TODAY   |  June 20, 2012

Turning a dream into a fashion empire

Jan Erickson became a fashion designer overnight after she awoke one morning and made a sketch of the clothing she’d seen in a dream. Inspired by the elderly church parishioners she assisted, Erickson created a wellness line of clothing to help “less abled” fashionistas feel more stylish. TODAY’s Jane Pauley reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back at 8:51. "today's" contributor jane pauley working with aarp who produced and sponsored our series of reports. good to see you.

>> thanks, matt. not too many people can pinpoint the exact moment when they started a second career. jan erickson can.

>> there you go. bring that smile, girl. love it.

>> jan erickson became a fashion designer overnight, literally. she had a dream.

>> i got up in the night and sketched very roughly that dream and went back to bed. the next morning i looked at it and said what is this about? i don't even know how to sew.

>> her idea wouldn't let go.

>> i finally said to my husband, john, i need to talk to you about something because it's not going away.

>> a part time care minister in colorado springs , jan assisted all her parishioners including a woman named jean. jean was your muse.

>> i think she was.

>> disabled by strokes and arthritis, jean was relegated to wearing hospital gowns until jan had a prototype of that jacket made up. big sleeps, no buttons and a slit up the back.

>> she just went oh, this feels so good.

>> when jan 's ideas kept coming, a business was born, a wellness line of clothing. but a surprising thing happened at the first wholesale show.

>> boutiques came up and said i love your things. they are so different. i'd like to order. what do we have here?

>> you had a big idea .

>> universal design . if you design for somebody who is less abled, everybody can wear it.

>> and a fashion line took off.

>> i like that.

>> jan 's husband john is the company's ceo.

>> how is the situation?

>> pretty good actually.

>> they both had a lot to learn. he just sold his law practice and retired.

>> he thought he was going to be a fly fisherman . but i think he found out pretty soon it lacked meaning and purpose. he said on many occasions it saved his life because he got to reinvent himself, too.

>> ten years after her dream, she employs 31 people and is about to have a third shift.

>> this is new this year.

>> the line is sold in 750 boutiques in the u.s. and canada. there's a thread that runs through jan 's overnight success story. every previous job and volunteer role from restaurant management to literacy to hospice has been about service.

>> candy striper.

>> i was a candy striper. i think that all comes back to the kind of childhood i had.

>> tagging along when her father made calls on the elderly as lay minister, jan grew up to follow in his footsteps. making people feel better was a unique business model . the business doubled in the last two years.

>> janksa is a dream come true .

>> strictly looking for u.s. products.

>> how did your kids react?

>> they are proud of us. i think it inspired them that their life is not going to be over when they get to be 60. it's just been an amazing gift to be able to have this business and to believe that we're doing something that matters.

>> hi, amy. good to see you.

>> they had a lot of help starting a business, particularly from the senior for retired executives. the reality check, they didn't pay themselves for eight years. last year jan and john took home their first paycheck, just one, not two. i hope you'll join me for my internet radio call in show 10:00 eastern.

>> you get a feeling they are getting something much more than money out of this.

>> a nice feeling to get.

>> good to see you, jane