Carol Gardner didn’t set out to become a global success when she bought a four-month-old bulldog in 1997 after a divorce left her broke and depressed.
But after taking her lawyer’s advice to “get a therapist or a dog” she managed to trade her husband for a pet and a business was born.
In a bid to win some free dog food, the ex-advertising copywriter entered a Christmas card competition at her local pet shop, snapping a photo of her wrinkly dog in a bubble bath, wearing a Santa hat. She jokingly captioned it, “For Christmas I got a dog for my husband… good trade, huh?”.
The response was overwhelming and within just one year she had translated her photogenic bulldog and her witty words into one million greetings card sales and created her business Zelda Wisdom.
Today, at 72-years-old Carol and her almost £40 million company are still going strong and she’s even starting up another venture.
The inspirational entrepreneur told Lumity the joyful key to her success and shared a few tips for finding happiness later in life.
“No. I actually thought being 52 would help (and it did). With age comes experience and I think I was born an entrepreneur. As a child I was always creating writing and producing plays and starting small businesses. Maybe it made a difference that I was an only child and my parents encouraged my zest for entrepreneurship. No brothers to get in my way and I was raised gender free.”
“For a woman life should never be ‘downhill’. Being positive matters! It is important to take stock and determine what really makes you happy.
“When I had the rug pulled out from under me with my divorce, debt and depression, it was my divorce attorney, who, using a little humour, suggested I either needed a therapist or a dog.
“A light bulb clicked on in my head. I love dogs. They bring me both love and laughter. This was so positive, and became a real turning point for me.”
“Never, never give up. Never become a ‘victim.’ Victims are losers. Take stock: What makes you happy? What are you passionate about? What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning?
“There aren’t instant answers to these questions, but when you take stock, ideas and solutions are more likely to happen.
“When I ‘chose dog’ at first I didn’t think that
I was going to start a business based on that dog. But I found so much joy, love and laughter in my funky bulldog, Zelda, that creating a business based on her became the perfect solution.”
“By now, this won’t surprise you, but my dogs inspire me.
“Why do we love our dogs so much? Because they are always here for us. They are always there, waiting at the door.
“When friends and family come to visit I make a point of being at the door to let them know how important they are to me and how much I love them.
“My pooches, Zelda and MaxDaddy have inspired me with their unconditional love.”
“Humour. I enjoy people who can laugh at themselves. I smile with them and it reminds me that I will be happier and healthier if I can laugh at myself as well.
“It has been said that people often look like their dogs so that makes me laugh too. Gotta love those bulldog wrinkles.”
“My company, Zelda Wisdom, is going strong, but remember I love dogs. Recently I decided to adopt another rescue dog and MaxDaddy came into my life (and Zelda’s). Our story is best told on MaxDaddy’s website.
“MaxDaddy arrived with a lot of health issues and a bag full of prescription meds (Prozac, Rimadyl, etc.) He had severe joint pain and anxiety. I had been hearing about CBD, the naturally organic substance from the stem/stalk of the hemp plant. (Not to be confused with marijuana. Marijuana is extracted from the leaves of the hemp plant and produces a ‘high.’ CBD is extracted from the stem/ stalk and produces a calm as well as healthy benefits for joint pain, mobility, seizures, anxiety, inflammation, digestion, etc.)
“We hired Ph.D scientists and asked them to come up with a recipe using the best CBD available for canine products. Bingo. MaxDaddy has now become the CEO (Canine Executive Officer) of our company, and our products are helping dogs to lead healthy, happy, pain and anxiety free lives. This is my best treat!”
“I love it and repeat it to myself every morning when I wake up. Next year, hopefully the media catchphrase will be: “Carol Gardner is 73… and still promoting CBD!”
If you loved this, we also spoke to Jennifer Fisher who founded a wildly successful jewellery empire following a series of heartbreaking setbacks. Or read how one mum-of-two decided to create her own children’s books – despite everyone telling her that it would be impossible.