It's tough to buy greeting cards for Dina Proto.
Sure, Proto has birthdays and celebrates holidays and anniversaries like everyone else.
But Proto's spouse, Dina Poist-Proto, is a woman, and that's meant lots of creative editing among card-buying family members, for example, the daughter who had to make the "Mother's" in Mother's Day plural after she couldn't find a card honoring her two moms in any conventional stationery stores.
So the two Las Vegas nurses, who married in California in 2008 and are raising four children, put together their 401(k)s and other savings to open Teazled.com, a local online retailer of cards for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered consumers. The Internet shop went live Monday.
The company's 60 greeting cards feature pictures and poems for the LGBT community, such as Mother's Day cards that recognize two-mom families and anniversary cards for two-husband households. There are coming-out cards ("This isn't a college experiment ... it's who I am"), and cards of support for couples and transgendered people who have come out to friends and family. Teazled, whose name is a takeoff on one of the couple's favorite activities, sharing tea, also sells cards celebrating traditional events such as Christmas or a new baby.
Proto and Poist-Proto wrote some of the cards, while their pastor and Proto's father created some verses as well. The partners also encouraged Poist-Proto's mother to write 20 or so cards based on feelings she shared in her journal upon learning of the couple's relationship. One of the cards reads: "No more denial, no more uncertainty, no more resistance -- only acceptance and love."
Teazled's business plan wasn't born of Proto's and Poist-Proto's personal experiences alone. The company's concept also makes good financial sense, the couple says.
Greeting cards are popular in America: 7 billion cards change hands every year nationwide. But few of those cards speak specifically to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered consumers. The handful of cards that do target LGBT buyers are either blank inside or "very, very crass," Proto said. With Census numbers showing that 8.8 million Americans live in a same-sex household, Teazled hopes to tap into a sizable market of consumers interested in tasteful, meaningful, LGBT-focused cards, the partners say.
"For us, it's about providing cards that should have been available for years already, and no one has had the passion or the compassion to do that," Proto said.
Teazled's cards sell online for $3.99 each, plus $1 for shipping and handling. The company plans to add five to 10 cards a month, and is negotiating to sell cards at gift boutiques, stationery stores and flower shops, including A Twisted Tulip, a flower shop in northwest Las Vegas.
"The girls themselves, their story was so fantastic. It hit an emotion in me," said Tamara Fleming, owner of A Twisted Tulip. "I hadn't really thought about the fact that greeting cards were so general. Once I read the messages in their cards, I just felt the cards were something I needed to have. These are just beautiful cards. I have a diverse client base, and I want everyone to have cards that reflect the emotions they want to express."
Fleming sees a substantial market for Teazled's cards, she added.
Proto said she'd like to see Teazled in stores nationwide, but it's unlikely the company will launch its own real-world chain of shops.
"We don't want to be Hallmark, with multiple brick-and-mortar stores. We have no intention of segregating the LGBT community even more," Proto said. "These cards need to be integrated into stores wherever people shop for cards, like the Targets, the Wal-Marts and the Kmarts."
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4512.