cutting and perming their church friends’ hair.
But it was her mom’s part-time occupation that
inspired her first true business venture. As children,
Jennifer and Erica sat in the car while their mother
cleaned homes. So at age 16, Jennifer started a housecleaning service, taking Erica as her partner. They
put up fliers around town and split the $50 they
charged to clean a whole house, which at the time
seemed like a lot of money. Adams says they used
their earnings for food, clothes and other necessities.
An unforeseen tragedy
The sisters had been running their business for
Dream a big dream
three years when Erica was hospitalized after suffer-
ing a two-week migraine. There, doctors discovered
that Erica had a stage 4 cancerous brain tumor.
“They said she had about three months to live, and
literally three months to the day, she died,” says
Adams. “It was terrible. She died on May 10. I had
just turned 19, but she was still 17.”
It was an unimaginable loss for Adams’ family,
and the experience still affects her daily. Despite the
pain, Adams says losing her sister inspired her to be
a better person. “[Her death] gave me more empa-
thy and more understanding of people’s situations
and I think I became a more well-rounded person
from it. She was so light-hearted and spirited and
would say whatever was on her mind, and take the
time to talk to people and engage. It was genuine.”
Not long after Erica’s death, Adams was in need
of a change. She handed the cleaning business over
to her mom when she landed a job as a receptionist
for an accounting firm in downtown Portland. The
company had a high-end clientele of executives and
business owners, which she says exposed her
to a world with options and high achievers that she hadn’t known before. “The
religion we were growing up in [discour-aged us] from going to college. So I never
saw that as an option for myself,” she says.
As she built relationships with clients,
She was ruminating over this newfound
revelation when she spotted an interior design
trade school. Her experience from housekeeping and helping her mom build furniture led to
a natural attraction. She called the school on a
whim and landed an interview with owner Jan
Springer, who not only accepted Adams into her program, but also took her under her wing. “I owe so
much to her, I can’t even tell you. She taught me how
to market, how to have confidence in my ability,”
Adams tells The Connection.
Her first project came when a couple called the
school asking for a student to decorate their home.
Springer gave Adams the job, but Adams says she
had so little confidence in her own abilities that she
was afraid to charge more than $300.
Springer encouraged her to send a letter to every
person she knew to build a clientele. After some persuasion, Adams’ boss at the accounting firm allowed
her to send a letter to his client list, which proved to
be a career launching pad. As word of mouth spread,
Jennifer Adams Worldwide Inc.
Address: 18801 N. Thompson
Peak Parkway, Suite 380,
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
Products at Costco: Sheets,
furniture and clothing available through Special Event
Roadshows; furniture and bedding available on Costco.com.
Comments about Costco:
“As a woman entrepreneur,
Costco’s really been wonderful
to me. They’ve given me the
opportunity to prove myself as
a vendor. You don’t have to be
huge, like Pepsi or Coke. They’ll
still find a way to support even
Story continued on page 28
Above: Adams films a segment for The Better Show in
her home kitchen.
r a s
e Jennifer Adams in her
home office. Inset: Adams
(right) and her sister Erica
(center) with their mom,