OPPORTUNITY KNOCKERS: How to change a challenge into prosperity
Published on 01 October 2020
KEEPING ABREAST OF CHANGES
When Katrina was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 at age 37, the young mother found several gaps in the market she felt she could not live with.
If she was struggling to find information, services and products like mastectomy and pocketed bras herself, surely other young women were having the same difficulty?
Katrina quickly decided to take matters into her own hands, embarking on a journey of designing and manufacturing, pocketed fashion in Australia, and delivering it worldwide.
Through the Smart Hub’s accelerator program, Turbo Traction Lab, Katrina was able to accelerate her ideas into a fully-fledged product in less than 18 weeks.
Obviously, Katrina’s journey leading to the development of her business and product line has been arduous to say the least, with a significant (and scary) backstory to her ultimate success.
“I'd actually found a lump in 2015, I'd gone to the doctor, I'd had an ultrasound, they told me that it was just a cyst. Over time that lump had grown. I had gone back to the doctors in 2018, and said, I think there is something wrong with this lump…I was not thinking cancer at this stage.
“I had another ultrasound and again they advised there was nothing wrong. A couple of months later, I thought to myself, there is differently something wrong here…so I went back to a different GP and I was sent to the Wesley Hospital, which specialises in breast health.
“Essentially, by the end of the day, I had breast cancer and it had spread to my lymph nodes,”
“This was obviously extremely devastating because I had been reassured by my medical team that I didn't have anything sinister,” Katrina reflects.
In Katrina’s age bracket of 40 and 49, 20% of women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia each year.
“Every year there's 20,000 women, or one in seven women that will receive that same information and that same diagnosis,” Katrina says.
To make matters worse, those diagnosed at a younger age have a much more difficult prognosis; their treatment is longer, and often, the cancer is detected later.
This is why Katrina says it is vital for her to connect with this demographic; not only to raise awareness and support women going through similar challenges, but to also grow her business to allow her to help more women.
With her diagnosis, Katrina opted to undergo a double mastectomy.
“I decided that for symmetry purposes and for my own mental wellbeing, I would remove both of my breasts and not go to reconstruction immediately.
“When you are first diagnosed, you receive lots of high-level information.
“It was very difficult to really take it all in and be able to decipher what was going to be best for me, particularly being a younger person with breast cancer with a lot of complications an older person may not have to deal with.
“The information I was looking for, some of it wasn't there and I decided to create a guide to support women going through heavy loads of treatment like chemotherapy, a mastectomy, radiation,” Katrina explains.
Katrina created her Breast Cancer Pocket Guide, Know Your Knockers, as a handbook to support and encourage women during their breast cancer journey.
The resource contains tips and tricks from breast cancer survivors, as well as expert advice from surgeons, oncologists, and breast care nurses.
“There are long-term patients on long-term medication like Tamoxifen, which can put you into early menopause, so there's a whole range of different things that are going to happen to your body, your state of mind, that you need to ensure you really take care of and really have a good understanding, right from the beginning.
“That’s what Know Your Knockers is designed to do, as well as sharing products and services that will support you before, during and after your cancer treatment,” she explains.
Katrina says the breast cancer pocket guide explores issues such as should I choose a double mastectomy? How do I feel about taking Tamoxifen? Why would I need a massage going through treatment? What are some dietician’s tips to staying healthy and strong? How important is exercise during your treatment?
A range of different professionals, researchers, doctors, surgeons have contributed a wealth of information which Katrina has consolidated into one place, so patients and cares do not need to go searching for it.
“When you're a cancer patient, Google is not your best friend,”
“Online searches can create a whole raft of emotional disconnect with what is reality.
“It throws at statistics at you that perhaps are no longer relevant because they're old. New data released by the Breast Cancer Foundation of Australia suggests that breast cancer will overtake prostate cancer as the most diagnosed cancer in Australia this year.
“The facts are breast cancer has come a long way, and as a patient, there should be an element of confidence as we go through our treatments, about survival and about how people feel about our bodies and how people accept us into the community,” she reassures.
