Hoops star making sure Canisius clan (and others) stays warm
by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor
Photos: Bri Rozzi and Canisius University
What a wild weekend it’s been in Western New York. If you are a fan of snow, and cold, than Buffalo is the place for you.
While most can deal with the Lake Effect snow that Western New York has to offer, it’s the cold, and wind, that many have a hard time dealing with. What better way to stay warm then snuggling up with a warm blanket while watching the National Football League playoffs, or your favorite movies.
If you are looking for that cozy blanket, look no further than Breezi Blankets. Breezi Blankets is the brain child of current Canisius University basketball player Bri Rozzi. The graduate transfer from Loyola (MD) started this endeavor just this past November. It came at a time when Rozzi was trying to get her mind off a bad game.
“Breezi Blankets came about during a challenging time while pursuing an MBA and playing basketball. Facing the ups and downs of this dual commitment, I turned to making blankets as a therapeutic escape after a tough game in early November,” stated Rozzi. “I needed something that would take my mind off basketball as I felt it was consuming me and all my thoughts, which were negative at the time."
Rozzi wasn’t expecting this to become a business. She first started making the blankets as a Christmas gift for her coach. Her coach just happened to have a friend over, who expressed interest in what she made.
That got Rozzi to start thinking that the blankets could become something more than just therapy. Rozzi is no stranger to being around a family business, as her family has a contraction company back home.
“Growing up in a family owned business(construction), witnessing my dad's journey from the bottom up, entrepreneurship runs in my blood. In December I crafted a blanket for my coach as a Christmas gift,” explained Rozzi. “ She had a friend over during the holidays and when her friend expressed interest, it lead me to realize the potential for a business. My coach has been so supportive and we actually came up with the name in her office. Creating these blankets not only serves as a calming outlet for me, but also brings a sense of calm to those who receive them which is rewarding.”
Still starting up a business during school, and basketball season, is not easy. When Rozzi posted her Breezi Blankets on Insagram she wasn’t expecting the respond she got. She has been so overwhelmed with support, and orders, that she had to stop taking orders just so she could get caught up.
While the women’s team was on the road most of last week, Rozzi was going to use Sunday to get caught up. Then the Lake Effect snow hit, and the Griffs were stuck in Rochester.
“Definitely keeping up with demand. When I first started sharing my Instagram, I did not realize the amount of support I was about to receive. I’m super grateful for all the support and orders,” stated Rozzi. “I recently had to stop taking orders until I fulfill the ones that came in the first couple of weeks. This week I am on the road ( Wed-Sat) due to games, so Sunday will be a big working day for me to catch up”
While the demand has been heavy already, Rozzi was able to start up this venture due to the fact that the university is on winter break. That means no classes for a while, and only basketball to worry about.
Once classes get rolling again, Rozzi can use her classes to help her with the business. Given that her degree is in business, Rozzi has been able to use what she has learned so far to help her navigate the early steps of her own business.
“I started now because it’s winter break (no classes), which means I have a ton of free time outside of basketball. Next semester I am primarily online with the exception of a night class every other Tuesday,” stated Rozzi. “This gives me a lot of free time outside of practice and homework to focus on the business. Given that my degree is in business my classes also help me with my business and get to that next level. Starting now gives me a nice foundation for when the season is over and I can put even more time into it.”
The blankets are made of 100 percent polyester from Joann Fabrics. She chose the yarn because she felt like it was the best quality, and it’s very soft.
While she has made some already, it still is very surreal to have people rolled up in something that she made. Every response from her customers has been nothing but positive. The most common response has been Oh My God I can’t believe how soft it is.
“People are obsessed. The most common response is “OMG so soft,” said Rozzi. “My favorite thing is receiving texts from customers snuggled up in something that i handmade for them. It is just super rewarding. When I’m making blankets it doesn’t even feel like I’m working, I throw my headphones on and escape reality for a little bit.”
College athletes are now basically CEO’s. It’s the new world that athletes live in. Never before could a college athlete start a business while still playing. But, with NIL, the landscape of what a college athlete looks like has changed.
While Rozzi is busy running her business, and keeping people happy, she doesn’t let that effect her on the court. Once basketball starts it’s all about basketball. Rozzi is completely focused on helping the Griffs achieve their goals in the MAAC, and hopefully NCAA tournament.
“When I enter the gym I just shift my focus on basketball. I will talk with my teammates, and coaches about my new venture off of the court, but when I get into the gym I try to not talk about it and let the focus be basketball,” explained Rozzi. “I feel like making blankets has helped elevate my basketball play and it has given me more of a “next play” mentality. It has helped me keep me in the present and not worried about past mistakes. It also helps me after games not get so caught up in how I played, it serves as an outlet for the highs and lows that come with playing Division I basketball.”
Rozzi comes to Canisius as a seasoned veteran. While at Loyola, she appeared in 99 games, with 65 starts. Having that kind of experience has helped the Griffs get off to a fast start in the MAAC, and the season in general.
One could say Rozzi has been through it all, playing so many games at the DI level already. She can share those experiences with her teammates as the conference part of the season really gets going.
“I think having experience at the DI level is an advantage in many ways. You’ve been through it all already and are able to provide guidance, and advice, for the younger girls on the team,” stated Rozzi. “You have the minutes logged to make the right reads, and right decisions on the basketball court. As a grad, I was able to pick up an entirely new offensive, and defensive, system faster than I could have as a freshman.”
When is comes to competing on the court, and giving her best, she knows all to well. Rozzi comes from a basketball family, where her four sisters have played the sport.
Imagine those pickup games during the summer. Each sister was a standout out at the DII level, and each brought something different to the table. Rozzi was able to take away something from each one as she tried and tailored her own game.
She even admits that sometimes the pickup games got a little heated.
“Yeah so I have four sisters who all played basketball at the DII level. My sisters were great players, and they all brought something great to the table. None of them played that similar. My oldest ( Erica) was a pure scorer from all levels, my second oldest ( Rene) was a great defender and passer. My third oldest (Christy) was a great rebounder and shooter, and the one closest in age to me( Ali) was a pure shooter,” stated Rozzi. “My game has a little bit of each of my sisters in it since i grew up watching them. We have a court in the front yard and we still play when we get together. Ali and I got into some heated match ups in the front yard on numerous occasions ( I may have chucked the ball at her a couple times and vice versa). Im so grateful to have four supportive sisters who watch and get to as many games as they can. My favorite thing is coming to my phone after a game and seeing them all doing a play by play analysis in the Group Chat”
College student, basketball player, business owner, it could get a little crazy at times. But, Rozzi has found a great balance with all three. On the court it’s all business. Off the court, Rozzi uses her business as a source of enjoyment and stress release.
“Finding a balance between my business venture, school, and basketball has been manageable,” stated Rozzi. “I intentionally approach my business as a source of enjoyment and stress relief, aiming to enhance my overall mental well-being. Handling school and sports can be demanding, but my business serves as a fulfilling escape from the craziness.”
For those that would like to order a Breezi Blanket, you can go to her Instagram account, @breeziblankets, or go to her Etsy page, https://breeziblankets.etsy.com. Right now, Rozzi has eight colors you can choose from.
Western New York knows cold, what better way to stay warm this winter and early spring, than with a Breezi Blanket.