When Gina Flanagan’s daughter was having problems making friends in school, Gina took the matter into her own hands. The movie costume illustrator created beautiful and funny lunch cards for her daughter to read. Suddenly, her daughter began making friends and Gina had a newfound business: Kids Lunch Box Cards. Here’s her story:
What exactly is a costume illustrator?
I’m hired by the costume designer for big budget films. Usually, I’m needed when the movie is set in the past or in the future. With big budget films, the clothes are actually made, not shopped or rented. The costume designers will tell me what they’re thinking, and I also read the script to get a feel for the characters. I draw what the designer’s vision is. Once the costume is approved by the director, the design gets sent to the workroom to be made.
Which films have you worked on?
I’ve done a lot! Now with three daughters, I try not to take on too many films a year. I used to do 15 a year; now I only do two or three. As for films, I’ve done Batman Forever, Mr. Wrong, Galaxy Quest, Time Machine, Malcolm X, Father of the Bride, etc. I just finished The Book of Elah, and I illustrated for Madonna’s Girlie Show World Tour. It’s been tons of fun.
Tell me about how you started creating lunch cards for your daughter.
I think you never know if your kids are cool at school or not. My oldest daughter is a nice, sweet girl, but she was having an incredible amount of trouble making friends when she was in second grade. She would tell me how horrible it was; how she was all alone and no one would play with her. When the recess bell would ring, her heart would sink. She wondered if she would get to play with anyone. I would put her to bed at night and I would hear her crying.
Awww, that’s so sad.
It totally rocked me. She wanted me to sit with her at lunch time, and I did it twice. I knew that I couldn’t keep coming every day, though. So I thought, “Well, I write her a little lunch note telling her how much I love her.” I went online, to find a wacky story to go with the lunch note, thinking that it might make her laugh. For example, I found a story about how it rained fish in England and no one knew why. I would find these strange, true life tales or riddles, just something that would take up some time during her lunch hour. And since I’m an illustrator, I began making drawings to go with the cards.
I can see what’s coming.
And the lunch cards were a big hit. She loved the cards, and the kids would start coming around her. It would spark positive, fun conversation. Within three months, everything changed for her and she had made friends.
When did you realize that this could be an actual business?
It’s hard when you see two working parents who drop their kids off in the morning, and come around in the late afternoon to pick them up. One day, I saw this little boy clinging to his mother, and she was literally peeling him off of her. I thought to myself, “Maybe if he had a lunch card, maybe things would be better for him.” And that’s how it started. I printed one card, and said, “I’m putting this out into the universe and see what happens.”
That’s amazing. How did the universe respond?
Really well! I never went into this thinking, “This is my business and I’m going to make tons of money.” It’s truly a labor of love. If it makes money, that’s great. And it has. But my three girls are my first priority. Sometimes I’ll be playing Monopoly with my kids and I find myself eyeballing my office. I have to say to myself, “Stop it!”
[laughs] Such is the plight of every mompreneur.
It truly is. [laughs]
What is going on with Kids Lunch Box Cards today?
There are six lines with five cards per line. I just recently did a camp line, which was a lot of fun. Some of the cards have a scratch off, which kids LOVE. There’s a new lunch card in my monthly newsletter, which is free. We print in the United States, which I’m also very proud of. Our subscribers keep coming in, and the kids love it. I’m really happy doing this, and hopefully I’m making lunch time fun and easy for kids everywhere.