At the age of 52, Carol Gardner was facing a divorce that left her with a huge debt, no job, no income, and depressed. A friend gave Carol some advice: “Get a therapist, or a dog.” Gardner chose the latter and bought a four-month-old English bulldog she named Zelda. Both were underdogs who needed a big dose of unconditional love.
Another friend who knew of Gardner’s financial plight told her about an annual Christmas card contest a local pet store was sponsoring. 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 the visual humor of Zelda along with Carol’s verbal wit and wisdom. Carol borrowed a Santa hat from a neighbor, filled the bathtub with bubble bath and lowered Zelda into the tub. With the hat on her head and a beard made from the bubbles, Zelda was the perfect Santa imposter. Carol snapped the photo and sent it off to the store with the one-liner: “For Christmas I got a dog for my husband . . . good trade, huh?” Six weeks later Zelda and Carol won the contest. She remembers asking Zelda if she’d be willing to share the dog chow!
Carol then sent the prize-winning image out as holiday cards to her friends. The overwhelming response sparked the creation of Zelda Wisdom.
Gardner started her company with 24 greeting cards in the middle of her living room. Within 6 months, over one million cards had been sold. Today Zelda Wisdom, Inc. is an international business with licensees around the world. The list of licensees is impressive: Hallmark, Russ Berrie, Andrews McMeel Publishing, Macmillan Publishing, Running Press/Perseus Books, American Greetings/Cardstore, Westland Giftware, Antioch Publishing, Micro Thin, The Paper Magic Group, Cookies by Cartier and more.
Zelda Wisdom products have been translated into many languages. According to The New York Times, Zelda Wisdom, Inc. annually generates over $50 million in sales. In 2006, Zelda cards were the #1 mass selling card line for Hallmark and now more than 600 different Zelda greeting cards are available through CardStore.com. Eleven Zelda books have been published, including a new series of children’s books.
Zelda, whose measurements are 32-32-32, allows us to laugh at ourselves and to recognize that things could be worse. “At the core of Zelda Wisdom is humor and healing,” says Gardner. “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.
Charles Gibson of Good Morning America calls Zelda “the industry’s top dog! . . . a supermodel who has it all!” Tough but tender, sweet but strong, Zelda has attitude. Zelda Wisdom allows us to laugh at ourselves and helps us realize that in life’s ups and down, we are never alone. There is a Zelda in all of us!
The Today Show, Good Morning America, the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Martha Stewart Show, CNN Live, CNBC’s Power Lunch, the FOX Good Morning Show are some of the television appearances Zelda and Carol have made.
Zelda and Carol also donate their time and talent to help nonprofit organizations like the Morris Animal Foundation’s campaign to find a cure for canine cancer. Zelda presently is the National Spokesdog for the American Humane Association and is working with them to produce and promote the Zelda/AHA Children's Hospital Initiative. Zelda and Carol also continue to work closely with the Banfield Charitable Trust’s Pet Peace of Mind project. The PPOM project keeps people in hospice together with their pets and provides permanent care for those pets. “Giving back is the true sign of success,” says Carol. “When Zelda can help someone start their day with a smile, we know we’re doing something right.”