Comfort and young entrepreneurs

Ever hold onto a pillow or a stuffed animal looking for something comforting? That soothing feeling? Where you are looking for the feeling that lets your shoulders come down from your ears a little and the tension in your neck relaxes a little. Its because you like hugs, like Olaf from Frozen, you like warm hugs.

We stumbled upon an idea for a pillow. It was a pin cushion, we saw it online and we figured it would be comfortable as a full sized throw pillow. We got to work. We knew what we wanted to make and why. This project was likely to be finished!

I have been a part of scale up projects, from lab scale to pilot plant to full production. This was one of those times where there was no issue with scale up. None at all, we took it from hand held pin cushion size, in an image, to about 20 inches in diameter in physical form. Nothing went wrong, it was cool to be a part of a scale up without any unplanned opportunity. We made one for each of us, 5 in total. All wildly different fabrics and stuffing level. We were happy with them!

We saw in a local magazine that there was a mini makers fair about 4 months away. So we decided to make some star pillows for the fair. We scaled up the product, now we were scaling up production. We knew the time we had and what we wanted to accomplish and divided the work up accordingly, both by person and by week. We even allowed time for a family vacation!

It as nice to have a job where we could see our very tangible progress, there is something very satisfying about seeing a pile of fabric and bags of stuffing turn into a pile of finished pillows. We even shortened our time to make the pillows because we were approaching marching band season (other people call it football season) and our high schooler, 20% of the workforce, is part of the band.

We all had a star pillows made before we knew anything about cancer coming into our lives. It is great for hugging, for putting under your head and supporting your neck. It is great for putting between your knees while sleeping. It is both comfortable and just all around comforting. That is how we were going to sell it at the fair “Comfort Star Pillow”.

Meanwhile, the first step after diagnosis for my situation was mastectomy. I was very worried about being hurt by the seat belt in the car and when I coughed or sneezed. Of all the things to be worried about, it is strange what makes the radar during a critical time. This made my radar for some reason. I will talk about the refrigerator in another blog.

It turns out the star pillow, being three dimensional was perfect for both. The grooves between the rays of the stars fit the seat belt nicely and the shape was perfect for my torso, no worries at all. My husband never jammed on the breaks, I cannot tell you if it will protect from that, but it did help with pot holes, railroad tracks and other less than perfectly paved roads to keep the belt from tugging and rubbing me the wrong way. It was the perfect shape for coughing and sneezing too. It helped stabilize my torso and chest from such a violent bodily movement. This pillow did the job nicely, very nicely.

The fair was about two weeks post mastectomy, since all of the pillows were made in advance and this was something they were really looking forward to, we decided to attend to try to keep some normal in our lives and maybe a little fun. Normal and fun are something to be prized during the runaway train of an adventure called cancer.

Oh my goodness, the girls had so much fun at the fair–it was great. They learned how to speak with people they didn’t know. They learned how to talk about something they cared about with strangers, without stranger danger. They all developed their own little elevator speech. They learned the difference between being authentic and being inauthentic. I was pleased to see them learn quickly that authentic is way more likely to be rewarded with a sale. I am hoping they learn to be authentic individuals without a reward, but for now, the reward was nice.

We made everyone who came up to the table hug the pillows. It was great, they all experienced that moment where their shoulders went down just a little, and they closed their eyes and smiled. Every single person that hugged the pillow had that reaction. I wish I had a camera to take a picture of all of their faces. It was good therapy for me to see everyone react that way. We sold quite a few of the pillows. It was crazy!

We decided that we would do it again in 2020 and made a bunch of pillows in anticipation over the course of the year. Again following a plan with an informed division of labor instead of a best guess. We had a good time making them Unfortunately, the mini maker fair was the same day as a band competition. We have 13 pillows waiting for people to love them as much as we do! This time we put pockets on them with a little heart for essential oils to get a little aromatherapy along with the snuggle therapy. We put a Survivor Sherpa label on them, directing people to the survivor-sherpa.com site. Some of the pillows have rays made from pink ribbon fabric. All of the proceeds are intended to support the mission of Survivor Sherpa!

The girls have a great entrepreneurial spirit as well as a great desire to help the community, it was their idea to have the pillows support Survivor Sherpa. You can too, https://www.supportful.com/survivorsherpa . I am amazed at all of the things they learned and applied along the way. I was amazed how excited they were to turn an idea into reality and then grow the reality into something bigger than we imagined at first. All from the desire to have something that gives you a little comfort while hugging it.

Published by survivorsherpa

I am a wife and mother to three daughters, a chemist and a breast cancer survivor. I would very much like to help others by caring and advocating for them while sharing my experiences and tips that may help to thrive during and after treatment.

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