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I recently interviewed Ali O’Grady from Thoughtful Human, a card company located in Oakland, California, US. Thank you Ali for sharing your story as well as your advice for young people!
What is Thoughtful Human?
Thoughtful Human offers plantable card series to help people communicate in challenging relationships and life circumstances (think cancer, addiction, grief/depression, family dysfunction, new motherhood, long distance, etc.). It’s our shared struggle to love, fight, grieve, forgive, overcome, and celebrate — even in some of our darkest moments. It’s accepting and destigmatizing dysfunction and meeting our loved ones where they’re at. It’s being there — consistently — when it really counts, and leading difficult conversations with kindness.
How did it come about?
Thoughtful Human was born from many of my personal experiences and three gaps we saw in the market: 1. Relevancy We create cards with a voice and design that reflect millennials, and cover the tough subjects that so many people (and brands) shy away from. We're ditching the holidays and "greetings" altogether, and creating cards with you first (your life and your relationships are the occasion). We're axing "catch-alls" and cliches, and addressing the challenges and complexities of real relationships head on — with raw, open-ended questions and sentiments that invite real conversation. 2. Convenience Our goal is to help you plan ahead and make it easier for you to be thoughtful and show up consistently — without having to scramble to a fluorescent grocery aisle 30x a year to find a card that’s barely relevant. To do this, we exclusively sell our cards as bundles online (either build your own or fixed set Support Series). 3. Sustainability We wanted to create honest, beautiful sentiments — without the waste! We came up with some pretty cool solutions to do just that. All of our cards are printed with water-based inks on plantable seed paper that grows wildflowers and use minimal, plastic-free, eco-friendly packaging. (More on our sustainability efforts and card planting here!).
What makes these cards unique?
Content: Our cards are unique first and foremost in their subject matter — we are tackling mental health issues head on. We steer away from prescriptive verbiage that you see on a lot of other “sympathy” and “grief” cards. Series-Based: Our cards are also special in their series-based format (sold in assorted 5-packs). We believe that healing takes a lot of time, and we wanted to create tools that let people continue to show up and acknowledge that challenges like grief, depression, cancer, and addiction are 24/7 experiences. Effectively supporting people through them can’t be a “one and done” type of thing, but so often people struggle with the words to say over time. We hope our sequences help ease the discomfort and offer a means for people to stay connected and communicating.
How has your own personal experience with grief, as well as seeing your family members and friends struggle with their own mental health, impacted you?
My experience losing my father to cancer and the resulting grief/depressive periods have profoundly shaped my personal and professional journey. Addiction has also impacted my life from all angles. These experiences have left me with a lot of questions — what could I have said or done to better support my dad in his journey with cancer? How can I continue to support people I love through addiction even when I’m angry, hurt, or clearly just don’t understand? How can I show up for people I love who are grieving in ways that are honest, but still productive? Over time, these questions evolved and simplified into my personal and brand mission: How do I practice empathy and lead with kindness? How do I help others do it? Today, Thoughtful Human serves as my aspirational self — the little voice in my head pushing me to do more and be better, and trust me — I need it! The last year has brought many of these issues back into my life, challenging me to re-evaluate my content and whether it meets the needs and complexities of each subject. But that’s the beauty of the whole thing — it’s unapologetically human. A messy work in progress that will be growing as we all grow.
How do you cope with difficult times in your life?
It definitely depends on the circumstances, but generally I don’t cope with anything without a lot of long conversations with my inner circle, a lot of tears, a lot of: exercise, music, writing, stand up comedy (cannot overstate the value of laughter!), natural light, coffee, and usually a new project. Oh and my cat. Nala is so f*cking clutch! That said, It’s ok to sink into the hole for a little bit and really feel it — processing and experiencing the depth of your pain is an important part of healing. But for me, eventually channeling that pain into progression is my most effective route back to myself. Specifically, this has meant holding fundraisers, tutoring/volunteering, launching a brand, starting a support group. Finding ways to help and serve always helps me recenter and broaden my perspective — shift away from me and my sadness, and back to the big, beautiful world and the infinite ways we can find meaning and drive impact in it.
Do you have any advice for a young person who is wanting to start a business, to give back or has a passion for a cause?
My first piece of advice is just to forget about what everyone else might think and try! I always say “everything is stupid until it’s not”. I asked myself every day for months whether Thoughtful Human was a stupid idea and whether I’d sell a single unit, but then I considered how stupid everything must have felt before it was a thing. The doubt can be paralyzing, but you just have to commit and make it a thing! All that said, business planning and logistics are critical! Products and ideas don’t sell themselves, so definitely put in the work on the front end to flush out a model and plan with legs before you dive in!
What’s next for Thoughtful Human?
Hard to say! This first year has led us down many roads we couldn’t have possibly anticipated, so I will say I am open to new directions and opportunities in the coming year. What I know for sure is that we’ll be working hard to grow our programs with Target, Whole Foods, and other small and large retailers. We’ll also be spending a lot of time listening to our community to improve/grow our content and series to better meet their needs, and probably some fun new digital offerings to help people connect.But more importantly — what do you all want to see next for Thoughtful Human?! Tell us your story. Tell us your needs. We’re listening! firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos from Thoughtful Human's Instagram
mindyourmind speaks with advocates, authors, musicians, athletes and other people about their own opinions and life experiences.