A man living in Lincoln, who once sat in a bunker in Kuwait while missiles were being fired over, has launched a ‘Jolly Ginger’ greeting cards business that he hopes will become his full-time career when he leaves the Royal Air Force.
Stu Neilson, 40, is originally from Hereford and left there to join the RAF over 20 years ago as an Imagery Analyst, looking at images taken by aircraft and interpreting them. His time in the Air Force has included three years at RAF Digby and at his current base RAF Waddington, where he has so far been for 18 months.
His 10-year-old daughter Holly came up with the name for his new business — Jolly Ginger Cards — due to her father’s ginger hair and jolly nature.
Stu will run the business, which was launched in May and has a range of around 350 cards, alongside his wife Shelley, who is a civil servant. The couple have two daughters Holly and seven-year-old Sophie.
The A5 cards are priced at £3.49, which includes free delivery and a handwritten service for a personal touch – see the full range of cards here.
He told The Lincolnite he provides an “alternative to Moonpig” with cards that are “funny, a little bit rude, and designed to make people smile”, with his RAF experiences giving him a sense of determination to pursue his new business.
Stu has spent time in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait in 2003 and, most recently in RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.
During his time in Cyprus lockdown measures were imposed, including curfews and closure of open green spaces, gyms and shops.
This meant he had more free time, which he utilised productively to put his business idea for the test, creating a website and designed his first few cards before returning to the UK in April.
Stu is currently signed on to the RAF until 2036, but plans to leave at his 22 year point on January 31, 2023.
He said “Using humour as a coping mechanism is a huge part of the Armed Forces and was my inspiration for starting an online funny greetings card business.
“I think the sense of camaraderie is the backbone of the Armed Forces and whenever we find ourselves in difficult situations we have a laugh together and it helps get you through, and is something I’ll take away when I leave the RAF and use in my cards.
“When I looked at greetings cards around a year ago I didn’t find them very funny. A lot of my peers are in the military where there is a big sense of humour and I wanted to create my own.
“It is going great so far. The hardest thing is climbing up the Google ladder, but we are doing really well through social media referrals and word of mouth.
“This will be the ultimate dream to be able to work from home and have my own business and get the family life balance. During the COVID period I did some working from home and seeing that, and spending more nice family time, was a massive kick starter for the business.”