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October 01, 2011

Industry with Heart

The Power of Pink

by Karyn Reagan

Click here to order the Direct Selling News issue in which this article appeared.

Breast Cancer Awareness Supporters

  • The Pampered Chef
  • Scentsy
  • Avon
  • Touchstone Crystal
  • Stampin’ Up!

Direct Selling companies and their consultants play a significant role in obtaining funds to support breast cancer awareness, raising millions of dollars earmarked for the cure.

On a fateful day in 1980, breast cancer claimed another victim. But this time its trail of fear, pain and loss was met by a formidable force. Nancy Brinker was deeply affected by the care and concern for other breast cancer patients expressed by her dying sister, Susan Komen, and she made her a promise. She assured Susan that she would do everything in her power to stop breast cancer in its tracks.

Two years later, Susan G Komen for the Cure (Komen) was founded and has become the world leader in raising funds, creating awareness and energizing science to find a cure for breast cancer. Prior to Komen’s existence, breast cancer was a disease that no one discussed. Speaking or printing the word breast was socially taboo, and its cancer victims suffered in silence. Screenings were not common, making early detection difficult and loss of life more widespread. Since its inception in 1982, hundreds of companies, organizations and individuals have embraced Komen’s cause as worthy of their support. They have participated in Race for the Cure fundraising walks and given time and resources in order to aid the cause. As a result of that support and additional sources, the organization has raised and invested more than $1.9 billion toward the fight against breast cancer.

Although Komen was the first of its kind, there are now many organizations creating awareness and providing screenings, education and support to women and families touched by breast cancer. The movement has risen to such respectable status that it has its own symbol, recognized worldwide. According to PinkRibbon Inc., Komen was the originator of the pink ribbon symbol that indicates breast cancer awareness. The color was chosen for its connection to femininity and the ribbon for its history as a symbol of reminder (such as yellow ribbons displayed for soldiers and red ribbons for AIDS/HIV awareness).

Help Whip Cancer with The Pampered Chef

Many direct selling companies share this deep passion for eradicating breast cancer, creating products and promotions that center around the pink ribbon. According to Rochelle Mangold, Director of Corporate Communications, The Pampered Chef chose to advocate breast cancer awareness as a way to show support for women. “We want our consultants to know that we support them in their career, families and health, and that what is important to them is important to us.”

The Pampered Chef consultants raise needed funds for the American Cancer Society.
The Pampered Chef consultants raise needed funds for the American Cancer Society.

Since 2000, Pampered Chef consultants and employees have helped raise more than $10 million for the American Cancer Society (ACS). The various methods of raising those funds fall under the umbrella of the company’s Help Whip Cancer campaign. “This extensive initiative underscores the longstanding tradition of giving demonstrated by The Pampered Chef,” Mangold says.

One of those methods is the creation of exclusive Pampered Chef pink products offered in the month of May, to coincide with Mother’s Day. Every time a pink product is sold, one dollar is donated to the ACS. Favorites of those products are offered again in October for purchase online and the same donation is made. Mangold explains that May is also the month that consultants are encouraged to hold Help Whip Cancer cooking shows to benefit breast cancer awareness and to communicate to attendees the importance of regular breast screening and checkups.

Then in October of every year, Pampered Chef consultants and employees link arms with millions of others in supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month by participating in ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks. “In last season’s Making Strides events, Pampered Chef participated in 135 out of 233 total walks around the nation,” Mangold says. “This disease touches so many families and the consultants appreciate a tangible way to fight back.” The consultants’ passion for this cause has elevated The Pampered Chef to third place as a national team partner with ACS.

And they generate excitement while they work. “The Pampered Chef headquarters offers T-shirts for walk participants in order to promote team spirit, and the rise of social media has opened up the ability for a broader base of people to see the consultants and friends in action, creating even more awareness for the cause,” Mangold says.

The impact of The Pampered Chef’s efforts can be seen in one consultant’s own words:

“My breast cancer experience has made me acutely aware of how important it is to make the most of every day and every moment,” says Dotti Shepherd, Independent National Executive Director, The Pampered Chef. “It gave me an even deeper appreciation for everything, including my Pampered Chef business, which allowed me to put my health first and schedule work around my treatments.”

