Federal Employee Highlight: Becky Brown of Federalisms
In the days before COVID-19, you may recall signing and passing around an obligatory birthday or retirement card for your colleagues. Some are tongue-in-cheek, others just plain cringey. One Federal Employee had a unique idea: what if there were greeting cards tailored specifically to Feds?
Becky Brown has been a Federal Employee for almost twenty years, having started her service in 2003. After being in law school during 9/11, when she heard there would be a Department of Homeland Security, she knew she wanted to be part of it. “Although there have been some rough patches, which everyone has at work,” Brown says, “there is nowhere I would rather have been during this period of history.”
In her free time, Becky runs a business called Federalisms, a greeting card company created to fill a unique, but necessary, niche — greeting cards appropriate for the federal work force. “I am always the one in charge of procuring the greeting card for a team birthday or retirement, and the options at the corner drug store are never on point. The federal government is filled with so much experience, jargon, and practicality, and yet I always found myself face to face with cartoon animals in the greeting card aisle, or references that were inappropriate for work friends, for $7 or more,” Brown said.
Federalisms has two lines of cards. First, Occasion Cards (“From All of Us”), which are the larger of the two lines; they are colorful, and meant to be signed by the whole team. Next, the Every Day Cards are smaller, black and white, and created as a pick-me-up, or for someone with whom you have a closer connection.
“The font was really important to me,” she said. “I commissioned a former federal colleague who is incredibly creative to draw by hand a font that was a play on a typewriter style. It turned out just as I envisioned it, with just a touch of whimsy, and is immediately recognizable.”
The inspiration for Federalisms was born out of a humorous anecdote that many of those familiar with Federal service can relate to. “I was in a meeting at work, and a manager announced that one of her employees could now be found by a different last name in Outlook. Another manager assumed the employee had just gotten married and offered congratulations — but no, the wedding was 18 months before, and her name had finally caught up. We all laughed and someone said—jokingly—that there should be a greeting card to congratulate you for getting your name changed in Outlook. And I said—not jokingly—’Oh, there will be.’ And almost before the words were out of my mouth, I had tons of ideas for one-liners. I could even see the font and design in my mind. The name, Federalisms, came to me very soon after and I reserved the web address that night,” Brown remarked.
As for how Federalisms has been received so far, Brown is enjoying watching people discover her business. Many Feds remark how refreshing it is to see a card line dedicated to the sometimes-niche work that they are in. Many fellow Federal Employees also reach out with ideas for new cards.
When asked which of the more than 60 cards in print is her favorite, naturally, Brown has trouble choosing. “I love the cards that were prompted by something that actually happened to me, or someone actually said, that only someone in the federal government space would understand — that make people laugh out loud or totally identify with. Just a few of these include:
– You’re my SCIF
– You could even make a working group tolerable
– Your talents are wasted here (but please don’t leave)
I also love the birthday card with a FOIA redaction. It is so fun for me to fill orders – each order looks so fun to me to receive!”
WAEPA asked Brown what she defines as the core characteristics of Federal Service. “Commitment to service, flexibility, and perseverance. And for me, the ability to take a joke, which is how I distill and characterize having to roll with the punches and not take things personally.”
What is next for Federalisms?
“Before the pandemic and maximum telework hit, I planned to work on the next batch of cards, a few office supply prototypes, and maybe mugs or framed Federalisms for cubicles and offices. I was really looking forward to having a booth at a few conferences aimed at Feds, and holiday markets in Washington, DC,” Brown said. “I have to do some thinking about the changed marketplace, and what we buy for ourselves or as gifts for our colleagues. Many Feds won’t be back in their offices for many months. And so many cards are now ‘so 2019.’ But being a Fed will always be a connection we have with each other, and I will figure it out.”
To learn more about Federalisms, and see Becky’s greeting cards for Federal employees for yourself, visit federalisms.com.
This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.