For most of us, we will try on the different hats of many career platforms before finally stumbling upon where it feels we’re meant to be in life, doing what we’re supposed to do. Local Marysville citizen Andy Illyn is no exception to the norm. However, he’s found himself with a recent side business that he never quite expected for himself — making greeting cards.
“There aren’t many veteran, law enforcement, male greeting card proprietors out there!” said Andy of the uniqueness of his new business, Cardstalked, which has amassed about 80 cards designed by the current assistant chief at the Mukilteo Police Department.
Career Paths to Greeting Cards
Andy, who feels that he’s always shied away from conventional jobs due to his small-town upbringing, hasn’t always been with the police department but has always found himself drawn toward public service.
After graduation, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard, where he eventually found himself overseas in 2006. From there, he continued to explore works of public service, first battling wildfires in Oregon with the U.S. Forest Service during the summer while attending his local community college during the school year, pondering what field of study he should choose.
It was during the school year that he started training in Krav Maga at his local gym, eventually leading to him teaching adult Krav Maga and children’s karate. “This was hands down the coolest and one of the most rewarding jobs ever,” said Andy. “I got to play with nun-chucks and kids all day. But most rewarding was watching the transformation that I would see in children.”
Eventually, Andy transformed himself, and once he finished his degree online at the American Military University and obtained a Bachelor’s in Homeland Security, he set out on a new adventure to find work in law enforcement.
Fighting Off Stress While Fighting Off the Bad Guys
Andy has been in law enforcement for ten years now, and though catching the bad guys is rewarding, it’s a job that’s not without a lot of mental and emotional stress. A recent poll on the “Most Stressful Jobs in the U.S.” ranked law enforcement positions as the sixth most stressful job in the states one could have, right above the military ranked seventh for stress.
“I would use exercise, including Jiu Jitsu, for the longest time to unwind,” recalled Andy, who initially used this method to fight off the stress that came with his law enforcement career. However, like many others in his position, it would require more than just exercise to let go of work once it came time to clock out for the day.
“I had transitioned from patrol into detectives and noticed that I couldn’t stop thinking about cases on my days off,” he says. “Instead of spending time with my family, I would send work emails and answer phone calls from victims, and the compounding stress affected my sleep.”
Greeting Card Therapy
As time went on, it became evident to Andy that something more was needed.
“Working out helped with the physical stress,” recalls Andy. Nevertheless, something was still missing from his health regimen as the inner turmoil refused to let him go as soon as his shifts ended. “It didn’t help release any mental trauma that had accumulated over the years in the military, wildland firefighting, and law enforcement,” he shares.
Eventually, he found himself listening to Brené Brown’s book “Power of Vulnerability,” which touched on the human need to express creativity. With these words in his head, he went home and watched his young son draw. It was then that something inside Andy’s adult brain clicked.
“He didn’t care what his picture looked like. He was enjoying the process.,” Andy says. “I realized then that for most of us, by the time we become an adult, we have been taught to suppress our creativity.”
It was then that Andy realized, “I needed a creative therapeutic outlet, and making the cards has provided that.”
Therapy Turns into a Side Business
Surprisingly, greeting cards seemed like a natural outlet for Andy as he started exploring his creativity once again, this time as a full-fledged adult.
He had always had puns and sayings in his head, much to the dismay of his family and coworkers. It’s even how he met his wife when she was a waitress. “Every time she walked by, I used a stupid pickup line on her until she eventually gave me her phone number,” Andy reminisced over their first encounter. Many of these pickup lines, and the subsequent ones he used during their marriage, were converted into some of Cardstalked’s first greeting cards.
A full assortment of cards can now be found on the business’s main webpage, including cards for holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Christmas. A niche assortment of cards can also be found on his site that you definitely won’t find anywhere else, including fun children’s designs, rude birthday cards, and some that are a little more on the inappropriate side.
“I enjoy the ones where I show my personality the most and the pop-up cards,” said Andy, “There is something super satisfying about hearing someone laugh while reading the card or watching a kid’s face light up when a pop-up excavator appears.”
This light goes further with each card purchased from Andy and his Cardstalked greeting cards. A portion of the proceeds from each card purchased is donated to UNICEF to support children in Ukraine and Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County. He also sends free products to veteran groups such as Camp Hope or as raffle prizes for fundraisers.
It’s how he uses his cards to give back to others, just as the cards have given him so much in return.
For locals in the Snohomish County community, the fun cards can also be found at Leschi Market, Nugent’s Corner, What’s Bloomin Now Floral, Darrington RX, and Pharm-a-save Monroe. Andy hopes this list continues to grow as his card inventory expands.
Between family and work, Andy currently devotes one day a week to working on his card craft, but that’s alright with him as he plans to let the company evolve naturally.
“While this hasn’t made me a millionaire, it is the best thing I could have done for my mental health,” said Andy, who’s simply happy to be able to finally unwind once quitting time comes around.