Scentsy’s Response Renews Hope

Scentsy, another direct selling company, also focuses fundraising efforts in support of victims of breast cancer. Owners Orville and Heidi Thompson started the Scentsy Family Foundation in 2009 as a vehicle to promote the company’s core value of generosity. “We define that value as ‘contribute more than you take,’ ” says CEO Orville Thompson.

Scentsy consultants show their support for raising funds to cure breast cancer.
Scentsy consultants show their support for raising funds to cure breast cancer.

The decision to support the cause of breast cancer awareness was chosen by the foundation, but influenced by the consultants in the field, explains Susan Rowe, Public Relations Manager at Scentsy. The company has supported the cause by giving donations to the National Breast Cancer Foundation in the United States, Rethink Breast Cancer in Canada and Susan G Komen Race for the Cure. To raise the funds donated for the first two organizations, Scentsy created a pink warmer with black accents and lettering that said Love.Life.Hope., and of course, the ribbon. It was offered in the fall 2010 catalog, making it available for six months. “Scentsy made a donation from the sale of each Love.Life.Hope. warmer in the U.S. and Canada,” Rowe says. In the spring of 2011, Scentsy presented the National Breast Cancer Foundation a check for $613,177 and $16,785 (CAD) to Rethink Breast Cancer, surpassing their half-million-dollar goal. “We were touched by the overwhelming response from our consultants and their customers who passionately expressed their desire to support breast cancer education and early detection efforts,” says President Heidi Thompson.

In addition to the warmers, the Thompsons offered to pay the spring 2010 entrance fee for any Scentsy employee and any family member or friend of that employee to participate in the Komen Race for the Cure in Boise, Idaho. “Support for the race was great and the next year, Spring 2011, the Thompsons paid for the entrance fee of employees and matched any funds employees donated as well as the entrance fee of non-Scentsy employees who joined the Scentsy team,” Rowe says. In total, the Scentsy team was able to raise $195,633 for the Komen organization. “Our goal is to raise $1 million for the cause of breast cancer awareness by 2013, and we are almost there,” Rowe adds.

Scentsy consultant Kim Turner tells a story of how easy the warmers were to sell, due to the passion for the cause. One of her customers, Lisa, fell in love with the Love.Life.Hope. warmer for a very personal reason. Just two years earlier, on Christmas Eve, her mother lost her battle with breast cancer. Her mother loved candles and any “smell-good” product. In addition, her favorite saying was Live-Laugh-Love. She says the Scentsy warmer was such a beautiful reminder of her mother. Lisa wished she could purchase a warmer for each of her daughters and nieces as a special Christmas gift, since they regularly participate in awareness walks in memory of her mother. Although she could not afford that many warmers, Turner was determined to help Lisa get those special gifts.

Lisa held a party and both women worked hard to generate sales, so hard that Lisa was able to use her hostess credits to get a warmer for each daughter and niece—and herself. Lisa was extremely appreciative. She says she considers it a special tribute to her mother, and she and her family will be filled with warm memories every time they enjoy the scents from their warmers.

Many families are impacted by breast cancer, and the Thompson family is not exempt. Two months after participating in their first Komen Race for the Cure, Heidi Thompson’s mother, Alice Kalilimoku, was diagnosed with breast cancer. As an active Scentsy consultant, she had raised money for others and was now staring into the face of the very disease she thought only others could get.

Kalilimoku was prompted to get a mammogram after celebrating her 70th birthday in February 2010. “It was just something I felt I should do because it was such a major birthday,” she says. “A few days after the mammogram, the doctor called and said I needed a follow-up visit. After that, I got the call that I had cancer. I found it hard to believe that this was happening to me, but I immediately called family members and urged them to get mammograms as well. Imagine our shock when both a sister and an aunt were diagnosed with cancer within 30 days of me!

