Shop Small is a monthly series highlighting small business owners from diverse backgrounds. This series aims to go deeper than your typical product roundup, diving into the inspirational stories behind some of our favorite brands. By taking a behind-the-scenes look at how their shops came to be and highlighting the products they (and their shoppers!) love, we hope to put a deserving spotlight on these marginalized business owners.
It's no surprise that the skills that helped Jackie Monk excel in her publishing career — creativity, proactivity, organization — also contribute to her success as a small business owner. In April 2022, Monk, who has held managing editor roles at outlets like Real Simple and WSJ. The Wall Street Journal Magazine, turned her longtime passion for stationery into a full-blown business, Junebug Ink.
Junebug Ink isn’t your typical stationery company. Named after Monk’s sister, June, who passed away the same year the company was founded, Junebug Ink carries an assortment of letterpress and digitally-printed cards that celebrate African-American culture. There’s a New Year’s card with “Black Eyed Peas, Collard Greens and Cornbread” printed on the front, as a nod to the tradition some Black families have adopted to celebrate on January 1. Another notable design is the Juneteenth card emblazoned with just one word — ”FREEDOM” — seven times in a row. On the opposite end, you’ll find a Christmas card featuring her family’s gingerbread recipe inside as well as a Breast Cancer Awareness design.
Below, Jackie opens up about her love of stationery and her reasons for launching Junebug Ink.
Happy New Year (& Recipe) Card
Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon Card
Happy Holidays Card
What led to the launch of Junebug Ink?
Jackie: I've always been a big stationery /greeting card person, but in April 2022, a seed was planted when I was home, like everyone else, during COVID. I started going through things I brought home from my former job at Real Simple and discovered three shopping bags full of cards. There were Christmas cards, thank-you cards from former interns, so many cards from my 15 years of working there. I kept all of them; they were important keepsakes. It made me think: “Wow, I really do like stationery and greeting cards.”
What else confirmed that it was time to move forward with the business?
Jackie: There was something else I had been feeling for more than a decade: The cards I had been seeing (in stores and online) didn't hit the mark with me. I've had this conversation with family members and friends, and it came to the point where, if I needed birthday cards, I stopped buying them because I was so unhappy with what I was paying a lot of money for. I realized this would be a great business to start, because I have the production and organizational skills from my publishing career. I also love telling stories and the mechanics of print. I just knew what I wanted, and I knew there were other people who wanted it, too.
How do you view weaving African-American culture into your cards?
Jackie: It's not just that there was a void in the market for African-American cards — in general, there's a void for tasteful cards. It doesn't have to be anything crude either. I don't have anything against those kinds of cards. It's just not something I wanted. I want to elevate African-American culture, and you don't have to beat somebody over the head saying, "This is made by a Black person." If you understand the card, if you connect with the card, then the card is for you.
Let's talk about your late sister, June, who you named the business after. Why was she such an inspiration for you?
Jackie: She was very sophisticated and very educated. She exposed me to a lot — the arts and the leisure of life. This business is a nice way to keep her memory alive.
What are some of your most popular cards?
Jackie: There's the "Black Eyed Peas, Collard Greens and Cornbread" card. Some people look at it, and know exactly what it is. That's one of the cards, where if it resonates with you, you get it, whether you're African-American or from the South. That's our bestseller. Our blue snowflake is also really popular. It's just very universal, and the letterpress process is beautiful. Whether you are Black, white, Christian or agnostic, the snowflake works for everybody.
Where do you find design inspiration for your cards?
Jackie: What's going on in the world, what's going on in my life, as well as my friends' and family's lives, because I feel like we're all connected. If something is affecting me, chances are, it's affecting other people as well.
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