Danielle Macias never set out to be a stationery designer. Back in 2014, when she started her business, she was working full-time as a medical diagnostic scheduler and supporting her husband José through his 25-year prison sentence. They met as teenagers and married while José was incarcerated in Kern Valley State Prison, in California. Between visits, she wrote him love letters, decorating the envelopes and sheets of paper with simple designs. “I’m a horrible artist,” Danielle, 34, says. Still, a friend with whom she carpooled to the prison caught a glimpse of an envelope Danielle had prepared for José, 35. It was adorned with a cartoon image of a mailbox and the phrase “love letter” in a striking script. She asked Danielle where she had gotten this prison-specific piece of stationery, and Danielle told her she’d made it. She asked Danielle to make something similar for her, and True Blue Stationery was born.
“I didn’t go into this thinking I’d make a whole business out of my cards,” Danielle says, “but it took off pretty quickly.” She had tapped into a large and underserved customer base: There are more than 2 million people incarcerated in the United States, 93% of them men. And on the outside, there are millions more caring for them from afar, like Danielle.