The start of Renee Wood's company came out of a desire to comfort someone.
She was looking for just the right sympathy gift for her sister-in-law, whose father had just passed away. Unable to find one, Wood decided to create her own. She sketched out what she wanted and took it to a silversmith, who created the teardrop-shaped pendant.
Others began asking for one to give to loved ones and she went back to the silversmith with an order for another 150 pendants. In 2001, she launched her online company - The Comfort Company - and began helping others find just the right gift to remember their loved ones.
Today, the Geneva woman takes in 800 to 1,000 orders per month on her Web site, www.thecomfortcompany.net. The site offers a variety of items, including some that can be found in stores. However, the pendant necklace, which can't be found elsewhere, remains a specialty.
Wood also has added silver ornaments to remember lost loved ones.
"Each gift I have directly speaks to their loss," said Wood, who runs the company from an office in Geneva.
During her work as a medical social worker, families who had lost a loved one told her the one thing they wanted most was for people to acknowledge their loss. Wood worked in a hospital with families who had infants in the neo-natal intensive care unit.
"We would ask 'What can we do to better comfort you in your grief,' " she recalled. Their answer: "Acknowledge my loss," she said.
Though she only takes on-line orders, Wood plans to get some of her products, like the ornaments, in other stores. She plans to attend a trade show later this year with hopes of attracting wholesalers to her products.
"I have a lofty goal of having my ornaments in a store in every state," she said.
Wood also is part of the "Make Mine a Million" program, which has the goal of having 1 million women entrepreneurs reach $1 million in revenue by 2010. The program has many corporate sponsors.
Wood's determination has helped her earn recognition through the program as one of the 20 most promising women business owners nationwide. That award also came with a trip to Washington, D.C., to talk to lawmakers about the role women business owners play in the economy.
"We're letting them know of the impact if the program is successful," she said, noting that in Illinois a successful program could mean $42.4 million in revenue and jobs for 289,072 workers.
Wood enjoyed her recent trip and counted "networking" with other women business owners as one of the biggest benefits.
"It's just an invaluable pool of resources we have access to," she said.
To find out more about the Make Mine a Million program, visit www.makemineamillion.org.