This content is the seventh installment of an interview series with the 2020 Target Incubator cohort. Participating companies are sharing, in their own words, details on what inspired the creation of their companies and how they are all working to change the world for the better. All interviews have been conducted by the Target Incubator (TI) Program Management team.
TI: When meeting someone new, how do you explain what CheerNotes does?
Asha: We curate a collection of inclusive greeting cards by partnering with diverse artists who capture moments from their unique experiences- whether it’s encouraging a friend on their sobriety anniversary or sharing a laugh about a clever South Asian pun.
TI: What inspired you to start CheerNotes?
Asha: I was inspired to create CheerNotes because I value inclusion, the uniqueness of people, self-expression, and the beauty of authentic connection. The question, “why do we have to just deal with what exists?” first came to mind when I was about 11 years old. I had grown tired of the low quality, limited options available for Black hair and began researching, creating and selling hair and skin products. That same question inspired me to take on greeting cards. I was tired of going on a scavenger hunt to find cards that were actually relevant for my family and friends. Finding a card that expressed a breadth of moments or representation was like striking gold. This was even more frustrating because I knew amazing, card-worthy designs were out there. My time working with artists in the past inspired me to figure out how I could amplify artists and their work to help them connect with new and existing fans. I believe everyone deserves easy access to a card that perfectly fits each relationship and moment.
TI: What impact do you hope CheerNotes has on the world?
Asha: We hope to inspire stronger relationships through keep-worthy personal notes. We want to be a part of that feeling when you receive an unexpected card with a message that really warms your heart. We want to normalize diverse representations in greeting cards so people feel seen and inspired to nurture their relationships beyond the keyboard more often.
TI: What has surprised you about yourself as your business has grown?
Asha: I started CheerNotes with this constant thought that I needed to have a partner and, for some time, I treated filling that position as a prerequisite to building our solution. Having additional people on the team also served as a security blanket of sorts for me and a vote of confidence in the idea. I’m surprised at what I’ve been able to accomplish so far. By having an intern program this summer, I’ve been able to learn what it would be like to have a larger team at this stage and what aspects of the business would benefit most by having an in-house expert. My mindset about why and when to build a team has shifted to be much more rooted in what CheerNotes actually needs.
TI: How did you learn about Target Incubator and what encouraged you to pursue the opportunity?
Asha: A classmate told me about the Target Incubator not too long before the application was due. I checked out the questions and I was intrigued because they really wanted to know how I envisioned my business making a difference. It was surprising since market size and pitch decks are the norm for incubator programs but Target prioritized a search for passionate problem solvers. I knew that I would love being within the environment they were curating.
TI: What makes you most excited about working with Target Incubator?
Asha: I’m extremely excited to learn more about Target’s approach to guest insights and product launches. I love how Target has positioned itself in our hearts and minds and want to provide a valuable experience to CheerNotes customers. I’m equally excited about the fireside chats and mentor conversations with so many inspiring founders, many of whom I’ve followed their journey and have been a mentee from a far.
TI: As a founder, how are you functioning today that is different than how you were functioning 6 months ago? What keeps you motivated?
Asha: Being under stay-at-home orders during COVID-19 really surfaced the need for me to create a structure for my day with healthy boundaries between work and recharge times. 6 months ago, I would have days that were way too long and an impossible to-do list that kept me feeling like I was always behind. I felt in a rush but I knew that my most productive self required a different approach for the marathon ahead. I took a couple days to step back, re-center on my ‘why’, and really prioritize. It not only reignited my motivation, it also helped me better articulate why CheerNotes exists and what we want to accomplish as I set out to hire summer interns.
TI: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are navigating the impact of COVID-19 to their business?
Asha: Take some time with your team and/or your top supporters to brainstorm after collectively re-centering on what value you provide, specifically the emotional value. Having that at the core of the brainstorm might bring to light new ways to achieve your mission and provide value to customers even in this dynamic business landscape. I would also encourage people to avoid the temptation to be reactive in a way that departs from their values just because they could provide something. Your customers still need you to show up authentically with the value you promised, it’s our job as entrepreneurs to figure out how.