August 19, 2021
Meet Kind & Funny, MCA Denver’s New Shop Maker
Introducing Kind & Funny, a maker the world needs all the time, but especially after the past year we experienced and the present moment we find ourselves in. Kind & Funny believes in the power of kindness, and not just kindness as individual gestures, but as an integral part of making the world a better place for everyone. They fuse together hilarious quips with an ingenious approach to gift-giving to produce one-of-a-kind compliment ribbons that’ll make you laugh, grin from ear to ear, and love harder.
We chatted with Kelly O’Connell, the brain behind the brand that we loved instantly, to learn more about the inspiration for the brand and the art of being kind and funny.
We typically associate ribbons with awards or as an object that marks a victory of some kind. Why did you choose ribbons to get your message across?
Great question! I love the nostalgia of ribbons and the democratization of awarding ribbons. I remember growing up doing Field Day at school every year and whether I won the race or not, everybody got a ribbon! Obviously there were ribbons for first place and second place, but also there were ribbons awarded for best attitude and coolest strut, and everyone walked out of Field Day feeling AWESOME, on-top-of-the-world, empowered, and just plain happy!
That’s what I wanted to capture with Kind & Funny. I wanted adults to tap back into that childlike joy when giving a Kind & Funny ribbon to their friend, and also that elation of receiving one.
This project came to fruition during an incredibly difficult time in our history as a country and in all of our lives on a global scale. Did you feel a sense of urgency to create Kind & Funny because of everything we’ve been through collectively?
Absolutely! This concept was 100% conceived of all that was 2020 and beyond. After so much doom scrolling, months of living in fear of the worldwide pandemic, seeing the social injustices of the world, and frankly feeling inadequate to make any kind of substantive change, I was constantly questioning “What can I possibly do to make this world a little bit nicer?”
Looking at the big picture was overwhelming for me, so I started to break it down into manageable steps I could make in my daily life to make a small difference in my little circle of the universe. I started telling the people in my life what they meant to me. Texting friends how their ability to pull off mom jeans was something to be celebrated or Slacking coworkers how much I appreciate their work ethic and admired how much they loved their cats. And it was in that practice of gratitude where I thought, “Hey, what if the whole world started being kind and funny and appreciative and vulnerable with each other? Could that actually create just a little bit of meaningful change?” It was the realization that every single person in the entire world has the ability to be kind that sparked something in me. That was the inception point of Kind & Funny.
The combination of kindness and humor is powerful. Oftentimes, humor is at the expense of another, and we don’t necessarily associate kindness with comedy. How did you arrive at this idea that fuses these two together?
I think being vulnerable is hard. Being honest with our feelings is scary. So when thinking about Kind & Funny I thought that incorporating humor into these simple acts of kindness and gratitude would help break down that wall and eliminate some of that fear. I also think by adding some funny into the kindness creates a more memorable compliment.
Like, I will never forget this one time at a party this person complimented my husband for looking like Val Kilmer. It was so hilarious and somewhat vague. We were like, “Is he talking about Top Gun Val Kilmer? Tombstone Val Kilmer? Willow?” So it sparked this fun conversation with a stranger where we ended up going down a Val Kilmer rabbit hole, analyzing his film career, and ultimately it ended up being such a silly but very memorable moment.
Give our gift givers and giftees a few ideas. How might the gift giver present the ribbon to the giftee … perhaps a bottle of wine? And how might the giftee style the ribbon in their home or workspace after they’ve received it?
I’ve gifted ribbons to friends draped over a bottle of wine, as a bookmark in a gifted book, or placed inside a greeting card. I’ve even framed a ribbon to make it extra-special desk decor. I’ve seen people hang their ribbons in their office cubicles, on bathroom mirrors, on their bar carts, and on their plant display shelves.
Basically, there is no wrong way to give or display a gifted ribbon because they are versatile enough to accommodate anybody’s vibe!
How do you come up with the hilarious, completely relatable quips featured on each ribbon? Are they inspired by people in your life?
Yes!! Many of them are based on real compliments I’ve given people or people have given me! Like my friend Alyssa—she’s that memorable plant person in my life. She names her beloved plants, she Instagrams them, she sings to them, and her love for her plants is something I love about her! And I wanted to celebrate her for that. That’s where my Plant Wizard Ribbon compliment came from because we all have Alyssa’s in our lives, right?
What is your hope for Kind & Funny, and your hope for the recipients of one of your compliment ribbons?
Wouldn't this be cool? Someone gives their friend a ribbon that says,"Pretty much the best person I know. At least in the top 3." Both of those people feel happy and empowered, so they practice a little more gratitude to a few more people, and soon it spreads as an antidote to all of the meanness and anger that we see out there on the internet, and in conversation, and in social injustice, and little by little kindness becomes this superpower we all have access to that we can use to create meaningful change for our planet.
Can you share a time in your life that you experienced an act of kindness or a moment of levity that has stuck with you?
As a person who seriously believes in the power of kindness, I try to take note and acknowledge whenever these small moments take place because I think they are magical. From a friendly interaction with a barista to hearing a stranger compliment my kicks, these moments make a difference. It’s simple things like every time I spend time with my parents, who live about 20 minutes away from me, my dad will ALWAYS text me within an hour of me leaving with how much he loves hanging out and how much he treasures our relationship. We could have spent the day doing literally nothing, and I still get that text. And wow. It’s such a small gesture, but every time I get it, I am moved. I try to make those moments happen for other people and pass on the power of kindness, because I do believe it’s those kinds of expressions of love that are within our power to change the world.