Bostonia is published in print three times a year and updated weekly on the web.
Born in Sweden and with a South Asian heritage, Annika Sarin was used to not seeing people who looked like her on the greeting cards she bought. And as a mom of two young kids and with a hectic career as a graphic designer, she wanted a more flexible schedule and the opportunity to be creative outside of work.
Sarin (CAS’95) is now achieving that in partnership with her former BU roommate, Jen Ramella (COM’95), in their new stationery business.
“I said, ‘I have this crazy idea,’” Sarin says. The idea was to start a paper and greeting card company with original designs, many that would depict interracial couples and families. A professional graphic designer, she pitched the idea to Ramella: Sarin would lead the creative side, and Ramella would use her marketing background to handle the business side, although the two collaborate on both aspects.
“Annika knew I would have the same kind of passion,” Ramella says. “We both loved writing, we both loved sending cards. Writing is important to us, as it connects people to each other in a way that an email or a text just can’t do. I said yes immediately.”
Officially launched in March 2017, Me You Paper sells birthday, sympathy, holiday, and any-occasion cards, journals, invitations, and other paper goods. They print on 100 percent postconsumer recycled paper, use sustainable packaging—like kraft paper boxes and card sleeves made of compostable plastic sourced from plants—and design and print locally.
The outside of their cards often has a caption, but the inside is left blank intentionally. “We want to leave it up to you,” Ramella says. “The cards can mean so many different things—like the whale breaching. It means different things to different people.”
Their products are sold throughout Greater Boston, including at Brookline Booksmith, Barnes & Noble at Emerson College, and farmers markets like Central Flea in Cambridge’s Central Square, and online. While the two women did not want to share sales figures, they say sales have been steady. They are planning to expand to more stores and markets.
The name Me You Paper was inspired by a poem written by a friend of Sarin’s that “talked about sending something from me to you,” Sarin says. “It’s this idea of sending a letter from me to you, sending love in this space…. It’s a personal journey that needs to start with me—it can’t start with you.”
Their designs are often inspired by their own lives—one of the first prints was based on an Indian flower tapestry hanging in Sarin’s home. Others are more abstract: a tusked elephant pattern populates one, while another is a blue and turquoise water print.
Sarin—the daughter of Vinod Sarin, a College of Engineering professor of mechanical engineering—says empathy plays a big role in her designs. When she started the work, she asked friends and family to send her personal photos for inspiration, and she tacked them on a bulletin board. It gave her a wide range of relationships to draw from, and she still refers to them.
“Representation is very important to us: representation matters because everyone deserves to have images they can relate to,” Sarin says. “I really believe that a lack of inclusion is why we’re in this place that we’re in in this country. Me You Paper is part of a small tidal wave of change that is happening to get people represented. Varying skin tone is very important to us, interracial couples, interracial same-sex couples. Major greeting card companies would make you choose—either you are interracial, or you are same sex.”
One design portrays a young boy with flowers in his hair sitting in a woman’s lap. Ramella says that one time when she was selling her cards at a farmers market, a young teenager stopped by, lingering on a print featuring the image of two grown men embracing. “He had his hand on it, like he wanted his parents to buy it for him, and they were off doing something else and said they would come back,” she says. “These were grown men on the card, and that seemed to mean something to him, I think, seeing this in print. Seeing who you are and the culture you live in makes you feel part of it.”