Boston Herald, Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Their futures are in the cards
By Jerry Kronenberg
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Americans will give their sweethearts an estimated 190 million Valentine’s Day cards today.
The nationally recognized entrepreneur is just a small part of the answer for those who might be asking: “Who writes this stuff, anyway?”
“Valentine’s Day is actually the day when I can be most creative,” says Joanna Alberti — owner of Hub startup philoSophie’s, one of about two-dozen small Massachusetts greeting card companies. “There are people who are in love, there are people who are single and there are people who are saying, “I’m not sure if we’re using the ‘L word’ just yet.” That’s why cards are creative. They don’t just all say: ‘I’ll Love You Forever.’ ”
Alberti, whom Business Week Online recently named one of the nation’s “Five Best Entrepreneurs Under 25,” sells her cards at 24 boutiques across the country.
Arlington native Chris Conti, a humor writer in the Shoebox studio at industry leader Hallmark Cards, said his work aims to “help someone be funny and more expressive than they would be on their own.”
Conti writes captions for about 300 Hallmark cards per year, although he got into the business in a roundabout way.
After earning a degree in literature and Economic Theory from the University of Rochester, Conti took the first job offer he got: salesman at Boston gift maker International Silver Co.
One of his clients: Hallmark.
Conti befriended (and ultimately married) a Hallmark buyer named Kaki Cummings, who helped him get an editor’s job at the company’s Kansas City headquarters.
Today, Conti drafts about 15 jokes a day, 10 t0 20% of which his bosses usually “accept,” or find good enough for publication.
If an accepted joke fits in with business needs — say Hallmark wants some Valentine’s cards for newlyweds — Conti’s work shows up in stores about a year later.
The writer said he often draws inspiration from things in his own life. Conti also watches lots of TV and movies to “absorb the situations and language, so that I can describe the underlying emotions that are universal to all of us. And be funnier and more clever about it than an average person could be on their own.”
“What’s fun for me is when I’m shopping and I see someone read my card and laugh,” he said. “If something sounds quick and easy — and sounds like it’s the sender speaking, and not me — then I’ve done my job.”
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