Beyond 40 Achievers

Beyond 40 Achiever: Carol Gardner

Carol Gardner knows how to keep laughing even when the chips are down. At 52, facing a divorce that left her with a huge debt, no job and no income, she followed a friend’s advice and bought a four-month-old English bulldog she named Zelda.

Knowing Carol’s financial plight, a friend told her about an annual Christmas card contest where the winner would receive forty pounds of free dog food every month for a year. Carol used her background as a creative director in advertising to combine a visual of Zelda with the line “For Christmas, I got a dog for my husband — good trade, huh?”

It turned out to be a very good trade. Zelda and Carol won the contest. Carol sent the prize-winning image out as holiday cards to all of her friends. The overwhelming response sparked the creation of Zelda Wisdom.

She always makes me laugh. Zelda and I started out as underdogs, but we are proof that you don’t have to be thin, rich, young or wrinkle-free to be successful. More importantly, you don’t have to be perfect.

Starting her company with 24 greeting cards in the middle of her living room, today Zelda Wisdom, Inc. is an international business with licensees around the world including Hallmark, Russ Berrie, Macmillan Publishing, American Greetings/Cardstore, Cookies by Cartier and more.

There are now 11 Zelda Wisdom books, several children’s stories, 600 different greeting cards, and yearly revenue of over five million dollars. Zelda cards are the number one selling card-line for Hallmark. Carol and Zelda support and work with the American Humane Society, the Morris Animal Foundation, Pet Partners and other animal advocacies.

I actually have five life lessons that I love to tell people about: identify what you like to do, think outside of your cage, dare to be different, check out the competition, and always leap and a net will catch you. These five lessons are pretty good lessons to follow for all of life.

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