Female Founder : Connie Charney, Founder of Food for Thoughts Cards
Describe your company, product or service, business location and number of employees, and years in business.
Food for Thoughts Cards is a greeting card company that gives back. With the purchase of each bread-outlined greeting card, the cash equivalent of one peanut butter and jelly sandwich is donated to an organization that feeds the hungry. One card = one sandwich.
We believe that giving back is as easy as sealing an envelope. We believe that sending a greeting card and fighting hunger can go hand-in-hand.
Located in Morristown NJ, we are a small but mighty group. I am assisted by a recent Cal State LA graduate who handles social media and an intern who assists with outreach to organizations. Family and friends lend extra pairs of hands, especially during the holiday season, our busiest season of the year.
Tell Us About Your Company
Why did you start this company and when?
Food for Thoughts Cards evolved out of years of sandwich-giving. For twelve years I packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to give to a homeless person on my commute from Morristown, NJ to Penn Station, NY every Thursday, on my way to New York University where I taught a course in the Department of Occupational Therapy. My impact, though tangible and gratifying, was limited.
I’ve also always loved sending greeting cards. I’m one of those people who send greeting cards for obscure holidays like National Handshake Day and off-beat occasions (the anniversary of your engagement). In an effort to take my sandwich-giving up a notch, I partnered it with my love of greeting cards and Food for Thoughts Cards was born. Launched in 2013, Food for Thoughts Cards was the perfect blending of my passions for sending cards and giving sandwiches.
What kind of corporation is your business? And why?
Food for Thoughts Cards is a social entrepreneurship. It’s an LLC that utilizes a one-for-one giving-back business model. Think TOMS, Bombas, and Warby Parker.
Did you have an “Aha” moment that made you create your product?
The idea had been brewing for some time, but upon returning from a bicycling vacation in Lake Champlain, I felt empowered to take a leap of faith. Basically I felt that if I could pedal up those hills, I could start a small business. As they say, “Vermont ain’t flat!” I knew that entrepreneurship would present the same uphill challenges.
Upon returning home, I sat at my kitchen table and sketched the bread crust outline for our greeting cards. The contrast of my fully stocked pantry when others experiencing food insecurity don’t know where their next meal is coming from clinched it for me. I contacted a graphic artist friend. She “got it” immediately and the design came to life in PB&J colors.
How did you come up with the company/product name?
We provide people with the opportunity to give a sandwich (food) when sending a card with a message (thoughts) so Food for Thoughts Cards seemed to be a good choice.
What were your initial goals?
I wanted to “up my game” from giving approximately 50 PB&J’s a year that I was handing out personally on the streets of New York City to donating (the cash equivalent of) 1000 PB&J’s a year to be distributed to organizations that feed the hungry. It seemed a lofty goal. But in our first year, the total number of PB&J’s donated by Food for Thoughts Cards was 5188. It would have taken me over 100 years to give that number of sandwiches during my once-a-week commute!
Tell Us About Yourself
What is your background and how does it relate to your company?
Seeing the world through the lens of my occupational therapy education means that I’m always looking at how people function and how they meet their basic health needs. It’s second nature to me. And the most basic of needs is food. Walking the streets of New York City, I saw firsthand the need for hunger initiatives large and small. My passion for fighting hunger grew. It may seem unrelated to my role as the founder of a greeting card company, but given a closer look, my occupational therapy education, work, and teaching experience are intimately connected.
What was your past career, and did you ever dream of being an entrepreneur?
I’m an occupational therapist. The practice of occupational therapy includes helping individuals find meaningful engagement in purposeful everyday activities. My work experience has been in mental health settings and in academia. Entrepreneurship? Not really on the table until 2013.
But wait… as an NYU graduate student, my BFF and I made patchwork quilt Christmas stockings and sold them door-to-door to shops in Greenwich Village. We were remarkably successful in funding our holiday gift-shopping that year. So perhaps a seed had been planted for entrepreneurship after all.
Did you experience an epiphany that changed the direction of your life to where you are now?
No epiphany, just a growing awareness that the 37 million Americans individuals facing hunger in the United States are not so different than you and me. One December morning (the kind with a chill that goes right through you) I offered a sandwich to a woman wrapped in a blanket on a street corner in midtown Manhattan. We made eye contact and she smiled sweetly saying “I hope it’s a tuna fish sandwich. I love tuna fish.” When I said no, it was a PB&J, she said that would be fine and began eating it before I crossed the street. Interactions like this one, expressing our shared humanity (and food preferences), have fueled my passion for fighting hunger.