A mum-of-two who battled breast cancer has created a business selling head wear for people undergoing chemotherapy and suffering hair loss.
Emilienne Rebel began producing Bold Beanies after she was diagnosed with the condition six years ago, aged 31.
Her range of soft and stylish cotton hats is proving popular with people losing their hair as a result of chemotherapy, or with Alopecia. The headwear is also selling as breathable alternative for outdoor sports and as a liner under all types of cycle and motorbike helmets.
Having been diagnosed with cancer at such an early age, Emilienne was frustrated at the lack of options available for people of all ages suffering hair loss.
She said: “Having cancer and undergoing chemotherapy is traumatic and there were very few items available when I lost my hair.
“The market was outdated, with the only options being a scarf or woolen beanie hat, which are itchy, unpractical and uncomfortable.
“That’s when I had the idea to design and manufacture a soft cotton hat that looked fashionable as well. I found a seamstress, Ann Moore, who helped me get started and we made 100 beanies. I had always harboured ambitions for my own business and this was a great opportunity.
“Using Facebook and eBay I started selling them online and they sold out straight away. That’s when I knew I was on to something.”
Now 37, the Wrexham ‘mumpreneur’ is enjoying success as a sole trader with the support of Glyndŵr University and the Strategic Insight Programme (SIP).
SIP gives businesses access to an academic expert – in this case it was Dr Jan Green, Senior Business Lecturer and Change Strategist at the Wrexham University – and provides 50 hours of free support and advice.
Emilienne discovered she had breast cancer after finding a lump and with October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month has urged other women to check themselves regularly and help raise awareness of the disease.
“You know your own body so look out for any signs, or anything different, and then make an appointment to see your doctor,” said Emilienne.
“Having cancer has played a huge part in my life and in the vision for Bold Beanies; giving something back is important so I also make hats to raise money for charities, such as Alice’s Escapes.”
She added: “As a single mum of two recovering from the condition I had to be realistic when I started.
“It wouldn’t be practical for me to find suppliers overseas and travel back and forth, but I wouldn’t want to do that anyway because supporting other local businesses is very important to me, especially after the goodwill I’ve received since setting up in 2009.”
Among the rebelfamily range of gifts is a bouquet of beanies; the personal touch is incredibly important to Emilienne, and maintaining integrity as the fledgling company grows over the coming years.
“I’ve had so many people telling me I’ve improved their lives and made chemotherapy and the loss of their hair more bearable, that they can now sleep at night without itching and scratching and hiding away at home.” said Emilienne.
“It’s so lovely to hear that, it makes everything worthwhile – I’m just trying to make a very difficult situation a little easier.”
For more information on the Strategic Insight Programme (SIP) at Glyndŵr University, visit: http://www.glyndwr.ac.uk/en/Inbusiness/BusinessConsultancyandSIP
Visit the Bold Beanies website http://www.boldbeanies.co.uk or follow Emilienne on Twitter: @BoldBeanies.