While out shopping for a wedding card for a gay friend, Jill Rulli got a wakeup call. There weren’t many.
Her frustration at the lack of options overshadowed all her celebratory feels. But Rulli is a veteran political operative — and if there’s one thing she’s learned, it’s that when things don’t go as planned, it’s time to strategize.
Fast-forward a few years, and Rulli, who once campaigned for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, is in business for herself. She runs her own greeting card company.
“Wifey and Wifey for Lifey” is among the sentiments you’ll find in her arsenal, along with “Love Wins” and a rainbow heart. She sells cards for people grieving their pets, cards for women who have miscarried, and cards for when “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay.”
Her company is called “The Thought,” and it’s not exactly Hallmark. Independent artists design the cards, and you can pay extra for a personalized, handwritten note.
If all that seems a long way from politics, it is. A self-described “moderate” Republican, Rulli spent years on the campaign trail for GOP candidates, but by the time Donald Trump took office, the political itch she once scratched had scarred.
“Ultimately I wasn’t comfortable answering for the decisions made by this White House … it’s that simple,” Rulli tells me.
Still, she can draw a line between her time as an operative and her new life as a greeting card guru. “One thing politics teaches you for sure is the value in maintaining and building relationships,” Rulli says, speaking by phone from her Manhattan apartment. “I wanted to do better.”
She got the campaign bug in 2004, while juggling volunteer duties on Johnny Isakson’s senatorial campaign with her studies at the University of Georgia.
In 2008, after a disappointing finish in the Iowa caucus made Mitt Romney’s first run at a presidency look bleak, she got a call from Isakson inviting her to work for him in Washington, D.C. She agreed to join his team as a staff assistant, because in his office, “everyone works their way up.”
After a year of balancing angry constituent calls and unloading box trucks at the Container Store to supplement her income, she was ready for another stint on the road. Her comeback tour began in 2009 as Chris Christie clinched a New Jersey governorship, saw her through a stunning special-election victory for Scott Brown in 2010, and ultimately brought her full-circle back to Mitt Romney’s second failed attempt at the Oval Office in 2012.
One of her last gigs in politics was as regional political director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee — but by then, with wall-to-wall coverage of Trump dominating the news cycle, she was ready to put a bow on her career.
“I looked up and said, ‘I don’t want to be associated with this,’” Rulli says.
Nearly a year and a half after launching her own business, Rulli says life outside of politics is “great.” A growing company keeps her too busy to watch the news, let alone be chained to it — and she’s not complaining.
“I admire the folks I know that are in politics who are fighting the good fight,” she says. But “if you get into politics to change the world … politics is but one way to do it.”
Another way to change the world, at least for Rulli, is to cut through the cloying sweetness of life’s special occasions.
“Dad, thanks for always being there when my life goes up in flames,” reads one Father’s Day card, complete with a picture of a fire extinguisher.
Another message from The Thought: “It might be God’s plan, but it’s perfectly okay to not be a fan of it.” (That one is designed by Little Lovelies Studio in New Bern, North Carolina.)
Careful perusing the cards in “Salty Language” category — they might be NSFW.
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