Katrina explains as someone going through the treatment journey, when you start losing your hair, knowing where to find a wig, a great hat or scarf is really comforting.
“Being able to go shopping and find those things for yourself is a real comfort. Finding mastectomy swimwear and bras…we have some excellent resources throughout the whole of Queensland, that provide these things for women,” she says.
In her own journey of discovery, Katrina realised businesses ‘in the cancer business’, were mostly women who had survived breast cancer and had set up businesses to help other women.
“Not only can these businesses connect directly with their customer, they can showcase the support they are giving women.
“A lot of these women are breast cancer survivors themselves, so they get it. They want to help people. They understand the complications, the emotional difficulty and they are there to support you.
“It's been vital for me to connect local businesses directly with those patients in those areas, so they can find the support that they need.
“Being able to take all of the information in as best you can and move forward in this new state, with confidence is key,” Katrina advocates.
Katrina has just launched two new colours in her mastectomy bra range. She recounts the early stages of her business journey when she did not even have a prototype.
“When I started at the Smart Hub and we went through that 18 week program, I basically was doing pre-orders on the back of our mentors advice, which was really difficult for me because I like to have ‘physical’ stuff.
“We managed to sell about a hundred pre-orders, so about half of what we were getting manufactured was gone before we got it. We then literally sold out of the other 100 bras within another six to eight weeks,” Katrina recalls.
She admits it was a big step to get the prototype developed, which required her to really back herself.
“I was really confused about fashion because I’ve never worked in the industry, so I had to learn that quite quickly,” she admits.
After working through several prototypes for both bra styles, Katrina had enough pre-orders to give her the confidence the market was going to respond favourable to her product line.
Now, about to receive her next drop of new navy and mint green mastectomy bras to compensate for supply chain issues due to COVID, Katrina is excited by the prospect of repeat buyers and growing the FUUK Cancer VIP group to over 650 members.
BUILDING A COMMUNITY
The first step Katrina took to facilitate pre-orders without a prototype was building a Facebook community.
“I went through all the breast cancer communities. There is a lot of communities that you can find online for your business or area.
“I tapped into as many of those as I possibly could, even ones that didn't really want me there.
“I've done most of my marketing through Facebook and Instagram, because I think that's how I'm going to connect with my customer the best,” she says.
“When you're going through a cancer diagnosis and you're on that treatment journey, you do spend a lot of time online looking for stuff to comfort you”
Katrina says being in the Smart Hub environment gave her access to a wealth of business support and advice which helped her avoid making mistakes.
She advises business owners to ‘follow your gut instinct’, particularly when it comes to prototypes.
“When I finally had the final prototype for one of my bras, I wasn't completely happy with it. But I sent it to market anyway and that caused me a few headaches.
“I think sometimes ‘going fast’ needs to also be matched with some sensibility and periods where you stop and reflect and question whether you are a 100% okay with what I'm sending out, what I'm doing or how I'm delivering this?” Katrina cautions.
Itching to release four new products to the market shortly, Katrina’s final word of advice is to constantly revisit the choices you make in business and life.
“Ask yourself, am I happy here? Is this what I want to do? Do I get excitement from this? Or is this very draining?
“At the moment, the answer to all of those things is I love it. I really enjoy what I am doing. I enjoy giving back.
“I get a lot of patients come to me for advice or information. I do not get stressed by that; it is not a weight I carry around. The hardest thing for me is I want everything now, but the market now isn't necessarily conducive to going as fast as I want,” she admits.
Katrina Houghton is a wife, mother, breast cancer survivor, founder of FUUK Cancer and creator of Know Your Knockers; a guide containing advice and information on products and services available for breast cancer patients.
Through her participation with the Smart Hub Turbo Traction Lab, Katrina also began designing and manufacturing her own range of pocketed fashion including mastectomy bras.
For more information, visit knowyourknockers.com, https://www.fuukcancer.com/ or connect with Katrina and FUUK Cancer community on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/fuukcancer/.
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