“Breast cancer has a high survival rate if caught early, as mine was,” Kalilimoku continues. “After my radiation treatments were over, I told my doctor that I really didn’t think about cancer often because I was so busy with my Scentsy business. He replied, ‘My dear, you don’t have cancer anymore.’ ” She now supports breast cancer awareness so that others with a breast cancer diagnosis can hear those priceless words.

Avon Crusades for the Cause

At Avon, support for women’s issues has been an ongoing theme since its founding 125 years ago. According to Executive Director of the Avon Foundation for Women Breast Cancer Crusade, Marc Hurlbert, Ph.D., the Crusade has awarded more than $700 million globally since 1992 solely through the efforts of Avon representatives. The money is used to support programs that help women access screening and breast cancer treatment, research its causes, and develop treatments and prevention. The beneficiaries range from leading cancer research and clinical centers to community-based, nonprofit breast health education programs.

The Crusade’s primary means of raising money is the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. “The event takes place in nine major U.S. cities each year,  attracting 20,000 participants and raising tens of millions of dollars,” Hurlbert says.

For some, the walks are a significant milestone in their journey living with breast cancer. Hurlbert tells the story of Regina from Virginia who was diagnosed the day after her fiancé proposed. She gave him an opportunity to leave, telling him that he didn’t sign up for this and could go if he wanted. Not to be deterred, he stayed by her side throughout all the treatments. The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer—Rocky Mountains 2011 served as their honeymoon, since they had not been able to take the time off from their teaching jobs for a proper honeymoon after their wedding.

In addition to the walks, Avon Products Inc. designs and sells Pink Ribbon fundraising products. One-hundred percent of the net proceeds from the sales of the pink products are given to support breast cancer causes. “Not only does Avon forgo any profit, but the sales representatives also give up their commissions earned by selling the fundraising products,” Hurlbert says.

The Crusade also supports hospitals that provide services such as mammograms, early detection, biopsies and treatment, according to Hurlbert. “We donate to 75 hospitals and 125 community-based groups across the United States that provide care to women without insurance or women who are low-income earners,” he says. “Over the years, 15 of these programs have included a mobile mammography van to bring screening and education to women who otherwise would not have access to them.” Today, one can spot Avon Foundation-funded vans in Boston, New York, San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

Touchstone Crystal features seven pink items with Swarovski crystals to support the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Campaign.
Touchstone Crystal features seven pink items with Swarovski crystals to support the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Campaign.

Making Strides with Touchstone Crystal

Touchstone Crystal, a company that offers jewelry made with Swarovski crystals and Zirconia, has already found a way to support the cause through the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Campaign offered through ACS. In October, Touchstone features seven pink items with Swarovski crystals. A portion of the proceeds is donated to Making Strides. Managing Director Liz DiPaolo says, “October reminds us to honor women who have survived breast cancer, and to recognize those who have struggled to fight it. Our Think Pink promotion allows our consultants to bring a message of hope to everyone they meet this month. We are thrilled to join our parent company, Swarovski, in its efforts to support women through Making Strides.”

Strength & Hope with Stampin’ Up!

Stampin’ Up! is another industry participant. Through its Making a Difference Program, the company has raised more than $82,000 for the Huntsman Cancer Institute. In 2011, a stamp set, dubbed Strength & Hope, was created for the purpose of raising additional funds to be given to breast cancer research. Shelli Gardner, Stampin’ Up! Co-Founder and CEO, says, “Many of our Stampin’ Up! demonstrators and customers are women with a strong feeling of sisterhood. In response to that bond, our Making a Difference Program gives to causes that generously benefit women and children.”

According to statistics found on the Komen website, the fight against breast cancer has not been in vain. Research and understanding have resulted in more early detection—nearly 75 percent of women over 40 years old now receive regular mammograms. (In 1982, less than 30 percent received a clinical exam.) The five-year survival rate for breast cancer, when caught early, is now 98 percent (compared to 74 percent in 1982). And America’s 2.5 million breast cancer survivors—the largest group of cancer survivors in the United States—are a living testament to the power of society and science to save lives.

So who’s to say what breakthroughs and successes lay ahead in the fight against breast cancer? If it’s left up to these powerful women, there will be many more celebrations to come.