Centennial Hills residents Dina Proto and Dina “Dom” Poist-Proto have seen their family strive to find the right card that fits their two-mother household. That struggle led them to start an alternative greeting card company that addresses nontraditional families during conventional holidays and other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.
Their trademark tagline, “Tell Them,” encourages people to maintain open lines of communication with their families and friends.
“We wanted these cards available for kids and parents so they would not waste any valuable time and tell each other how they’re feeling,” Dina said. “Some cards have sayings that are as simple as ‘This is who I am,’ while other cards say, ‘I don’t understand, but I’m ready to listen.’ ”
The idea to start the business came to Dina in May 2005, when her oldest daughter went shopping for a Mother’s Day card. It was impossible for her to find a card that addressed both of her mothers, so she ended up altering the card by making it plural.
The incident steered the couple who met as nurses to look into creating greeting cards.
“People are tired of having to adjust a card to fit their (lifestyle),” Dina said. “What we’re doing is making traditional greeting cards for the LGBT community.”
Before starting their journey, the couple first researched the business to see if it was viable.
“There were similar companies that existed, but they sold sexually explicit cards,” Dom said. “We realized that we weren’t just marketing to the LGBT community but also to their supporters who make up 75 percent of society.”
After realizing their idea could have potential, they put together their 401(k)s and two years’ worth of tax returns to launch teazled.com in the summer of 2011.
The name came from the couple’s favorite pastime of drinking tea.
The online retailer started with 60 greeting cards and has since more than quadrupled its supplies.
“A lot of the cards from other companies just didn’t say a lot, and the outside images didn’t depict the LGBT community accurately,” Dina said. “It’s time society realized that we are everyday people.”
They started selling their cards online and then transitioned to freestanding spinners in boutiques.
Within four months, their cards were sold at 27 Albertsons stores across Las Vegas, competing with big-name brands that overlooked the growing LGBT population.
In the beginning, some people in the community felt the cards were inappropriate and wanted them to be covered like Playboy magazine, Dom said.
But the couple refused.
“At one time, the norm was to be flamboyant and show that we existed,” Dom said. “I think that was necessary for the time, but now we’re trying to show how normal the LGBT community is.”
Teazled carries cards for anniversaries, birthdays, baby arrivals, holidays, love and sympathy.
In addition, the company sells unique cards aimed at coming out and support.
“We still have a lot of LGBT kids that are being bullied, kicked out of their homes, and adults and kids committing suicide,” Dina said. “Sometimes a card is the easiest form of communication.”
The cards have sold for $3.99, and are all printed on recycled paper.
The company has also found an audience in boutiques across the nation and in Canada, Bermuda and Mexico.
The cards are being translated into Spanish for the Latino community, set to be available within the next six months to a year.
“In the beginning, we used stock photography and our own messages,” Dina said. “Now, we have a team of writers, photographers and even some local models who help us out. We’ve come a long way.”
The company has partnered with nonprofits such as CenterLink to offer greeting cards to LGBT centers throughout the country at the company’s manufacturing cost. This allows the centers to resell the cards at a retail price of their choosing and to use the funds in whatever manner suits the center’s strategic goals.
The couple said they’re always willing to support nonprofits that work with the LGBT community.
Dina said they have a good return policy and are willing to switch cards if they aren’t working.
The business recently celebrated its third anniversary, and the couple have no plans of stopping. Earlier this month, their cards were added to amazon.com.
“We’re slowly but surely becoming the leading pioneer in the LGBT greeting card business,” Dina said.
Contact North View reporter Sandy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.