Worthington residents Jordan Cross, 12, and her sister, Jillian, 9, envisioned their nascent business, Cardinal Yard Cards, as a way to raise money for future trips with the International Field Studies and Worthington Field Studies programs, and it still is.
But since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic relegated everyone to conform to social-distancing measures and statewide stay-at-home orders, the girls’ business has taken on a greater meaning of sending positive messages and joy throughout the community, they said.
Both the Kilbourne Middle School seventh-grader and Evening Street Elementary third-grader said they are embracing the impact they are making throughout Worthington.
“It really took off after the pandemic,” Jordan said. “It’s been really good to know that we’re helping people get positivity during this time because that’s hard to find right now.
“Everything’s negative, so it’s hard sometimes to find some positivity – especially with kids getting their birthdays canceled, people not having celebrations. It feels good to know that we’re a part of maybe helping their day feel a little more special.”
“It feels really good (to spread positivity) because some kids might not know what’s going on right now, and they may be like, ‘Why is my birthday party canceled?’ ” Jillian said. “It feels really good to put a smile on their face.”
Cardinal Yard Cards is an outdoor-greeting and yard-sign-rental company from which customers may rent personalized messages displayed through environmentally friendly signs on their property for 24 hours – or longer for an extra fee.
Lesley Cross, the girls’ mother, said popular sign orders have included birthdays, anniversaries and welcomes to people coming home from the hospital.
As a recent example, Worthington resident Kathy McKnight ordered a birthday message for her 97-year-old mother, Naomi Smith, who lives at Wesley Glen Retirement Community, 5155 N. High St. in Clintonville. Residents have been prohibited from having visitors because of a state order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, so McKnight chose the signs as a way to celebrate April 20.
“They were wonderful and really nice to work with,” McKnight said of the girls. “My mother seemed to really enjoy it.”
Cross said the girls started their business in early fall and were averaging three or four orders per month.
“We thought, ‘Hey, that’s pretty good!’ ” she said. “That’s great, we’re happy with that.”
But since the pandemic began, business has been booming.
Cardinal Yard Cards has been averaging four to six orders per night, Cross said. On April 18, the company placed its 130th sign since the statewide lockdown began in late March.
“It’s been a lot of fun, but with this pandemic, it’s blown up,” she said. “I’m incredibly proud of them. It’s been a lot of fun to see their growth and just the support the community has given them has been outstanding.”
The girls have had some memorable orders over the past few weeks.
Jordan said one of her favorites was the birthday message for McKnight’s mother at the Wesley Glen Retirement Community.
“It felt good to know we were helping the grandkids communicate with their grandmother in a way,” Jordan said.
“That made me feel really good, especially because grandmas can’t see their grandkids right now,” Jillian said.
Jillian said one of her other favorite moments was when the girls displayed a welcome-home sign for a little boy who had just returned home from the hospital, where he was receiving treatment for cancer.
“That made me really happy, because he had just come home and he was in there for awhile,” she said.
Although their mother drives them to their order destinations and assists them with tasks as needed, the girls have a primary hands-on role with much of their company’s responsibilities. This includes setting up, retrieving and storing letters, as well as customer service, marketing and invoices.
“It’s not only setting up the signs – there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff,” Jordan said.
Both girls said they are eyeing business ownership and management in their futures, and being involved with a business at such a young age is providing them with legitimate experience.
“We’re learning entrepreneurship, which I think is a really big one,” Jordan said. “And we’re also learning how to provide good customer service and how to communicate with adults. Before this, I was pretty shy around adults and people older than me. But now I’m communicating every day, sending emails out, which is really good.”
“I really like learning how to run a business so I can be strong and independent when I’m older, but I like working together as a family and doing it,” Jillian said.
With the exponential increase in business, the girls have hit an initial fundraising goal of $10,000.
Cross said Jordan already has raised enough money for four trips for her field-studies trips through 2025 and Jillian through 2029. The nonprofit-run trips are opportunities for students to travel to places around the country and the world to experience hands-on learning in such subjects as science, history, culture and the arts.
Additional funds will be deposited into IRAs for the girls, she said.
But the girls also donate a portion of their earnings to a nonprofit organization each month. In April, Jillian donated to the Worthington Resource Pantry and Jordan donated to International Field Studies.
“That’s a huge part of what I want the kids to understand,” Cross said. “Yes, this is a great business model for them, but how are they helping people to feel joy through the hard times? How are they seeing positivity?”
Cardinal Yard Cards offers birthday greetings for $75, custom greetings for $85 and quick messages for $50. Customers may purchase an extra day with the messages for $25.
Signs are set up the night prior to the desired date, and they are collected the following evening.
Currently, the business distributes signs only within a 5-mile radius, which is displayed in a map on its website.
For more information, go to cardinalyardcards.com.