Emilienne Rebel was diagnosed with breast cancer when her daughter was 7 months old. Soon she lost all her body hair. She struggled with being cold at night and not having anything comfortable to wear. Wigs were itchy, scarves kept falling, her woolen hat didn’t let her sleep properly. She couldn’t find anything she wanted out there, so she decided: “I need to make this hat”. And that’s how Bold Beanies was born in the UK.
The Bold Beanies are cotton jersey hats that are easy to put on. Not cold, not warm, not itchy. Plus, they are stylish. Fun to wear. “When you have surgery for breast cancer it’s very difficult to lift your arms up. It sounds ridiculous, but when you are just suffering with so many other things, one little thing that just works easy and comfortable makes other things a little bit more bearable.”
She made a stock of 100 beanies or so with her family savings and started selling the beanies on eBay. Her brother made the first website. This was back in 2009, and she was nominated for a British Female Inventor and Innovator of the Year award in the Exceptionally Creative – Textile & Fashion/ Health category.
Rebel used her profit to self-fund the company throughout the years, and nowadays she earns her living through Bold Beanies. It happened as planned: she works from home and is able to take care of her two young daughters. She has big plans for the future though. “Actually I need a cash injection to do international marketing and put my website in various languages. The business now needs to grow very fast.”
She expanded her product line and now produces in larger quantities. The website was updated and an Amazon shop is being opened. “But I still use eBay as a marketing tool.” She is twitting and Facebooking, investing more in Google Adworks and Facebook Ads. “As a business person I have to learn an incredible amount. And I am doing it as fast as I can.”
Emilienne is an innovative woman who is full of ideas. She’d like to expand to gift products, such as a kit including a beanie and some sweets to be sent to people in their first chemotherapy. “It might not be evident, but when you are having chemotherapy, you have a terrible taste in your mouth,” she explains. “Bold Beanies needs to be found when people need. People don’t realize they need Bold Beanies until they have a friend going through cancer,” she says. Emilienne foresees the gifts would cost around $20. “I am very conscious about that as well: providing gifts that people can actually afford.”
T-shirts, scarves, and a pirate kit for a young boy who is going through chemotherapy are on her list of new products. The pirate kit would include a beanie, a scarf and an eye-patch, for example. “Something fun,” she points out.
Her advice for innovative women is to put their ideas a little bit further. “In the time that we are living, with social media and everything, we’ve got everything at our fingertips in our homes, in our home offices, to be able to push our ideas”, she says.
Melissa de Andrade is a social media strategist, who graduated from the University of Washington. She also has extensive experience as a journalist in Brazil, specializing in technology, and holds a masters degree in Digital Enterprise Management from the UK. Her blog about social media is found at http://melissadeandrade.com/preview