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Cancer survivor uses candleholders to help others

January 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A woman fighting her third battle with lung cancer discovered the healing power of candlelight. Now, she has found a way to help others through her own line of candleholders.

In an age of LEDs and compact fluorescents, Lee Rhodes prefers lights with some real candlepower.

"I dropped a tea light into this little teenie colored vessel, and it was the magic that I needed at that point," she said.

That was 1995, when Rhodes was battling lung cancer while raising three kids, and the colored vessel launched her career.

Rhodes was so moved by the simple glass votive that she started a company called Glassybaby in Seattle that hand makes them.

"This year, we're going to make 174,000. Last year, we made about 150,000, so we make a lot," she said.

At $44 a pop, it's no wonder Rhodes is making headlines in the business community, winning Entrepreneur magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year award.

"It's incredible. We actually had no idea that we would win," she said.

That makes Rhodes the first woman to ever win the magazine's top honor. But as a cancer survivor, she sees the candleholders as a way to help others beat the disease.

Ten percent of the company's revenues go to cancer-related charities, especially those that help pay for the things that insurance companies won't.

"They really are funds where people can come say 'I really need blue jeans, I need a good lunch, I need a bus fare, I need to bring my mother in from Oklahoma.' Really, it's an unrestricted fund with no questions asked," she said.

So far, Rhodes says Glassybaby has pumped about $850,000 into those charitable causes.