A mother-daughter duo fosters family, friendship and fellowship through their custom-designed playing cards, cups and napkins.
Written by Leslie Criss | Photos and Illustrations Provided by Foster
Kim and Frances Hackney have much more in common than a last name.
Combined, they have creative gifts galore and a desire to share them with others. To them, encourage, nurture, enlighten, strengthen and cherish are more than mere words. They have an affinity for their home state of Texas and a mighty soft spot in their hearts for Ole Miss, where each graduated but on different dates.
Kim and Frances put great emphasis on family and faith, and they share more than a smattering of DNA. The Hackneys are mother and daughter. They are also business partners and co-creators in their year-old company, Foster.
Frances’ older sister and roommate, Foster, tries to say the business is named after her, Frances said. But Foster is their mom’s maiden name. The youngest of the Hackney sisters is 18-year-old Charlotte who’s an errand-running intern for Foster. The girls’ dad and Kim’s husband, Joel, is a big fan of the business. His wife also said “he’s the biggest fan of Ole Miss who didn’t go to Ole Miss.”
“We wanted to start our business with a warm and welcoming name,” Kim said. “Foster brings up words like promote, encourage, include, fellowship, family — all things that mean a lot to us.”
Kim is 53 and graduated from Ole Miss in 1990. During her four years in Oxford, she worked at Oxford Floral. Daughter Frances, 23, is a 2020 graduate whose ceremony was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
About a year ago, Kim, an interior designer by profession, was searching for a new niche for her career. Frances was finishing up her degree in Integrated Marketing Communications with a specialization in Visual Design from the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, with a double minor in business and art. She’d also spent a summer studying at the Pratt Institute in New York City.
COVID had virtually shut down the world, but the mother-daughter duo opened their minds to come up with ideas for using their talents. In the brainstorming, the idea of playing cards surfaced.
“My mom said, ‘What if you did your art on cards?’” Frances said.
And the two set about to design a deck of playing cards embellished with paintings by Frances. Their beloved Oxford and Ole Miss became the subjects of their premiere project. The two sought ideas from the community and then chose 16 iconic images Frances would illustrate in living color and acrylic.
Among the paintings are Rowan Oak, the Lyceum, the Grove on game day, Trash Can Friday and a dozen more. There is a campus-themed deck of cards as well as an Oxford-themed version.
“We ordered 250 decks and sold out in two weeks,” Kim said. “The cards promote conversation. It’s like bringing a little piece of art into the palm of your hand.”
It takes Kim 70 to 80 hours total to produce the art for a deck of cards, and the images are also found on paper napkins and cups.
Provisions Oxford and Olive Juice, both in Oxford, carry Foster collegiate products. Missy Wilson, owner of Provisions, said so far the playing cards go in waves, but the cups and napkins sell quickly.
“I don’t have a lot in the store for guys, but the guys love some playing cards,” she said.
Olive Juice owner Erin Young has just marked 10 years for her business.
“We love Foster products,” she said. “As soon as we put the cards on social media last year, we started having calls from people who wanted them. The cards are so unique. We also carry the cocktail napkins and cups. The artwork is great.”
As word traveled about the Hackneys’ playing cards, it became clear they’d landed on something big. Other colleges wanted cards.
With help from an attorney, the women formed an LLC (Limited Liability Company), studied up on licensing and tweaked their business plan. And they’ve discovered they have a winning hand with their custom playing cards that foster memories and friendship.
They’ve designed and produced special card decks for a country club, weddings, other schools and a deck with 52 different images designed for the Rose Festival in Tyler, Texas. The two also created a Christmas line of cards, napkins and cups.
“There’s just so much meaning behind the cards,” Kim said. “And when a school officially licenses the playing cards, a portion of the proceeds returns to the school for scholarship fundings.”
While the artistic part of Foster may be the most fun, there are other tasks involved.
“There are so many details,” Frances said. “We do our own packaging and labeling; we get huge FedEx deliveries; and we have a backhouse in Tyler that’s overrun with cards, napkins and cups from where we do our shipping.
“But the compliments from people on our products mean a lot. When we see the meaning in our products for others it makes it easy to get up and work each day.”
Kim and Frances enjoy working together on Foster and say they rarely butt heads. But as much as they complement one another, the two Ole Miss graduates laud their old stomping grounds more.
“Oxford and Ole Miss were truly a great foundation for us,” Kim said. “Our time there was such a great four years for both of us; the skills and education we received continue to be invaluable in Foster. God just really had a plan for our business, and I think we are living it out right now.”