Battling cancer is always tough, but when the burden is doubled by financial difficulties it often becomes unbearable.
Estevan resident Amanda Jo Schoff learned it first-hand when she was helping her mother fighting uterine cancer.
"I watched the strongest woman I know fight a disease she had zero control over. I am sure every one of you reading this has been affected by cancer one way or the other. For me, it was my mom," says Schoff's website.
Schoff accompanied her mother to chemotherapy and radiation appointments, and she got to meet many other people whose lives were affected not only by cancer, but also by money problems that often made their fight feel even more difficult.
"We had the opportunity to sit and visit with many other people affected by cancer, and it gnawed at my heart. The financial burden of someone going through cancer is profound. Most people cannot work and for some, they worry about how they will pay their bills. Was there something that I could do to help these people?" says Schoff on her website.
Her mother passed away in April 2020, and Schoff decided to bring her lifetime passion to work while also doing something for people dealing with cancer who need financial assistance. That's how Heartstrings Clothing Co was born.
“I started thinking of all these people that have cancer that don't really get a whole lot of help financially other than for (transportation to medical appointments) from Telemiracle. But when it comes to paying your bills or paying for your groceries or anything that supports your life on a day to day basis, there is no help for that,” recalled Schoff.
“And when you are sick, you can't really do a whole lot to go to work to raise money for yourself. So I just had an idea, 'Why not start a clothing company that has a purpose of giving back to people with cancer?’”
She started thinking and then working towards her goal after her mother's death, and by November her efforts came to fruition.
Currently, 20 per cent of all Heartstrings Clothing Co sales are going to be given to people in need with cancer. Once the company is more established, Schoff plans to increase that share.
"For me, it's a passion. I love being artsy-fartsy, and if you get to design clothes that you want to have in your product line on a day to day basis, or create your … social media posts, (all while) knowing that eventually down the line you are going to be able to give money to somebody (who needs it) because you started the company. What is better than that?" Schoff said.
The name of the company and the logo, which make the product stand out and transmit the main message behind the business, took quite a bit of time to come up with, but Schoff is happy with how they turned out.
"I prayed about what I should name the company for a long period of time. And one day somebody had just told me about another person that my mom had talked about that lost their battle to cancer as well. That moment was like, 'Come on! Another person this year? Good Lord!' I was heartbroken and it just came to me. I knew exactly what I was going to name my company. It was a weird moment, it just kind of happened and I came back down. It was time to get stuff off the ground," Schoff recalled.
Once the name was chosen, she started working on the logo and eventually came up with a meaningful, distinct anatomical heart shape reading "heart strings" inside it.
"I think it looks really cool, and I love it. It is good for older generations and younger, too."
The company was launched in November 2020. Schoff started with sharp black and white casual items. Heartstrings Clothing now offers two types of toques, unisex crew neck sweaters and hooded sweatshirts, as well as branded pop grips. Schoff said they've done pretty well since the launch, and besides Estevan, she's been shipping her items all over the U.S. and across Canada.
The warehouse, located in Schoff's garage, is the base for the online store which offers clothes and accessories globally. But only Estevan residents who have been the majority of the clients so far have benefitted from free delivery. And while Schoff is making her dream of running a clothing business come true, she is also working on the other part of her dream of helping others.
Finding a way to raise money for others was one part of the plan, but getting to know who actually needs help was a whole different story. At this time, Schoff is working with the therapist who was treating her mother, and who will help her find people who may use financial assistance.
Also, those in need of help can directly reach out to Schoff through her website or Facebook group. But eventually, Schoff plans to start a Heartstrings foundation to make the process more organized. She also has plans for more companies working towards helping others.
At this time, Heartstrings Clothing Co is Schoff's full-time job, and there is still a lot of work and a lot of growth potential in it.
Schoff plans to have a full, unique clothes line available in different colours as the company keeps growing. Further down the road she also may try to find an option to get her items available in local stores, but so far Heartstrings clothing can be found at heartstringsclothingco.com.