I’ll admit that I felt some skepticism when Matt Richardson ’13 told me that he was going all-in on a venture to encourage people to write more thank you cards. It is not a sexy business to explain to people, especially in light of zillion dollar mobile messaging acquisitions. But the more I thought about it, heard about it, and tried explaining it to others, the more sense it made. Paper products are one thing, a thing that seems quaint in light of the dominance of paperless ventures in the Silicon Valley. A movement that is fueled by the tactility of paper and ink but contains a simple, priceless sentiment is something else entirely.
Perhaps it is time we step back and ask ourselves what is it that people really need or want startups to build? Is it easier lives people want, or happier lives? I’ve heard about the behind-the-scenes action since the project’s inception, but when I got my first Gramr card in the mail it still caught me off guard and made me slow down and smile. The square envelopes fit into the boxes at Story House so I had to actually check for it rather than rushing there as soon as I got an email about my latest Amazon Prime shipment being delivered. I held the physical manifestation of Richardson’s hard work and a couple of paragraphs saying things I’d always thought but never actually heard. It’s amazing how nice it is to be told why and how your friends appreciate you.
Within a day or two of getting the card, Gramr Gratitude Co. launched their Kickstarter campaign for gratitude. It felt pretty real once I held the one of the nicest paper product and envelope I had ever received. It felt really real once I watched the campaign reach its goal within twenty four hours. Halfway through the campaign, they tripled their required funding. It’s obvious that the world is ready for something that encourages the small gestures, like this does. The Claremont McKenna College community should join in the movement. We are absurdly lucky and take it for granted so much the culture we have here. There’s nothing wrong with having fun, but it’s even more fun when we slow down and thank the people who let us be here doing the things we’re doing.
In a world obsessed with lifehacks, weird tricks, and apps to simplify the life that technology has made complicated, it seems counterintuitive to tell people that the most effective route to happiness is to slow down, get a pen and some nice stationary out, and thoughtfully tell someone that you are grateful for them. We worry about being ‘cheesy’, wasting time, or being perceived as too earnest. It’s sad that our generation has denigrated to the level of post-irony that gratefulness is perceived as a time-consuming, overly-honest gesture.
In the business world, employers are impressed by handwritten notes thanking them for interviews, advice, or simply for listening. Thanking a barista at the Motley in a tangible meaningful way, for always smiling, remembering your order and making your day just a little bit better, feels weird for about two seconds. Then you realize that it feels good and the first time you witness the recipient’s reaction, you realize that it has made their day. It starts the amusing chain of thanking each other for saying thanks.
Gramr Gratitude Co. has its sights on bringing this chain of thankfulness to the cultural consciousness. Much like Toms Shoes once allowed everyday consumers to “wear” generosity on their feet – Gramr intends to make gratitude into something tangible, accessible, and culturally important. They have created what they call the “Ferrari of envelopes” (this sounds ridiculous until you actually get one) from scratch, and designed cards that are artwork on their own – square-shaped and Instagram/VSCO sourced. Since nobody throws away a handwritten card nowadays, they decided to make something you could tack onto your wall to remind you that someone is in your corner. They artfully blur the line between the comfortable informality of social media and something much more meaningful—and they have befriended and partnered with Instagram users with over 800,000 followers to help spread the word.
The currency of our generation is no longer money – it is time. Slowing down and recognizing our basic human interdependence is healthy. I’ve started writing birthday cards and congratulatory thank you notes and making sure to acknowledge when people have done something to make my day better or my life easier. Life cannot be put into an app that automatically organizes everything I have to do then does most of it for me. Life is about dealing with the disorganized reality of life and spending time thanking the people who help us get through it all. There will never be an app that guarantees happiness or ease, but there is definitely a way to make yourself and others happier. Gramr Gratitude Co. may not get sold to Facebook for sixteen billion dollars (though Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that he has resolved to write a thank-you note every day for a year), but it is already creating more wealth than many startups that have already made their billions. TechCrunch wrote about Gramr last week, furthering the notion that gratitude is a valuable commodity to the time-crunched, tech-obsessed, and everyone in between.
Edited 5:17 PM on 3/3/2014: The original text stated that Gramr had partnered with Instagram users with over 3,000 followers.