Cohort of 2006
Major: Elementary Education
Currently Living: Brooklyn, NY
Clothing Designer and Business Owner
“We are all made of star stuff,” astronomer Carl Sagan once said, meaning that every particle in the human body is formed through chemical reactions in the life and death of stars. When Jordan Ellis first discovered this as a sophomore in Dr. Bradstreet‘s Cosmology class, “her whole life was different.” Jordan spent the semester doodling this quotation on all her notebooks — now, Jordan prints it on t-shirts sold around the world.
Jordan is an artist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. She owns a small clothing design company which she began after college and she uses the proceeds to benefit science education in New York City public schools. Her goal is “to run a business that matters.” Joey, Jordan’s husband, works in the advertising industry. After graduating from Templeton Jordan moved to NYC to be with him. With a background in elementary education, Jordan wanted to teach–but as her certification was from Pennsylvania, she began looking for other ways to make a living and took a job as a nanny. She also discovered Etsy, a website selling handmade crafts, and thought “I could do this.” She bought her first sewing machine and started selling dresses and aprons soon after.
Business boomed. Jordan had to quit her childcare jobs and hire a friend from her Templeton cohort to help her keep up with the demand for Jordan Dene apparel, but it was still difficult. Three years later, Jordan decided to move to something different and faster: screen-printing. Today Jordan’s screen-printed designs and hand-sewn clothing can be found on her website (jordandene.com), in 11 stores around the country, at Brooklyn craft shows, and even at Comic-Con conventions. All this just four years after selling her first dress on Etsy and one year after venturing into screen-printing.
“My first goal was to have a successful business, which I feel like I’ve accomplished,” says Jordan, “my next goal is to give back.” Jordan gives back through her business proceeds, but also through her designs and through her choice of eco-friendly dye and ethically-made fabrics. Greatly influenced by Cosmology, one of Jordan’s favorite t-shirt designs is of animals wearing astronaut gear. “I’m not a scientist and I never will be, but I want to make science accessible to the average person, particularly to women.” This is why Jordan’s animal astronaut t-shirts come in pink, “because little girls don’t have clothes of science and space.”
Jordan’s refrigerator is covered with hand-drawn pictures of stars and rocket ships: thank-you notes from the elementary classes for whom Jordan has purchased model rocket kits and other lab materials to give urban children a more enriching science education. According to Jordan, every truly successful business does more than make a profit– it does something for the world. “I’m not teaching anymore, but I can be in classrooms. That’s what will make me keep doing this.” The best teachers are those who inspire, which is why Dr. Bradstreet’s Cosmology class is so life-changing. It motivates students to love God and creation through grasping the complexities of the universe. Jordan continues this vision, inspiring and helping students learn through one sustainably-made t-shirt at a time.