.
Right now on their website people can buy ornaments depicting Sauer’s Spices and Dukes Mayo as well as local restaurants like En Su Boca, Sticky Rice and Stella’s Grocery. If those don’t check all of your boxes then for slightly higher price Carrie will custom paint an ornament.
The custom products offers her a break from her normal routine. “That gives me that kind of like creative freedom to do something different from what, you know, my like generic, like general card lineup is.”
Leading up to the pandemic, Snail Mail had really been relying on wholesale accounts to keep the company going. Cheatham says it was really scary when the shops that normally sold her greeting cards started to close down in March. But the closing of their wholesale partners didn’t stop business, Snail Mail started to see more traffic online.
“I think it says a lot when businesses shut down but people come straight to us,” Cheatham said.
She says that their mission and the relationships that she’s built with customers is what kept business going this year.
“Having your why and who you support and why you support them really matters to a lot of people and it touches a lot of people’s hearts,” Cheatham said. “And that’s why they keep coming back.”
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