“My designs make underrepresented people feel seen in the greetings cards industry"

In partnership with Google

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From depictions of women with vitiligo to celebrations of LGBTQ+ love, Avila Chidume’s beautiful cards honour individuals and experiences that are overlooked by the mainstream greetings industry – and she’s determined to share her platform with other underrepresented artists…

Many of us have looked for a card for a loved one and been unable to find one that feels appropriate: perhaps you’ve been faced with a sea of floral motifs while searching for a Mother’s Day card, when your mum isn’t a pink-and-flowers woman at all. 

But if you’re not white, straight and able-bodied, just finding a card that speaks to your identity or life experiences can be difficult. 

“Not seeing yourself anywhere can feel really lonely,” says Avila Chidume, the Kent-based founder of inclusive cards business Avila.Diana

Since launching the family-owned brand in 2018, which she runs alongside her brother Nyasha, Avila has sought to normalise depictions of underrepresented groups in design, including people of colour, the LGBTQ+ community and those living with disabilities.

Avila’s own designs, as well as many by independent sellers, are available via her website – from Christmas cards featuring a Black Santa to engagement cards for lesbian couples and birthday cards for children with hearing aids. A phrase she often hears in response to her work is: “I didn’t know cards like this existed.”

“As basic as it might seem, representative cards can mean so much to someone who doesn’t have easy access to them,” Avila says. “It makes me so happy to think that my art has had a positive impact on anyone.”

Below, Avila shares the story behind Avila.Diana, what motivates her to keep going and why she’s always learning as a small business owner.

The importance of representation

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“I lived in Zimbabwe until I was six, where it was the norm for media and advertising to feature Black people. 

“But then my family moved to Kent, where I was very much in the minority. I always felt excluded, but that feeling was normalised.

“The message I received was: ‘You are not the standard, so don’t expect any representation. If you do want something that represents you, find it or make it yourself.’ 

“When you’re told that certain things are acceptable and normal, and you don’t fit that description, it can really hurt your self-esteem and confidence. 

“I’m driven in part by reflecting on my own experiences when I was younger.”

If you can’t see it, create it

“The idea for Avila.Diana came to me when I went into a stationery shop with my brothers. 

“As we looked at the greetings cards, I realised there wasn’t anything that represented us. 

“I said: ‘It’s not as though Black people don’t exist. Why don’t they make cards for us?’ My brother looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you do it yourself? How hard could it be?’

“So that summer, I sat down to see what I could create. I’d always loved art and making my own birthday cards for friends and relatives. 

“At the time, I was doing some freelance design work alongside a law degree, and I was also going through a really dark period in terms of my mental health.

“That’s why my first card depicted a Black woman about to take an antidepressant pill. 

“I wanted to offer a way for people to show support to friends and family who were struggling.

“When I sold the cards at an event, the response was amazing – the subject really resonated with people. That’s when I knew this could be a real business.”

Never stop learning

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“Like a lot of small business owners, I used to slightly make things up as I went along. 

“But if you want to take your business to the next level, it’s so important to understand things like marketing and advertising – which is why I’ve found Google’s free one-to-one business mentoring so beneficial.

“I’ve met with people who specialise in digital advertising as part of the programme – we’d discuss how to create ads, using the right keywords to reach customers and running campaigns on different social media platforms. 

“They also go deep into business strategy, offering insights into how best to plan for the weeks and years ahead. The sessions make complex subjects feel much more accessible.

“I participated in various mentoring sessions, all addressing different areas of my business which I wanted to develop. 

“One area I worked on was using Google Analytics to improve conversions, this is something I needed expert advice on as there is a lot of information out there but nothing tailored to me. 

“The sessions allowed me to discuss my aspirations and goals to expand, then we worked on a plan to achieve that. This included using data from Google Analytics to help tailor my website and make it easier to find for people that were looking for me. 

“It was great having someone with a lot of experience and knowledge work with me step by step. 

“I also use Google’s Merchant Centre, which was recommended by my mentor and helps make my products more visible on Google so people can discover them.

“It makes it easier for us to link our vast product range online and become more discoverable. 

“We currently have over 200 diverse designs, ranging from greeting cards to gift items, which take a lot of time to process individually.

“As we grow our product range it will sync with the Google Merchant Centre saving us a lot of time.

“With Google Analytics we can see that people all over the world visit our website.

“We’re not open internationally yet, but I love knowing that people in Australia have found us via Google. It shows we have a global reach – and that’s so exciting for the future.”

Sharing the platform

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“I’ve received mainstream attention for my cards, but there are so many other companies out there producing incredible representative artwork. 

“So I now use my website as a place where other artists can sell their cards, too.

“I wanted to expand and share my platform with underrepresented creatives who may not have had the same opportunities as me. 

“It can be challenging to be creative all the time while running a business, so it’s also great to open up the platform to fresh ideas and art forms.

“All of the artists and designers whose cards are sold on Avila.Diana are exceptional, with their own sensibilities.

“But they share a mutual desire to create artwork that people from their own communities – as well as wider groups – can relate to. Championing their work is part of what drives me.

“If you’re thinking of starting or growing your business there’s no better time than now as more people move online and resources and support become more accessible. 

“The traditional entrepreneur no longer exists, so don’t be intimidated by existing businesses and competition, use your unique personality and skills to your advantage.

“We have big dreams for 2022, our main goal is to enter wholesale partnerships internationally, so fans of Avila.Diana from across the world can access our products. 

“We also want to grow our community of artists so that customers never run out of new and exciting products as we continue to support talented creatives across the globe!” 

In the past 18 months, an average of 5,000 British businesses a week sold online for the first time. Google provides companies like Avila’s with tools to support growth. Whatever your mission, Google can help you make it a reality with free tools and training. Check out Avila’s favourite tools below…

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