Tuesday 3 January 2012

Interview: Rachael Paden of Sjo Compassion

Today I have something a little different. This Etsy seller creates wonderful pieces
of jewellery and sells them at great prices - but it doesn't all go into her pocket.
She suffers from Sjogren's Syndrome, and donates her profits to Sjogren's
Syndrome Foundation and Compassion International. She is a very interesting and no
doubt wonderful person for what she does. It is definitely worth having a look in her shop
and with every purchase, you help someone, somewhere! She's even provided you lovely
people with a 25% discount in her shop until the end of January! Just use the code
BLOG25 to apply it at the checkout! ♥

1. When did you first start making jewellery, and why did you decide to start selling it?
My daughter Jessica and I began making jewelry together when she was about 12 years old. We did it for fun, and for gift giving. Jessica started selling jewelry when she was in college and continued after she became a teacher. She opened her Etsy shop (A Simple Kind of Fancy) back in the summer. I guess you could say she inspired me to give it a try.
I retired from teaching at the end of the 2009 school year. My Sjogren’s symptoms kept getting worse, and I finally had to give up the job I loved. Even though I knew I could no longer work outside the home, I wanted to do something that was of value. I decided to give jewelry design a try with an Etsy shop. I wanted to use it as an opportunity to give back. I named my Etsy shop Sjo Compassion. The name came from “Sjo” (pronounced “show”) from Sjogren’s, my disease, and Compassion from my favorite children’s charity, Compassion International.

2. You don't have to have made a hundred sales to be successful. Do you consider yourself successful?
Yes. I opened my shop in September. At first I did well selling to my friends and family members. In November I became too sick to make jewelry or promote my shop. So for two months I have been nonproductive. Unfortunately I missed out on the holiday opportunities. I plan on getting back on track by January 9. With Sjogren’s I have to be very careful not to get stressed because that makes my symptoms worse. I believe I tried to do too much in the beginning and that contributed to a flare-up of my disease. Even so I am very happy with what I have been able to do. Sjo Compassion raised $268.00 (US dollars) for the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation in 2011. I also was able to contribute $268.00 to Compassion International. As long as I am financially able to use my personal funds to buy supplies, I plan to continue to donate all my Sjo Compassion income to charity.

3. Have you always had a passion for crafting?
Yes. As a small child I loved crafting. My mother taught me to sew when I was in elementary school. I later took up needle work. When my children were little I smocked many of their clothes. I even did French hand sewing for a while. Once I returned to teaching I had to give up sewing. It was too time consuming.

4. What is your favourite piece that you've made, and why?
I made a pair of simple heart earrings out of clay that I love so much. I finally took them off my Etsy site because I didn’t want them to sell. I now wear the earrings almost every day.

5. When were you diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, and while I am familiar with the Spoon Theory, how much does it affect your crafting?
I found out in 2007, but the doctor that diagnosed me said I probably had had it for ten to fifteen years. I knew there was something wrong with me, and I kept going to doctors for help. My doctors didn’t know about Sjogren’s Syndrome. I could have been helped earlier and perhaps been able to continue teaching. It’s really sad that there are so many people like me who have to wait so long before finding the right diagnoses.

Crafting is actually easy and relaxing to me. It’s the business side of my Etsy shop that stresses me. Also I had a few special orders that I stressed over way too much. I have decided for at least now not to do any special order jobs. I have to put my health first. If I am too sick to craft, then I’m not helping anyone.

6. You also donate 50% of your proceeds to the Sjogren Foundation - what does the foundation do?
The foundation funds Sjogren’s research. It also supplies Sjogren’s Support Groups with educational materials. The Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation educates doctors as well as patients through their publications and conferences. They have a website (www.sjogrens.org) that helps patients and their families deal with Sjogren’s. Before I ship an item that is purchased from my Etsy shop, I enclose a brochure from the foundation explaining Sjogren’s Syndrome. The foundation supplies these brochures free of charge. My shop’s slogan is “It’s great to create, educate, and donate.” The foundation equips me with the materials I need to educate others about Sjogren’s Syndrome.

7. How supportive have your family and friends been through your illness, and with your decision to leave work and give up teaching? How about with your Etsy shop? Do they help you run it in any way?
At first it was very difficult for my family and friends to deal with my illness because I didn’t look sick. When I complained about being tired they would push me to do more. I can’t tell you how any times I would get the advice from family, friends, and even my doctors to exercise more and to eat a healthier diet and I would feel better. However, once I received my Sjogren’s diagnoses that all changed. My family and friends have been very helpful. I have to admit I have a lot fewer friends now than I did several years ago. Friends tend to fall away when the energy level isn’t there. The friends I do have are supportive and a real help to me. The decision to leave my job wasn’t a problem. I had worked enough years to get retirement, so I do receive a small retirement check each month. My husband has a good job and our two children are both grown and no longer need financial help from us. My husband and I are able to live comfortably without that extra income. I no longer have desires for a bigger house, newer car, fancy clothes. I’m very content to live simply.
My daughter helped me set up my Etsy shop. I couldn’t have done it without her experience. My husband has been great about it all. He never complains about the messes I make or the amount of money I spend on supplies. My friends and family have promoted my shop on their facebook pages which has been very helpful.

8. Tell us something interesting about yourself.
When I was 27 years old my husband and I survived an airplane crash in Alaska. The plane completely burned after we were able to kick a window out and crawl to safety. I walked away with only a whiplash, but I believe the physical and emotional stress of the accident might have been the trigger to my developing Sjogren’s.

9. What are you most addicted to at the moment? A song? A movie? A flavour? Idea?
Since I retired I have been very interested in learning as much as I can about theology. I spend many hours most days listening to lectures on the computer. At this moment I am studying reformed theology. It’s so much more fun to learn when there are no deadlines to meet, papers to write, or tests. I can listen to lectures while I make jewelry which is an added bonus!

10. What is your top new year's resolution, if you have any?
I don’t make resolutions anymore. I rarely ever kept them anyway. If I did make one, it would be to raise more money for the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation through my Etsy shop.

Check out her shop on Etsy, SjoCompassion, and help someone help others.
Visit www.sjogrens.org to find out more about the disease and how purchasing from this store
is helping other people with the disease - whether they know they have it or not.

1 comment:

  1. This is such an inspiring interview. Thanks for sharing this it shows that if you are determined, you will get results. I am a tad bit sad that I came across this so late.. I'll be following you on your blog too. Wishing you all the best.



I do read every single comment, and I will try to respond where I can. If you have an important question about my blog or my shop, however, then you might be better off contacting me directly by email. Thanks so much for reading my blog!