Indie Dadpreneurs: Meet Thirty Mussels

Published on: June 13, 2023

I’m Lee, age 48 and live in Cardiff with my 3 year old son Griff. I started Thirty Mussels and Cardshit in 2016 with my wife Emily, who sadly died last year of breast cancer. It’s important more now than ever to continue her legacy and grow our card business, as she loved the emotional power of greeting cards and the way they make people connect.

What gave you the idea of starting your own business?

I found myself often sending one liners to friends on birthdays and for certain occasions and the reaction was quite good (even though I do say so myself), so we thought it was a good idea to give it a go with cards – sending a sentiment that is a bit longer lasting than a text is quite meaningful.

Everyone likes to receive cards don’t they – the reward and feeling that someone is thinking of you means a lot. I love the fact that we create cards that offer the true sentiment whether that be heartfelt, cheeky or outrageously rude – it definitely makes someone smile!

How did you get started?

We came up with the captions and quotes and it just started there. With bright, bold colours and a good font – it does the job. We luckily knew of a fabulous designer who agreed to sort that side of the business and we started from there. We started slowly of course but like with many things, it grew organically and we were selling on a few different platforms.

We then moved into characters (a lot focused around our cat!) and a play on words and puns. We also looked at trends that were popular at the time and ran with them. They went down really well as trends can be so familiar with people.

When covid hit we managed to completely focus on our card business (as we both had other jobs). This was a massive time for us, we could really put all of our energy into creating new ideas and there were SO many covid-isms that sending it on a card worked really well. And let’s face it we couldn’t see anyone for so long so to send cards really meant a lot to people. Our customers seemed to enjoy the sentiment of writing a message and sending it on, especially if it was going to make someone smile.

What do you find special about designing cards for other parents?

Our aim is to create some new content with cards reflecting my situation about singles dads or championing dads who have been through a similar story and who may have lost their partner.

I find the whole process of designing and creating cards so important – it can mean so much. Cards can say 1000 things and as we say at Thirty Mussels, our cards are like giant hugs, squished flat, folded and put in envelopes. We do have to be ‘on it’ though! It’s a competitive market out there so to stand out is quite tough but you’ve got to go with your heart and create something special to you because then it’s bound to mean something to others too.

What are your favourite cards that you’ve designed & why?

I adore the Bear Hunt card (‘There’s no one I’d rather go on a Bear Hunt with’) as it’s such a popular book and a cute card from a kid to a dad. Griff obviously inspires a lot of my work and especially Fathers Day ones. It’s important for me to acknowledge the variety of families there are out there – single parents, widowed, those who want children but don’t – it’s important to cover it all. ‘Thanks for Letting Me be Me’ is also a fave as I love what it represents.

Do your children/family inspire your work?

All the time. We often have a constant stream of kids TV on in my house, Cocomelon, Peppa Pig (arghhhhh), and more (you know the drill).

My mates with older kids inspire some of the gaming and Tik Tok ones, and I love creating cards for family members, especially ones from teenagers to parents – you can be really cheeky and it hits the spot. I listen to family conversations and take sayings/funny-isms from them – whether it’s nagging, cheekily dissing them or general banter.

We used to have a ginger cat called Mr Meowgi so we created a whole collection around pets – including dogs. People love their animals don’t they and they’re definitely part of the family. I think there has been a big increase in the topic of pets on cards. They sell well.

Do you have any advice for other Dads thinking of starting their own business?

If you’ve got the itch you’ve got to scratch it. It’s worth a go otherwise you will never know. But never underestimate the hard work, the juggle and being strict with your time and family balance! That’s a lot isn’t it – but it’s also the best thing! I would say to just make sure you have a clear idea of how you want the business to work and if you’re willing to put the hard work in it will pay off.

What challenges do you face?

Having a full time job as well as my card business makes life somewhat busy (!) but I love it and to be honest, working to tight deadlines seems to really excite me, it drives me on to get designs created and completed – it’s such a buzz! I love being up against it, it actually helps with my creative process.

I’m lucky enough to have many great friends and family close by who help with Griff.

How do you get around the challenges?

By having a small village of absolute legends around me helping out with Griff’s childcare and also helping with anything that may need doing, is an absolute godsend. It does mean late nights or super early mornings but that’s the nature of family and work life hey.

What’s your creative process?

Keeping on top of trends is important as people want current. But you have to be so quick! Things change all the time. We have recently designed some Succession cards which is so relevant for today as people are loving the TV series and can always think of someone to send a card to if they’re a fan. It’s certainly not a 9-5 job – I find myself constantly thinking and dreaming cards sometimes – new quotes, sayings, ideas, colour ways, the susutainability angle – it’s all quite vast so as far as a creative process goes…it’s quite wild and spontaneous! Ideas come to me in the most random places.

Describe your typical work day…

With a bit of luck Griff sleeps through so we start the day with a spring in our step (a-hem, mostly), Griff goes off to mini Uni whilst I make my way into the office which maybe my home office or work office. All my card work is within my home office – it’s a work in progress with a few 100 cards constantly surrounding me, but that also drives me on! I will usually call for a catch up with Soph about our ‘to do’s’ for the week and then divvy out time for what I need to do. I am still learning to be strict with my time! I get easily distracted (‘popcorn brain’ I call it) so I have to focus on the job in hand.

See more of Thirty Mussels designs by browsing Thirty Mussels cards for all occasions!