Impact Stories

Donation to Forté Features Diversity in Everyday Items

Taylor Swift writes handwritten notes to her 500 employees, acknowledging their contributions to her success. While we all can’t be Taylor Swift, we all can take the time to show appreciation to recruiters, mentors, and other meaningful people in our lives with a thoughtful, handwritten card.  

Thanks to Asha Banks, founder of CheerNotes, attendees of Forté’s Boston Executive Women’s Salon on May 14 will have an easier time doing just that. Asha’s greeting card company is donating a set of flat note cards to each Salon attendee but, as Asha says, “CheerNotes isn’t just about stationery, and it’s more than a business – it’s also a mission. 

Featuring BIPOC Experiences in Everyday Items 

CheerNotes features the work of BIPOC artists and depicts their unique experiences. Before starting the business in 2020, Asha Banks rarely found what she was looking for while shopping for greeting cards for family and friends. Like many Black women, Asha did not see herself or her life experiences represented in many everyday items, including stationery.  

Asha’s goal for CheerNotes is “to amplify independent artists from diverse backgrounds who bring authentic voices and unique artistic perspectives so that more people feel seen while they shop for themselves and their loved ones,” she explains. 

A Natural Alliance with Forté’s Mission 

Asha chose to donate to Forté, in part, because she sees a natural connection between her company’s values and those of Forté, and she supports Forté’s mission to “get more women leading.”  

Forté has been part of Asha’s entrepreneurial journey. When she was a Forté Fellow while an MBA student at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, she attended Forté’s MBA Women’s Leadership Conference.  Of the experience, she says, “It was particularly exciting to see workshops that were entrepreneurial focused because I was certainly in the minority when it came to working on my start-up full time after graduation,” she explains. Asha was also able to connect with other entrepreneurs during the conference.  

“Encouragement and community are so important when you are driving change, especially as a leader. I believe in what Forté stands for and the impact the organization has had for women like me, so this donation felt like a natural way to show my appreciation,” she explains. 

Expanding Opportunities for Diverse Artists 

This summer Asha is growing the company by launching an art licensing agency to help small, growing businesses and BIPOC artists expand their reach through designing stationery, lifestyle goods, and gifts. It’s a continuation of the work she has done with CheerNotes “to create connections, celebrate our diversity, and make sure no one has to search too hard to see themselves in the products they buy,” Asha explains.   

Regardless of what comes next, Asha says adaptability is key. It’s a concept she is familiar with. Although she studied engineering as an undergraduate, she pivoted to get her MBA because she was inclined to entrepreneurship. She grew up in what she calls a “MacGyver-type, do-it-yourself family” and, even while she was working full-time as an engineer, she says, “I always moonlighted, and my decision to earn my MBA was inspired by my desire to fully bet on myself and build a start-up full time.”  

We’re betting on Asha and CheerNotes, too.  


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