The Design Business Show 197: Demonstrating Creative Diversity with CheerNotes CEO, Asha Banks

Director : Melissa Burkheimer | September 16, 2022
Check out episode 197 of The Design Business Show with Asha Banks to learn all about her diverse stationery brand!

Asha is the CEO of CheerNotes, an inclusive stationery brand that focuses in diverse representation of creatives, designs, and messaging. A creative at heart and engineer by training, Asha seeks to build CheerNotes into a company that not only produces stationery, but also addresses common challenges for consumers and creatives who want to connect authentically. CheerNotes currently curates designs from over 30 artists, creates their own line of cards, and creates custom cards for small and large businesses. You can also find CheerNotes at over 40 retailers across the US and in Marshall’s and Winners in multiple provinces in Canada.

Here’s what we covered on the episode:

The Unmet Need Asha Saw + Inspiration Behind CheerNotes

  • How I asked my friend Shannon, who has been on the show before for some diverse guests, and she connected me with Asha, who is here to talk about her diverse stationery brand
  • In junior high, Asha created her first products; skin and hair products for African Americans – this was the first time she desired to fill unmet needs
  • Asha had been feeling something missing in the greeting card aisle for a long time, and although she’s not a designer, Asha was trying to figure out how she could amplify the work she could find on the internet
  • CheerNotes started as a curator for diverse designs – Asha would find designers all over the internet and bring them all to one place, making it easier for people to discover them and buy from them
  • Asha would become a customer of these designers by buying from them wholesale
  • The inspiration behind CheerNotes happened when someone was trying to buy sobriety anniversary cards for their friend but ended up saying nothing because they couldn’t find a card to help them express themselves
  • This inspiration made Asha think about other moments and helping people connect, so they started making their cards in collaboration with other communities so they could really understand what people wanted to receive and give
  • Asha says she struggled with marketing in the beginning because their business caters to a lot of different niches and identities
  • One of the biggest ways they’ve been able to market is through word-of-mouth and building their community on Instagram
  • Because Asha is not a designer, she’s been trying to find ways to share her reality on Instagram, which is finding artists and working with artists through her sketches to bring them to live
  • How Asha’s background has nothing to do with retail or design, yet she’s building a creative company – Asha was a chemical engineer for 7 years
  • In the future, Asha would like CheerNotes to not only be a gifting mechanism but also be a way for people to find products to help them connect with themselves, like journals
  • Asha started the company while in her MBA program, and in her first year, she was working on a completely different idea, knowing she wanted to do entrepreneurship but decided it wasn’t a feasible idea
  • Over the next summer, Asha was thinking about an idea she had worked on in the past on her own time, which was this greeting card company
  • So often, we think about reaching out to people but never follow all the way through, which is why Asha was not only thinking about diversity but also thinking about convenience
  • At first, Asha was trying to make a complicated tech-based idea because she felt that for her idea to be good, it needed to be tech-based, which is something she had to get over mentally
  • Asha started a Shopify site, reached out to different designers, and told them her vision – they ended up starting with 4 designers
  • Asha ended up taking down the Shopify service; she wanted to know if it was enough for them to just be a curator of diverse cards – was it enough for someone to come to them when they could buy cards anywhere else
  • CheerNotes started in 2020, and by the end of the year, Asha paused the sign and send service, and they were 100% a curator of diverse and inclusive cards
  • How Ahsa is a customer of the designers – they buy the cards wholesale, and they hold inventory, which is currently located in Pennsylvania, where Asha is from
  • Asha just moved out of her parent’s basement, where she had been working on the business for the last 2 years – CheerNotes headquarters is still in the basement
  • How they hold inventory and ship it, whether it’s going to wholesale retailers or going directly to a customer – they do not hold inventory for custom cards because they are made on demand

Finding Diverse Creatives + Tips for Your Wholesale Journey

  • Faire is a growing wholesale broker that connects small businesses with other small businesses, which makes it a lot easier for other brands or shops to discover them and buy from them
  • At the time, Asha didn’t know that designers had their products in multiple online shops – Asha believed that the designers wouldn’t want her to take away from their possible sales
  • After the summer of 2020, Faire, along with other greeting card entities, had a lot of initiatives to help black-owned brands get into wholesale, so there was an explosion of black-owned brands on Faire, which made it easy for Asha to discover brands to have on the site
  • How Asha has a wide variety of people that she buys from, mainly from Faire because that’s where almost all her suppliers are
  • Asha says she pays a lot of attention to different hashtags that are related to the people they are trying to help serve or feel unseen in the greeting card aisle
  • If people are interested in having Asha buy their cards wholesale, they can email her at – introduce yourself and share your work and get on Asha’s list so you know when they’ll be buying again
  • Asha explains they only buy at certain times because they are trying to get website volume up and because she wants to be a good customer who’s able to make repeat orders
  • We discuss the different categories and communities on African American, Hispanic, South Asian, LGBTQ+, pet lovers, pop culture, sobriety, wellness, self-care, etc.
  • If Asha designs one of the cards, she explains that it might be more text-based than illustrated, and for all the other cards, she does creative direction where she sketches or makes a creative brief, then explains what she wants so the designers can help bring it to life
  • How Asha created a creative direction process because she wanted her line of cards to be more cohesive and recognizable even though she has multiple artists
  • Asha uses Canva to do a mock layout of the card structure; the designers take that, make a sketch, then do a review, and it goes into the final design stage
  • The custom cards offer came about when Asha was in school, but due to covid, they couldn’t come back to campus, so the school reached out and asked if they could make a card to send out to students and remind them of the community they’re apart of
  • Custom cards are one of the main ways that they can keep funding the business
  • How Asha has been able to work with Target for a few projects in their accelerator program
  • If someone is interested in a custom card order, they can email Asha at, but they also have an area on their website for custom cards as well
  • To clarify, Asha’s work with Target was for custom cards; they aren’t on shelves – Target doesn’t usually take on card brands because they have a relationship with one of the major brands
  • When it came to Marshalls, someone from their team reached out to Asha after discovering CheerNotes on Instagram and checking out their site and wanted to know more about the company
  • The relationship between CheerNotes and Marshalls seems to be atypical where the retailer is buying the goods upfront – you don’t always have the opportunity for a large retailer to buy upfront and promise not to return everything
  • CheerNotes’ biggest wholesale presence is with smaller shops around the country – Asha believes the best place to start a wholesale journey is in your backyard
  • The first place Asha pitched was a coffee shop/bookstore in her hometown; the second place Asha pitched was a coffee shop/bookstore she came across while traveling in New Orleans – she congratulated them on opening by sending samples of the cards, which went over very well
  • Asha says a good place to start when creating an inclusive brand is by intentionally seeking out diverse creatives outside of campaigns because often, these creatives are only sought out when a certain month or celebration comes around when they should be sought out all year round
  • Diverse designers create work that appeals to everyone, which Asha has realized in her own business – when you purchase a card, you might not identify the same as the designer(s) who created it
  • In terms of what’s next for CheerNotes, Asha wants to focus on expanding what they offer – Asha would like to offer more items that people can find for personal use
  • Asha always envisioned CheerNotes being a connection company, not a holiday company, so it’s important for Asha to create connections with others but also with the designers that they find and to have self-connection
  • They have found that small and medium-sized businesses are attracted to the custom work CheerNotes has and like the ability to offer something to their clients that is personal
  • Connect with Asha on Instagram, get on their email list through their website because they are working on more ways to give tips and learn more about the creatives they work with, or reach out to Asha through email at


Links mentioned:

CheerNotes Website

Connect with Asha on Instagram 


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