It all began with a small operation in a basement. Today, Petra Jonsson, with the company Maja’s Cottage, raises millions of Swedish kronor for the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation. “I want to inspire others to do something similar,” says Petra Jonsson.

When Petra was pregnant with her daughter Maja, a friend of hers was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she felt an enormous sadness about what her friend had to go through, she became worried about her own unborn child. What if her daughter should be diagnosed with cancer? Petra could not stop thinking about this possibility – and felt that she just had to do something for childhood cancer research.

The result was Maja’s Cottage, a series of candleholders in a variety of designs that she sells to benefit the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation.

photo: David Polberger

“At the same time that we light a candle, we ignite hope for the children,” says Petra Jonsson.

In the first year she was able to donate SEK 24,000 to the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation. Five years later, 2016, the figure was SEK 2 million.

“I never would have believed there would be such interest in the products. This was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise,” says Petra.

This story, with its happy ending, all began in Petra’s basement. Boxes of products that she had designed and ordered from manufacturers were delivered there, after which they were repacked and sent to retailers. Petra also had a showroom in the basement.

“I travelled all over the country to visit the stores and convince them to carry my products. Today, the candleholders are sold through home furnishing shops, lifestyle shops and flower shops.” Ten percent of the retailer’s price goes to the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation. And when Petra sells the products through her own webshop and farm shop, the organisation receives half of the proceeds.

But her retailers are the best ambassadors for the candleholders.

“We are all pleased and extremely proud. Our retailers keep coming back because they want to feel they are part of something.” The stores are also a good venue for personal discussions about children and cancer.

Petra has some tips to offer other companies that want to work with charity. She believes it is important to focus on one organisation.

“If you spread yourself too thin across multiple organisations, it’s harder to make a difference. Decide who you really want to support and discuss the matter with them. Hard work and motivation are also essential.”

“We never relax. That’s our strength. And we have a presence with our retailers and maintain a dialogue with the customers,” says Petra Jonsson.

Katarina Gustafsson, account manager for corporate collaboration at the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation, wants to encourage companies to think about why they might like to initiate a collaboration and what they want to accomplish.

“In addition to fundraising for a purpose, it could be for example to strengthen their brand or increase employee involvement,” says Katarina Gustafsson, account manager for corporate collaboration at the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation.

Go to 2016 in brief