The same week Connor Cosgrove received his degree in business and marketing education, he launched his own clothing line.
That’s only part of his story, because Cosgrove’s business is more than a professional venture. It’s a personal passion that began in 2010, when he was a student-athlete diagnosed with leukemia. Suddenly, his life as a wide receiver on the Gopher football team completely shifted to one filled with medical appointments and chemotherapy treatments.
“The idea for the clothing line came during my first chemotherapy treatment,” Cosgrove remembers. “The first sample was made in 2012, but it really took off when I was done with my treatment.”
His idea became a clothing line named ComfPort—“port” meaning the device that delivers patients’ cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and other medications. Cosgrove wanted to design a shirt that gave easy access to the port but was also comfortable and stylish. The result is a T-shirt made of bamboo fiber, breathable and soft, with a pocket that opens for easy access to the port.
It has been amazing to see the T-shirt go from a drawing on notebook paper to reality, he says.
“I had to learn the clothing industry and also relay the idea in my head to designers,” says Cosgrove, “because if you haven’t been through cancer, you don’t understand what it’s for.”
Cosgrove’s older brother, Clint, has been instrumental in helping him brainstorm and make important decisions. His girlfriend, Courtney, connected him to clothing designers in Los Angeles. In May this year, the Cosgrove brothers successfully raised more than $30,000 on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter.
As a business and marketing education major, Cosgrove put the skills he learned in his classes to use. His instructors were not only amazing teachers, he says, but also great motivators and mentors.
“They took time with me beyond the classroom and helped mold the way I think about business, sales, and marketing and, really, just life in general,” he says. “I think teachers who go beyond the classroom are the reason I’m able to think beyond the classroom.”
Because of the successful Kickstarter campaign, Cosgrove will produce the first 500 ComfPort T-shirts and also launch the ComfPort website. He wants the website to be more than an e-commerce site, with interactive components that can help build a community for people to share their stories. Cosgrove has shared his own story at high profile events for organizations such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the American Cancer Society.
“I was always an outgoing person, but if you put me in front of a crowd of people to talk, I didn’t like it,” says Cosgrove. “I guess when you have a cancer, a lot less scares you.
“We all grow from each other’s stories and it has been a way for me to move past it and come to terms with the things that were taken from me,” he continues. “I’ve taken dreams I once had and turned them into new dreams.”
ComfPort is a one-to-one company, meaning that for every shirt sold, a shirt is donated to a cancer patient.
“This is what I want to do, and I want it to be successful and grow,” says Cosgrove. “To be able to work on something I’m passionate about every single day is a such a joy.”
Learn more about business and marketing education in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development.
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Story by Christina Clarkson | Photo courtesy of the Big Ten Network | October 2015