“No One In Our Photo Shoots Has Tattoos”, The Fascinating Backstory of Jennifer Ferguson and Handful

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Ferguson, the co-founder of Handful. Handful has the most badass corp Team: Tina, silent but deadly, keeping the wheels on the bus with internal management. Jody, 15+ years of project mgmnt @ Intel w/ CPA and finance background, directing handful. Cary, 11+ year late stage III breast cancer survivor, writer from NY who inspires thru words. Handful has record $ales in 2017, and are set up for exponential growth 2018 and beyond. Handful won 2nd place at the Bend Venture Conference (BVC) this month in the Growth Stage category and received the most amount of investment overall at the conference.

Yitzi: What is your “backstory”, and Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

My current “favorite handful story” (as there are funny & interesting stories daily as “sense of humor required” with a company named handful ☺) is that we are working hard to have our marketing SHOW GOOD VIBES from a variety of badass women rocking handful (aka different shapes, sizes, looks, etc.etc). Because we don’t have an endless budget, we have to “pick a different vibe to showcase” with each of our seasonal photo shoots so that eventually it will be “more and more inclusive”. We recently had someone point out that “no one in our photo shoots have tattoos” (which I thought that was interesting considering we are a company based out of Portland, OR, and it seems like a majority of people in PDX do have tattoos). Therefore, when I was in a barre3 class last weekend in PDX, I noticed this fabulous woman that was over 6’5” with bright tattoos covering her arms and legs, and she was really strong in her poses (holding straight legs on boat pose with her strong frame while the rest of us were bending our knees…). She had a nose piercing and fun, wild and crazy curly hair. She had a great smile, and I was drawn to her cool vibe. I meant to catch her after class to give her my business card and ask her if she would possibly consider being a future Handful photo shoot; however, she left before I got a chance to connect with her so I left my card at the barre3 desk for their check in woman to give to her so she could reach out if she was available and interested. One of my friends in class that day is a photographer (Heather), and I asked her what she thought of featuring this tall women for a future handful photo shoot. Heather responded to me “you know that’s a guy, right”? I then responded “that person is identifying as women, correct”? Heather said “yes” so I responded “I don’t know what anatomy that person has, but I am referring to her as a “she” if she is identifying with herself as such, and I love her cool vibe and strength. Heather went on to say “that is so baadass that handful would love to feature her”. Fast forward a few days…. And she (who wants to remain anonymous) reached out to me basically saying “she appreciated the thought but she actively shuns the limelight, “having been this tall since I was 14 and when you add being trans to being 6’8”… I mean I’ve always stood out and I’ve spent much of my life trying to step back from it… none of that precludes us from developing a friendship though… I look forward to seeing you again in class AND I did checkout the handful website and I can totally see myself doing some shopping there in the future”…. (she has inspired me to COME BACK TO CLASS ASAP!)

Yitzi: Are you working on any meaningful non profit projects? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

The corporate giving focus at Handful is to support the 1 in 8 women who will get diagnosed with breast cancer. Handful does this by directly reaching out to survivor customers who are interested in using our products as post-mastectomy garments. Though Handful is an approved L8000 mastectomy bra, we find that many women just don’t have the time or energy to fight their insurance company for benefit coverage. Because of this, Handful offers every survivor a direct 30% off discount on all our products because we believe survivors are an essential part of our tribe and this is one small way we can honor them. In addition, Handful gives every woman who has lost a breast to cancer FREE Handful Pad sets that she can use as prosthetics. Handful also makes a direct financial contribution to breast cancer research each year through their Pink Toga Party.

Yitzi: Wow! Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

The number of stories we can share where women look in the mirror after losing so much of themselves to cancer and then see themselves put back together in a Handful Bra are countless. It’s a powerful moment to witness a woman remember her pre-cancer body, and we are proud to be a small part of helping her find her way back to the path of wellness. Click here to read how Handful’s Director of Survivor Relations strives to make meaning out of suffering and how career and cause are tightly intertwined.

Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1 — “ASK and you shall receive”: I get moved to tears when I think of ALL the incredible people that have contributed to handful “along the way” (neighborhood friends who helped attach hang tags in my living room “back in the day” all the way to advisers and investors that generously give of their time (and money) to support Handful succeeding!

2- “Feel the fear and do it anyway”: there will be times you will not know how to move forward, and you will be frightened about a # of obstacles in the way; however, do it anyway!

3- “Be careful it’s not a train instead of a light at the end of the tunnel”: there was a time (trying to be “Made In USA”) when it looked like “a light at the end of the tunnel”, but instead ended up being “a train coming at us that we had to turn around and run for our lives from so we didn’t get run over….”! (we also recently went through that analogy on some other levels and so now we ask ourselves “IS this a light to walk into or a train to run from”?! this is also similar to saying “trust and verify”!( you want to “trust it is a light at the end of the tunnel” but you need to also “verify it’s not a train”

4- “what you do in a day is what shows up in your life”: aka make sure to fit in all that is important so it continues to show up in your life!

5 — “surround yourself with positive people” (so when “the goin’ gets tuff, YOU have people that support moving forward….

Yitzi: Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.

PINK she is the ultimate inspiration for: “no one is YOU and that is your super power!! Her interviews and shows (that I have seen) and her songs (that I blast and listen to over and over again, especially at crucial times in my life when I need inspiration the most), constantly inspire me. However, I am thinking instead of wanting to have bkfst or lunch with her, I would rather “meet for circus trapeze together” (flying amonst the rafters together… which I have never done, but would love to)! OH, and she is coming to Portland in May, and I have been “trying to win tix over the radio”. It would be a dream come true to meet her when she is here (and give her Handful samples!!!).

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