This June in honor of Pride Month, we’re highlighting some of the incredible entrepreneurs from the LGBTQ+ community on Faire. Earlier this month, we featured Texas-based retail store, The Little Gay Shop. Today, in our continued celebration of Pride, we’re placing the spotlight on Ladyfingers Letterpress—a stationery and gift brand based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We spoke with Morgan Calderini, Co-Founder of Ladyfingers Letterpress, about crafting inclusive greeting cards, navigating business ownership, and creating meaningful connections and impact with customers across the country.
Filling a gap in the stationery market
Ladyfingers Letterpress was founded by Arley Torsone and Morgan Calderini in Colorado Springs in 2011. The couple met while working together and got engaged in 2010. They’d both had disappointing experiences at weddings where people didn’t have the right tools and language to include everyone, and it occurred to them while searching for inclusive invitations for their own wedding that they could make one themselves. They created a beautifully colorful wedding invitation of their own and shared it online, where it received a massive positive response. From there, Ladyfingers Letterpress was born.
“We did a lot of work in the first couple of years designing and printing wedding invitations,” Morgan said. “Those couples would come back to us for other occasions like in vitro fertilization (IVF) or top surgery.” As the demand for their greeting cards grew, Morgan and Arley quit their day jobs to open a small studio in 2013 and designed a line of cards to debut at a national stationery show. The response was so positive that they slowed down their custom wedding invitation service and focused on their wholesale business.
Today, the couple designs and manufactures a line of products—from greeting cards to posters and tote bags—found in more than 1,000 stores across the country. In 2016 they opened their own retail store in Colorado Springs where they sell their own product line along with goods by other artists in the LGBTQ+ community. They also recently opened a second store location at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College.
“We hope our store provides a place for people to feel seen,” Morgan said. “We want it to be a place where you’re not just safe, but you’re also celebrated.
Life as small business owners
Creating a successful brand and having an impact in the LGBTQ+ community hasn’t come without its share of challenges for Arley and Morgan. Aside from the pandemic-related challenges that business owners have faced in recent years, Morgan said being working parents has been one of the toughest parts of all. “As independent business owners, there’s not someone providing maternity or parental leave,” she said, adding that, “on the flip side it offers us the most flexibility.”
Morgan explained how it’s been difficult dealing with childcare and homeschooling during the pandemic, but one of the benefits of being their own boss is the ability to make adjustments to the business to prioritize their family while keeping the company running. For Morgan, the hard work and balancing act is all worth it because of the impact Ladyfingers is able to have on the community. “I don’t ever come to work and wonder if the work that I’m doing matters. We get to decide what we prioritize in our company,” she said. “We get to decide who we sell to, what we make, how we make it, how we give back, and how we talk about the things that are important to us in the world and in our community.”
Connecting with customers
Morgan and Arley get plenty of inspiration from their customers and have several memories of heartwarming customer connections and interactions from over the years. One of Morgan’s favorite moments was last year when someone purchased a Pride celebration box—a customizable box dedicated to celebrating friends or family members in the LGBTQ+ community—for themselves. The customer stated in the notes they lived in a small town and didn’t have anyone supporting or celebrating who they are, so they planned to celebrate on their own with the Pride box.
The team at Ladyfingers Letterpress was touched by the sentiment and took swift action. They not only refunded the customer’s money but also asked members of the community on Instagram to write the customer a message. They received countless comments that were turned into handwritten notes of people sharing their own experiences of coming out and finding their place in the LGBTQ+ community. Morgan and Arley packaged up all the notes up with the celebration box and sent it along. The customer later followed up and shared how much those notes had meant to them. “To feel alien and realize you have all of these people here is incredible,” Morgan said.
Celebrating Pride and advising entrepreneurs
Their Pride celebration boxes are just one way that Arley and Morgan celebrate Pride month with their community. “We do a lot of work partnering with organizations in our town through special edition products,” Morgan said. This year, they’re hosting an interactive printing event where they’ll print special edition prints of their “Love Is Why We Are Here” poster and donate the proceeds to a local charity. They’ve also had a booth at a local Youth Pride event held by Inside Out Youth Services, participated in a Queer Prom in Colorado Springs, and put together special window displays to celebrate with the whole community.
“We’ve always chosen to really be who we are, to speak about things that matter to us through our business,” Morgan said. “It’s been the right path for us.”