Zelda Wisdom

By on June 6, 2011

Greeting Cards, Calendars, and Books With Humorous One-Liners

By Sibyl White –

Divorced and living on four credit cards with two broken legs. It may sound like a dramatic movie made for the big screen, but it was Carol Gardner’s life when she started her business. Her divorce attorney suggested that she either get a therapist or get a dog, and since she preferred to laugh rather than cry, she chose the dog.

Carol admits, “I needed love and laughter while Zelda, my adorable English bulldog, just needed love. Zelda made me laugh.” Not only does Zelda pose for greeting cards, calendars, figurines, cookies, and even bank checks; but, she has also appeared on shows like Oprah Winfrey, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Martha Stewart, CNBC’s Power Lunch, CNN, FOX, and National Geographic.

When they aren’t in the studio photographing, Team Zelda and Zelda work with children who have learning disabilities. Team Zelda is also involved with the Pet Peace of Mind Project (PPOM). The PPOM project’s goal is to keep people who are in hospice together with their pets.

After finding Zelda, how did you start the business?

A friend of mine told me about a Christmas card contest being held at a local pet store. I borrowed a Santa hat and placed Zelda in a tub with bubble bath. With the hat on Zelda’s head and the bubbles as a beard, I took the photo and added the one-liner: “For Christmas I got a dog for my husband…good trade, huh?” We won the contest. I sent it out to my friends as a card, and the response was overwhelming.  That’s where it started.

Following a successful greeting card launch at the National Stationery Show, we signed a licensing contract with Portal Publications (they discovered the famous “baby” photographer Anne Geddes). We were with Portal for three years. Later we signed a licensing agreement with Hallmark and soon became their number one selling mass card line.

Several years ago, when I was writing the book, Bumper Sticker Wisdom, I met an incredible photographer named Shane Young. He’s an extraordinary genius with an amazing eye. His photographic skills have made a huge difference in the success of ZW. We’ve worked together thirteen years.

In keeping with the new computer-driven generation, people can now find and send Zelda paper greeting cards via American Greetings at www.cardstore.com. CardStore carries over 500 different Zelda greeting cards, uses high quality paper, and mails the cards for their customers for less than one generally pays for greeting cards in retail stores.

Did you write a business plan?
Yes, I wrote a detailed business plan. A good business plan is extremely important. To write a good business plan one first needs to take stock and find a solution; a business plan can then follow. I did a lot of research on the greeting card industry. My business plan even included book titles for the books that I wanted to do in the future and charities I wanted to help. It is critical to know your competition and then do something that will make your company better. Zelda Wisdom’s business plan included my three criteria for business success. Make sure your business is “daring, different, and smart.”

You said your biggest challenge was money. What was your first big success?
Actually Zelda Wisdom’s success happened quickly. The first identifiable success was being licensed by Portal Publications. This was followed immediately with an appearance on Good Morning America where Zelda exchanged licks and kisses with Diane Sawyer. A double whammy startup success!

How do you market your business?
We started with a great PR person, Sandi Serling of Serling and Associates. Everyone loves Sandi, and she was able to successfully pitch and hitch Zelda to a lot of media like Oprah and Good Morning America. Now we are also taking advantage of the social media—Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and YouTube.

Are there any inspiring stories from customers?
One of our goals is that Zelda images and products will help people through tough times. Here are two examples of inspiring stories from Zelda customers.

A while back we received an email in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina from an ER nurse. She was at the hospital when the hurricane struck, so she wasn’t able to go home until the storm subsided. When she finally could go home, she discovered that her brick house had been leveled. The only thing that survived intact was a Zelda figurine that had the one-liner, “Going through hell?… keep going!” printed on it. She held onto the figurine, and when she received a FEMA trailer, she kept the Zelda figurine by her door. She would pet it each day on her way to work and said it gave her the will to move ahead.

Another heart-melting story—The daughter of a terminally ill man who was in a coma bought a Zelda angel figurine. Its quote was “They sent me… the other angels were busy.” The man’s daughter placed it on his chest, and when he came out of the coma, he looked at it, read it, and laughed. When he passed away, they buried the figurine with him.

Is there anything you want to add to your story or to help others in the startup phase?
Concentrate on what you’re good at and what makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning. I knew my strength wasn’t in managing a greeting card company or becoming a ballerina.  Team Zelda’s strength is its creative ability to generate ideas.

Sibyl White has worked for large corporations such as Mary Kay Cosmetics; Walt Disney Studios including Hollywood Pictures; and DreamWorks Studios.  She also spent 12 years working for small startup companies including a small businesses incubator.  Her experience lies in human resources, media & public relations, marketing & promotions and office management. She has seen the best and worst of both large and small companies and hopes now to take that knowledge and help others follow their own unique path. She now lives near Nashville, Tennessee with her dysfunctional adopted dog, Lexie.  She spends her free time as a volunteer at a therapeutic riding program for disabled children. She would also like to start a program for kids in foster care and help them find and follow their passion in life.

Sibyl White
http://www.rockyourownworld.com/
[email protected]

About Sibyl White

Sibyl White has worked for large corporations such as Mary Kay Cosmetics; Walt Disney Studios including Hollywood Pictures; and DreamWorks Studios. She also spent 12 years working for small startup companies including a small businesses incubator. Her experience lies in human resources, media & public relations, marketing & promotions and office management. She has seen the best and worst of both large and small companies and hopes now to take that knowledge and help others follow their own unique path. She now lives near Nashville, Tennessee with her dysfunctional adopted dog, Lexie. She spends her free time as a volunteer at a therapeutic riding program for disabled children. She would also like to start a program for kids in foster care and help them find and follow their passion in life.

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Zelda Wisdom