written by Laura A. Brown | PHOTOS PROVIDED
Chatting with Ashley, it becomes clear that her childhood exposure to southern United States culture instilled in her a great appreciative awareness of sincere social etiquette. So, when Ashley’s Southern home-grown values faced new challenges upon settling her family in upstate New York, a hole in the market was realized. Ultimately, the efficiency and elevated pace of her new home foregrounded a need; quality stationery that would allow her children’s developing fine motor skills a chance to fit “Dear grandma” on a single card. Ashley then combined her talent for aesthetics and love of good manners to make Coral & Blue Paper Co., where the simple guidelines, graphics, and space for original artwork awaits eager children. The stationery speaks for itself as a high-end product locally sourced from concept right down to the Mohawk Paper it is created on. Reflecting on the elegant design, Ashley says, “I wanted something sort of timeless that reminds people of before the digital era. I really wanted people to harken back to a time that predates digital. So doing a silhouette of a kid to me is old fashioned and traditional and timeless. But also, I wanted them to be fun for kids!”
“We need to connect to our neighbors. Despite our political opinions, as Christians it’s part of our job to just get back to that human connection. We need to operate above the media and politicians. This place where we are connecting as humans again.”
Enter Coral & Blue, its impressive, sophisticated stationery, and the woman who then took it a step further… much further.
"Coral & Blue is not just a small stationery business in the United States. It's also a non-profit program that serves children in Burundi, Africa." Three years ago, Ashley met a teacher from Burundi and sent a small box of Coral & Blue stationery as a gift to his students. She had them custom-made in their native language. Instead of the front of each card saying, "Thank You," they read, "Urakoze Cane," which translates to, "Thank you very much," in Burundi. She couldn't have imagined what would happen after that. The kids began using them for many types of classroom activities including reading, writing, drawing, letter writing and public speaking. It became an academic program that has spread from the capital city of Bujambura. To the entire country, including the rural regions, and now serves as schooling for over 5,000 children. What's especially meaningful is that it's helping kids with trauma in this war-torn and poverty stricken region. Much of her stationery profits go to Burundi where she also helps purchase school supplies, food, clothing, and is currently helping to build an orphanage.