Ivette-Mayo-&-Yo-Soy-Expressions-MainPhotoIf you’ve ever struggled to find the right greeting card that conveys who you are as a multicultural, bilingual Latina, or you want to show your appreciation for a Latina in your life, you might have noticed a lack of choices on the card rack. But don’t worry—Ivette Mayo is coming to the rescue! Yo Soy Expressions, her line of uplifting, lighthearted bilingual greeting cards, was created specifically to address the need for cards that speak to the modern, empowered Latina.

Mamiverse spoke to Mayo about her what led her to create Yo Soy Expressions, and where she hopes to take the company:

Mamiverse: What inspired you to start a bilingual line of greeting cards?

Ivette Mayo & Yo Soy Expressions-MainPhotoMayo: There were several things…I am a trainer and facilitator by trade, building cultural competencies. I help brands (her clients include State Farm Insurance, the National Football League and Bright House Networks) understand the Hispanic community they wish to market to. Latinos deal in consensus; we do things together and make our buying decisions together. It’s not enough just to run your commercial in Spanish—we’re looking for emotional engagement.

I had a meeting with a potential customer who could not grasp the idea of building trust and emotional engagement among Hispanics. After the meeting, I wanted to send him a thank you card as a way of demonstrating the importance of the personal touch. Cards create instant emotional engagement. They say that someone has thought of you, taken the time to purchase a card and write a special message. I wanted the client to understand that people need to feel like they matter. I looked for a card that said “Muchas Gracias,” and I could not find one anywhere. So I went home and created it. And I landed that client!

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I started asking other Latinas if they had the same problem finding greeting cards, and I determined that we weren’t being represented. All the cards in Spanish were very formal, religious, and out of touch, and we were looking for modern and fresh cards that spoke to our multicultural heritage.

Mamiverse: If you were to write a profile of your target buyer, what would she be like?

My client is bilingual, acculturated, and multicultural. Not everyone sends greeting cards, and there is a unique person who does. It’s a mindset engrained in you…women who purchase cards are generally multilingual and educated, and they’re comfortable expressing their Hispanic culture with their larger community, Hispanic or not. They may buy bilingual cards for their Hispanic friends, English cards for their non-Hispanic friends, and Spanish cards for their families. Then there are non-Spanish speakers who buy the cards for their Hispanic friends.

Mamiverse: Some of your cards are bilingual, and some are English- or Spanish-only. How do you decide when to use one or both languages?

Mayo: It’s very intentional. For example, my three most popular cards are the traditional Latina—the first card I designed—The Successful Woman/La Mujer Exitosa (one version in English and one in Spanish) and the bilingual “thank you” card, which expresses the duality of language on one card. Sometimes it’s a design decision, and then other times, it speaks to the buyer. The Latina card could be exchanged from one hermana to another, as could La Mujer Exitosa. The Successful Woman could be purchased by a Hispanic or non-Hispanic, and the Muchas Gracias/Thank You could easily be sent to or from a non-Spanish speaking friend. So while Yo Soy Expressions is geared to the Latina card buyer, there’s something for everyone, regardless of language.

When I first started creating the cards, I was targeting the Spanish-speaking market. Then as I sought more feedback at conferences and in user surveys, I realized I had a lot of potential clients—Latina or otherwise—who didn’t speak Spanish. That’s when I started to design cards in English as well, but always with a Latina flavor and in the unique Yo Soy style.

Mamiverse: Was there a turning point, or a moment when you realized your business would really take off?

Oh gosh, I still remember like it was yesterday; and I actually get emotional thinking about it. I would always draw and write poetry as a way to relax, and I always thought it would be cool to do something with it, but it was just a passing idea. But when I found a graphic designer and she sent me the first design based on my sketch—it was the Latina image of the woman with the flower in her hair—reality struck. I thought to myself, “This is really happening.” I couldn’t stop looking at the design. I stared at it for so long…I cried, I panicked, and then I got excited! She kept sending me designs all day, by the end of day I was exhausted! A week later, when all the cards were delivered to my house, I realized there was no turning back. Think this is something I’ll do for a long time. These cards represent me to the core…they perpetuate the message of culture and community, and of celebrating our essence as women.

Mamiverse: Related to that, how do you tie your experience as a woman entrepreneur into your mission of empowerment for Latinas?

Mayo: Yo Soy Expressions has become my vehicle to be relevant. Latina women suffer from “only syndrome”—they walk into an office or boardroom and no one looks like them; they’ll crack a joke and no one gets it. I’m Puerto Rican and I grew up in the U.S. South. At times I was only Puerto Rican in my community, and I remember how nice it was to run into someone who “got” you. My cards make Latinas feel they are relevant, unique, dynamic, incredible women with so much to offer. They celebrate that you are not alone, but that you are part of a unique tapestry of incredible women. I want all my cards to help express that.

Mamiverse: What’s next for Yo Soy Expressions?

Mayo: My next step is finding out how to make e-cards. I also want to design cards that customers can print and customize themselves, or send electronically. I’m looking into phone covers, journals, shopping bags, and I’m exploring going to a major retailer. I’ve also designed a Day of the Dead card that is a tribute to Audrey Hepburn—sort of a modern twist on Latino tradition.