By: Hunter Mylek
Q: Who is Savannah DeGraaf?
A: Savannah is an entrepreneur, lung health advocate, and creator of “Breathe Deep Bracelets”.
Q: What is your story?
A: “When I was 22, I found out I had a tumor on my left lung. It was devastating and I didn’t really know it was going to be life changing. Within a month of discovering my tumor, I had my entire left lung removed. I was an avid runner, ate healthy, and took care of myself, so it didn’t seem fair that I was dealing with lung disease. As I was recovering, I started to do some research in hopes that I would find someone dealing with a similar situation to help me feel less alone. I quickly realized that anyone with lungs can suffer from lung disease, and that many healthy/active people suffer from this disease. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to make a difference and advocate for others. I attended the Lung Force Walk at The Detroit Zoo in 2019. My team, Breathe Deep for Savannah, spent the morning walking alongside other heroes and advocates to raise funds for lung cancer research and education. I was blown away by the support I received at this walk – I was even interviewed on the news to share my story. This day was emotional and harder than I expected, but it made me realize that I am strong enough to share my story to help others. Fast forward to 2020 – the year that shook us all in different ways. I had to take very extreme precautions to protect the one lung I still have. I have always enjoyed and appreciated the arts and consider myself a pretty creative person, so I started making bracelets. After giving bracelets as gifts to friends/family, I decided to take this hobby to the next level. In 2021, I decided to launch Breathe Deep Bracelets!”
Q: What are Breathe Deep Bracelets?
A: “Breathe Deep Bracelets are beautiful, handmade beaded bracelets with lava beads to infuse essential oils. A majority of the bracelets include turquoise beads because turquoise is the official color of women’s lung health. These bracelets support a good cause – we give 15% of profits back to The American Lung Association to help fund research, education and advocacy for lung disease/lung cancer”
Q: You founded Breathe Deep Bracelets for not only your own health but to improve the health of others with a similar story to yours. Can you talk about when you realized the importance of essential oils and the multitude of benefits that these bracelets can provide to those with lung complications?
A: “Each bracelet includes lava beads to infuse essential oils – I have found great comfort in using essential oils while adjusting to life with one lung. Essential oils can help ease the mind, improve sleep, and reduce stress. When I’m starting to feel out of breath from exercise, walking upstairs, or other daily movements, I take a moment to smell the essential oils. This moment allows me to take a deep breath and slow down which is very helpful. Taking a moment to slow down has been crucial since losing one lung and I think it can help others suffering from lung disease. Feeling out of breath during normal activity can be frustrating, but I’ve learned that it’s okay to slow down and I think essential oils had a huge part in helping me realize that. These bracelets also serve as a reminder of the journey I’ve been through and how far I’ve come, and I hope they can serve as the same reminder to other warriors”
Q: Did you always see yourself becoming an entrepreneur?
A: “My dad is an entrepreneur and I always remember watching him growing up and thinking how cool it was. He built something he was passionate about from the ground up and I admired that. I knew I wanted to find that one day and feel the passion he felt, but I wasn’t actively aspiring to be a business owner. I started making bracelets during the pandemic as a way to pass time, and my friends started asking if they could purchase them. That was when I figured out I could provide a beautiful product while giving back to an organization that I’m passionate about”
Q: Did your time at GVSU help pave a path for business?
A: “I graduated from GVSU with a BBA in Marketing, so I believe the classes I took and connections I made helped pave a way for me to be successful in business. The business and marketing classes allowed me to think outside of the box and my professors taught us that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to”
Q: What is the American Lung Association? How can we help?
A: “The American Lung Association’s mission is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Their vision is to create a world free of lung disease. Anyone with lungs can suffer from lung cancer/disease and it’s important to raise awareness for these diseases that are affecting many Americans. Ways you can help: spread the word and educate others and/or make a donation to fund education, advocacy and research. The American Lung Association has numerous events and campaigns to raise awareness for lung health. I will be hosting a family friendly fundraising event in Downtown Grand Rapids this summer to raise money for the American Lung Association. More details will be posted on my social media accounts as the day gets closer”
Q: What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
A: “Move the needle forward each day, even if it’s a small step. Do something each day that is going to keep you moving forward. It doesn’t have to be big – it could be as simple as posting on social media. Consistency is key. Don’t wait until you’re “ready”. I made up a lot of excuses before officially launching Breathe Deep Bracelets because I wanted everything to be perfect, but nothing is perfect and you aren’t going to learn if you don’t try. Don’t be afraid to take risks about something you are truly passionate about. If you have a passion for something, I encourage you to pursue it. Your passion will shine through the things you are doing and people will gravitate towards that. I also believe forming relationships and making connections can go a long way. I have met so many people through this journey – I’ve been blown away by the support I’ve received since launching my company”
To learn more about Breathe Deep Bracelets and Savannah check out her website