It’s going to be uncomfortable! Get ready to get out of your comfort zone. Building your own business is not easy. You have to problem solve constantly, multi-task, and teach yourself new things. The website was our initial challenge taking twice as long as we had anticipated and learning how to run it as we developed it. Luckily, both Jeanine and Kathy have amazing husbands who have run their own businesses that we can lean on as FREE consultants.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Hraban.
Karen Hraban is a 2x cancer survivor living in Kansas City. She intimately knows the daily challenges of cancer and how it forever changes lives. Karen along with her two sisters, Jeanine (RNBSN) and Kathy (Designer) have come together to create LoveHerHugHer — a subscription box registry wish list company for cancer survivors. Their company has found a solution for the cancer fighter, their support networks, and the communities supporting them. LoveHerHugHer’s mission is to bring comfort and well-being to the survivors’ MIND, BODY, and SPIRIT. While they have delivered hundreds of gift boxes to cancer fighters nationwide in their first year of business, LoveHerHugHer continues to hope that each box delivered brings a smile to a face when needed the most.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
During Christmas 2018, all three of our families (Jeanine, Kathy & Karen) had traveled home to St. Louis to celebrate the holiday with our parents. While discussing what the new year would hold, it was clear that 2019 was going to be full of big change. Kathy was transitioning out of a corporate career of 23 years. Karen, not knowing at the time, would leave a job of 15 years to work for another retail giant. Jeanine had transitioned from a full-time Director position to a part-time clinic position. Change was in store for all three of us. We brainstormed what Kathy could do with her newfound freedom. We continued to challenge ourselves with the idea of starting a business around supporting cancer survivors. We had always dreamed of starting a business together — as sisters — but the opportunity never came along. Now we had no excuse! Losing our brother to Leukemia and Karen battling cancer twice was enough to give us the necessary drive to finally act. We collaborated together to find new purpose for our lives, while helping others. As sisters, each with a unique skillset to offer our company, we could make LoveHerHugHer a success while bringing something special to the cancer survivors and their families.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The most interesting story happened to Karen while she was working at Macy’s as Department Manager. It was a busy day and she decided to step onto the floor. Spotting a woman who was clearly confused and asked to help. The woman asked if Macy’s sold wigs and was disappointed to learn they do not. The woman looked as if she were on the verge of breaking down. This seemed all too familiar to Karen. When asked to share on a more personal level, the woman proceeded to pour out her feelings. She seemed relieved to share what she was going through emotionally and physically while battling cancer. This stranger expressed her feelings of isolation from friends and family as well as her struggles with her new identity. Karen listened and then hugged this sweet stranger, and they became instantly connected by what cancer had dealt them. Karen shared about the company she had founded with her sisters, LoveHerHugHer, and how it could offer support. Karen invited her to join the LHHH community on Facebook and join in upcoming events they were planning at Macy’s. Instantly, the idea came to Karen to offer her own wigs to this stranger turned fast friend! Karen went back to her office and instantly broke down in tears. They were two strangers who happened to be in the right place at the exact same time to help each other. In this moment the impact LoveHerHugHer would have on cancer survivors was evident.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There hasn’t been a specific funny mistake from when we were first starting the business. That said, from the many mistakes we’ve made in the past, we understand how important it is to allow ourselves to make them. Mistakes give everyone a chance to learn, grow, and move forward. Grace NOT perfection!
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
LHHH answers the question “how can I help”. As long as Karen can remember, since her first diagnosis with cancer, her goal was to create a registry for cancer fighters. These fighters often feel like they are forgotten. They get depressed. They feel they are fighting alone. Now with COVID-19, this feeling is intensified. With LHHH registry wish list it is two-fold; it helps the survivor ask for what they need while relieving them of financial burdens. It also empowers the support system to purchase items and fulfills the need in helping their loved one through the cancer journey.
LoveHerHugHer is helping to connect communities & survivors nationwide with our social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. We support and connect with the community with informative articles about health, nutrition, funny anecdotes, uplifting inspirations and other valuable resources on the LHHH website.
