AUSTIN - Fighting cancer of any type can be difficult to handle for everyone involved. So when one Austin woman found out her mother had breast cancer, she decided to not only support her -- but to create a thriving business in the process, all in honor of her mom.
Stephanie Hansen has been the entrepreneur-type for as long as she can remember.
"I graduated from Texas in 2009 with a degree in marketing and a minor in advertising."
Two years after graduation, however, as she was working full time, Stephanie got a phone call from her mom -- Susan Hansen -- as she told her daughter she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
"It was tough because you don't expect to have that news," Susan said. "Nobody thinks they are going to go for their mammogram and be called back two or three times."
"When your mom tells you she has breast cancer, it's a punch to the gut," Stephanie said. "You're trying to be brave on the phone, 'Oh, everything will be OK,' but then you get off the phone and you say, 'What do I do?'"
But that word -- brave -- it stuck with Stephanie.
"I was actually driving home one week after she told me of the diagnosis," Stephanie said. "I was driving home to Houston to see her and thought, 'Oh, Bravelets! That works!'"
Bravelets would be her company, as she planned to sell bracelets with "be brave" on them. Initially, she started working on Bravelets part-time while she continued with her full-time job at the time.
"I would get off work, I would get home, answer customer service emails and then on my way to work the next morning, I would dump them off in one of those blue bins."
When she started working on it part-time in 2012, Stephanie made bracelets out of 10 colors, supporting 10 causes.
"I was working full-time and then at night, I always say from 10:00 at night to 2:00 in the morning, I would do Bravelets," Stephanie said.
Early on, Stephanie said the non-profit organizations and charities didn't always know about her business.
"A charity would say, 'Hey, I just got this check in the mail, 'Who are you?'" Stephanie said.
After about six months of working on Bravelets, she decided to bring in some other parts, getting help with outsourcing and customer service.
Then in 2015, after Stephanie's mom had a successful mastectomy years back, she received more troubling news.
"It was kind of like Déjà vu," Susan said.
She had breast cancer again, on the other side. However, she continued to fight.
"She just takes everything with a smile on her face," Stephanie said. "I can see her on the hospital bed, going in, smiling and just laughing. She was cracking jokes with all the nurses. My mom is the most optimistic person I know."
So while Susan eventually became cancer free a second time, her daughter's business started to grow. Mallory Ashwander is the lead creative director at Bravelets, as Stephanie brought her onto the team in 2015. She said she couldn't have found a better cause to support.
"It's really fun getting to hear why people buy Bravelets and why they connect with it so much," Ashwander said. "I think that the "Be Brave" sentiment really resonates with a lot of people. We get to help people in a lot of different capacities, which I think is really special about our group."
This past August, Sauceda Industries entered the picture, a distributing service company that helps businesses grow by offering a place to store and ship items. Ross Epperly is the chief operating officer for Sauceda Industries and said it was an easy decision to support Bracelets.
"We provide economies of scale that sometimes small businesses can't really reach," Epperly said. "You can see the difference Bravelets has on people."
So a business that once backed 10 charities and nonprofits is now supporting more than 4000, both big and small. Bravelets has also sold close to 300,000 bracelets nationwide and raised about $2.6 million for all their charities.
"It's not just the numbers," Stephanie said. "It's the people and how many lives you've touched."
"I never gave up with my cancer and Stephanie's never given up with Bravelets," Susan said. "Whether you're an entrepreneur or surviving an illness or just figuring out your daily life, you just never give up because something good will come around the corner."
To learn more about Sauceda Industries, you can click here.
To learn more about Bravelets, you can click here.
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