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Renee Wood says she’s used to weeping at work. She runs an online bereavement-gift outfit, Comfort Co., from suburban Geneva and gets calls all day from people who want to buy something special for someone who has just lost a loved one. Compassion comes naturally to Wood—she was a social worker in a neonatal unit in Little Rock for years before she moved to Illinois—but it was only in 2000 that she figured out how to make money from it. Her sister-in-law’s father died, and Wood couldn’t find a suitable gift. She crafted a pendant out of her daughter’s Play-Doh and took it to a silversmith to make into a necklace.
Wood put a photo of the pendant on the Web and sold 150 of them. After getting a $6,000 home-equity loan from Harris Bank, she went to gift shows and found more items to carry on her site, thecomfortcompany.net, including Christmas tree ornaments to remember lost ones at the holidays. Wood, 42, has added Spanish-language products and would like to expand her pet-sympathy line. Revenue jumped to $625,000 last year, from $53,000 in 2003. “The more I grow, the more people I help feel better.”
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