Two alumnae carve a niche in the pop culture world

Photo/Rose Del Vecchio

Rose Del Vecchio (left) and Jenny Cheng

Rose Del Vecchio ’14 and Jenny Cheng ’14 have combined their love of pop culture, comic books and fantasy to start a business that empowers women and makes the pop culture world spring into action.

Last year, the duo co-founded FanMail, a subscription box service run out of Del Vecchio’s apartment in Philadelphia and her parents’ basement in Salem, New Hampshire.

Subscription boxes are one of the latest ways pop culture can stay connected to the world of action and adventure they love.

The concept involves receiving collectibles, limited edition merchandise, jewelry, t-shirts and other paraphernalia inside a package roughly the size of a shoebox each month in the mail.

But, unlike most other similar services, FanMail makes an effort to cater to women, who, in the past, have either been largely ignored by the comic book industry or portrayed with sexist imagery.

“A year in and we’re still going very strong and trying to find our niche,” said Del Vecchio, who earned her Masters in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of Vermont in May and is pursuing a career in higher education while simultaneously working on FanMail.

“We’ve found a community and it’s very cool,” Del Vecchio added. “Jenny and I decided from the very beginning that we wanted to make the books come to life, but that we also needed to make this world more accessible to women. I think that we concentrate on female characters in comics, television, movies, books, that we see as role models and represent diverse experiences as women.”

Del Vecchio and Cheng currently have thousands of subscribers. Each month, they work with female artists, writers and small business owners to curate and supply many of the products that go inside the FanMail boxes.

FanMail is catching on fast, too. In July, Del Vecchio and Cheng set up a booth at San Diego Comic Con – a Mecca for anyone that loves their superheroes and fantasy – and even participated in a panel called “Fangirls lead the way.”

San Diego Comic-Con attracts hundreds of thousands of people and vendors each year, many of whom were eager to connect with FanMail and meet Cheng and Del Vecchio for the first time.

“Being in San Diego this year was a lot of fun, but it’s overwhelming because of all that’s going on, it’s like sensory overload,” Del Vecchio said. “But it’s also one of the few times each year we can connect with our subscribers, particularly on the west coast.”

As FanMail gets more attention, Del Vecchio and Cheng’s work load increases.

Del Vecchio’s Philadelphia apartment is packed with boxes of inventory and she makes frequent trips home to New Hampshire, where there’s also an ocean of merchandise and where most of the shipping takes place.

“We take up a lot of space with our inventory and with building the actual FanMail boxes,” Del Vecchio said. “We source hundreds of items per month. It’s a lot of breaking down cardboard.”

Do Cheng and Del Vecchio complete all the orders by themselves?

“No,” Del Vecchio said. “I usually pull in family and friends – some of whom I lived with in my Ridgewood at Brandeis. It’s more fun when you’re not alone, you have a lot of nice conversations.”

The Brandeis alumnae are moving full speed ahead, one box at a time. They’re already transitioned to a bi-monthly subscription and are always excited to partner with more women.

“There’s more opportunity to have a diverse landscape in our content, which gives everyone better representation,” Del Vecchio said. “It’s great to work with brands that are owned by women, and we’re catching on a lot.”

Categories: Alumni, Business, Student Life

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