Like all couples, Tineka Smith and her husband Alex buy greeting cards for each other on special occasions. But, they have never been able to find a card that accurately represents their relationship.
"I’m black and my husband is white," says Smith. "We searched for years for a publisher that had options for interracial couples but always had to resort to generic cards or animals."
The final straw for Smith came last year when her husband gave her a card with two penguins hugging and said: "Look I found a card like us — they are black and white and a couple!"
Exasperated at the absence of choice, Smith decided to launch a line of greeting cards for fellow under-represented couples, which address the gaps of racial and sexual representation in the greeting card market.
"I knew I had to do something," says Smith. "It was frustrating to realise that our love wasn’t thought to be relevant enough by publishers to create a quality product that celebrated it."
Smith started a company called Huetribe to address the greeting card gap. She believes that greeting cards currently on sale on the high street are not representative of the majority of couples.
When Smith started to get feedback from customers about her cards, she found that other interracial couples were also having to resort to buying animal-themed cards.
"Interracial and LGBTQ couples are grossly lacking on greeting cards — even from brands that cater to the minority market. When was the last time you saw an interracial gay or lesbian couple on a greeting card?"
Smith says she hopes her efforts will encourage other companies to take action to ensure their cards are representative. But, as things stand, there is a persistent race and sexuality gap in the greeting cards industry, that needs to be urgently addressed. "The fact that greeting card producers aren’t servicing a large proportion of modern society reinforces the perception and stereotype that the accepted ‘norm’ of a loving relationship must be romantic, white and heterosexual," says Smith.
"But if a person can walk into a store and have the ability to shop for a card that depicts their life and relationships, it gives a sense of acknowledgement that our society accepts and respects that individual and the life they live. No matter who they are," she continues.
Huetribe makes greeting cards for birthdays, weddings and engagements, as well as more general cards for celebrations and relationship milestones. The cards, priced at £3.99 ($4.99) not including shipping, are available on Huetribe’s website.