Photo source: NBC News
Upon receiving the news of her mother's breast cancer diagnosis, teenager Jordan Phillips turned her passion into a business, selling sewn items to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Learning to sew
Jordan learned to sew when she was only five years old, after receiving a sewing machine for Christmas, and has been at it ever since. She notes, "right away, I just loved sewing." She mentions that her favorite items to make were quilts, skirts, stuffed animals, and pillows.
However, at the time she had no idea just how much the passion would help her, and others around the country.
When she learned about her mother's cancer in 2015, like any child would be, she was devastated. She was only eleven years old at the time. She explained the tight bond she had with her mother, "I would say we're best friends, definitely." She could hardly cope with the fear of losing her.
However, the process wasn't any easier for her mother, Nicole. She mentioned her constant worries, "what if I never get to see Jordan walk down the aisle? What if I never get to celebrate one more Christmas with them?"
To ease her sorrow, she turned to her lifelong hobby. She was able to get through the hardest time in her life because of sewing. "It kept me busy while she was fighting cancer," she explains, "I was sad and scared. I didn't know what to do. I just knew that I had to help in some way."
A young entrepreneur
However, this needed distraction became much more than just a therapeutic hobby. She began to sew cup sleeves and cozys, hoping purchases could raise money for breast cancer.
Don't know what cozys are? Jordan explains what they are and how she makes them, "it's made out of fabric and there's a little button on it and an elastic that hooks onto the button. That way it's adjustable too. It stretches more so that you can put it on larger cups."
She explained further about how she got started with the initiative, "I wanted to do whatever I could to pitch in while she was going through treatment, so I helped with my brothers, took on extra chores and did anything I could to help. When I found out the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was coming to Athens, Ohio, I thought I could do more for other people who have breast cancer, like my mom. So I pulled out the sewing machine I got for Christmas when I was five, found some leftover fabric sand started stitching fabric coffee cup holders to raise money for breast cancer research. I chose to sew the fabric coffee cup holders because I wanted to support my mom, and the cozys were the first idea that came to mind. I've probably sewn hundreds of cozys. Each cozy takes me around 7 minutes to sew when I'm going really fast." The process made her feel like she was finding a way, even at her young age, to support her mother.
While Jordan was hopeful, her mother was proud but realistic. She didn't think too much would come from the endeavor. She explained, "I said, 'sure honey, I'll put it on Facebook tonight. That would be nice.' Thinking it would be a one night thing." She made the post with the caption "my daughter is going to make a brilliant businesswoman someday, but today, she's simply the best daughter ever ... and a pretty great seamstress too! I hope you'll support her cause!" This message was combined with a link to donate to Susan G. Komen for a custom coffee sleeve.
She could hardly believe her eyes when overnight, orders came in from around the country.
Now, Jordan has managed to raise over $18,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation through her "Cozys for the Cure." Her initial goal? Earning $300 for breast cancer. She beat that goal within 24 hours of her mother posting her products on Facebook. Now, thanks to help from the foundation, her items are even being sold in Walmart.
While Jordan was always optimistic, even she could not imagine the massive success her line has experienced. She explains, "when I sold that first cozy I did not imagine this at all." However, it has taught her how important it is to follow dreams, even when they seem crazy. She says that the advice she would give to other young people would be, "never give up, because there will be times when it is difficult. Follow your craziest ideas and use them to make a difference."
Jordan and her mother decided that they had a very specific place that they wanted the money to be donated. An area in southeast Ohio has the highest rate of death from breast cancer in the United States, so their proceeds go to helping pay for mobile mammograms. Jordan explains why this is so important, "because sometimes they're scared to find out if they have cancer or not." However, Cozys For a Cure helps them to take that next step.
Now, Jordan's mother is cancer-free. She had a mastectomy, several reconstructive surgeries, and is now on Tamoxifen, but she is doing well. However, that does not mean Jordan will be giving up on her project quite yet. In fact, quite the opposite. While she may be safe with her mother, she does not want any child to have to endure the worry and pain that she did.
"I'd really just like to cure breast cancer forever and when that's done I'll figure out the next thing I'm gonna do," she explains.
Jordan's story is even going to be a part of a public service announcement with professional actors taking on the roles. It will even be shown on all American Airlines flights.
Others are inspired by the work she has done; in fact, a sewing machine shop called Blow's Sew-n-Vac in the area lets groups of girls come in to make the coffee cup holders. On August 23rd, they got together to make 250 cozys for a quilt show. The owner of the shop explained, "I do the easy part because we already do sewing machines; I just have to keep them running for them. People have donated fabric, because I'm clearly surrounded by a lot of quilters and seamstresses who have tons of fabric just lying around."
Many of these girls are Jordan's age, calling themselves "Jordan's Cozy Tribe." Lily Andrews is twelve years old and explained her desire to get involved, "when I hear that someone is in need of something, of course I want to do it." Anna Lien, also twelve, agrees and says, "I think sewing is fun and it's for a good cause."
Jordan and her friends have made a huge impact on the community, showing the power that young girls possess.
Cozys For a Cure
Are you interested in getting your hands on your own cozy for the cure? They are available at Blow's Sew-n-Vac in Fargo, where the girls make them, and NoPo Coffee Co. in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
To order online, or learn more about the cause, you can visit www.nicolejphillips.com.