We actively donate monthly boxes and raise funds for a variety of cancer organizations during the year. These include
American Cancer Society Kansas City & Dallas Chapters, Gilda’s Place Kansas City Chapter, and The Stephanie Vest Foundation.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
We feel that everyone who receives a LoveHerHugHer care box is impacted by our cause. It’s such an emotional time for everyone involved in this journey. One person that stands out is a woman who requested we create a custom box for her sister battling brain cancer. Of course, this sisterly bond pulled at our heartstrings. The woman wanted to ensure her sister received a gift every few days to aid in keeping her spirits up. Due to COVID-19, the woman could not visit her sister in the hospital forcing her to find creative alternatives to show support. Once the gifts commenced, every day for a week, her sister would email us with tales of what the gifts meant to her. The care boxes mean just as much to the giver as to the receiver. Our care packages are sending a hug in a box.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
-Bring awareness to the community-
Cancer Survivors need support all the way through their journey. Cancer is a life-long struggle that requires support long after treatments. The effects of cancer treatments are life lasting both emotionally and physically.
-Provide more resources for AFTER cancer –
Survivorship Plans are offered through some facilities; life after cancer can be very difficult and mentally challenging. All survivors should have the opportunity to be counseled and assisted with transitioning from treatments through returning back to day-to-day life.
-Provide care boxes, food pantries, caretakers or companions for survivors who are in need. Support survivors with a holistic approach supporting the mind, body, and spirit.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
A leader is someone who takes the initiative to set an example, solve problems, and bring people together with purpose.
It is important for women and girls to pursue acts of leadership in their own unique way while empowering themselves and those around them. All three of us are mothers, and for our children to see us as strong business women and leaders is so rewarding. Between us, we have five daughters. Each of them has donated their time and talents to help with the company. Our daughters have helped in creating products, posing as models for photo shoots, and managing our email list. It really is a family affair!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each. All
1-It’s going to be uncomfortable! Get ready to get out of your comfort zone. Building your own business is not easy. You have to problem solve constantly, multi-task, and teach yourself new things. The website was our initial challenge taking twice as long as we had anticipated and learning how to run it as we developed it. Luckily, both Jeanine and Kathy have amazing husbands who have run their own businesses that we can lean on as FREE consultants.
2- Social media is a necessity but be prepared for the learning curve it requires and the time necessary to do it well. Fortunately, with all the resources that are free and available you can just about teach yourself anything. Thinking our youngest sister would be the savviest with this role, it turned out that Jeanine, the most mature of the three sisters, took the lead quickly and has done an amazing job.
3-How close you become with your business partners is surprising! Having the opportunity to better acquaint ourselves again as sisters, personally & professionally, has been such a fun journey. Discovering each other’s talents, ideas, business strategies and weak points allows us to continuously grow the LHHH business and our relationships. We learn new things together daily and there is a lot, and we do mean a lot, of laughter.
4-Kidness from customers and the community makes business worth it. Being an entrepreneur is hard, but our community makes all the growing pains worth it. The feedback from our product has brought such unexpected joy. We handwrite each note enclosed in the care boxes and they often thank us for what we are doing. It’s a reinforcement of the impact we are having in the cancer community. We also receive handwritten notes and cards from recipients expressing their appreciation and gratitude!
5-Take time for yourself to turn off, reset and exhale. A little time away from your purpose can offer newfound perspective and appreciation.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The gift registry wish list movement. We all are familiar with wedding registries and baby registries and the ease of these tools. We want cancer fighters to have this opportunity as well.
We want fighters, friends and family to know this registry exists and how easy it is to access. Also… it’s FREE. We want fighters to feel empowered and share their needs with their support community. For fighters to feel they are being supported through their entire journey. There is not a single person that is supporting a cancer survivor that doesn’t wish they could do MORE for their fighter.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”
This quote can remind us that we all need a little help and it only takes one person to show up and support someone else. Whether it’s a phone call, text, a cheer of encouragement, or sitting with someone. It’s what humanity and community is all about. It also represents how the three of us as sisters came together with different skillsets to work towards making a difference in the lives of others.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
If we could have breakfast with anyone it would be our sisters. Sure, this sounds cheesy, but we created this company almost two years ago together. In that time, we have all been together just once. After 2020 and the difficulties for all, and living in different cities, we have grown this company through virtual meetings and late-night conference calls. We saw a huge surge in our business during COVID-19, which meant more fighters were feeling supported through these tough times. That makes our heart happy. So yes, we want to have breakfast with each other. We love and admire each other for their tenacity, willing to try things that are scary, and to persevere when things have been uncertain. We want to hug, laugh, and celebrate each other and what we have accomplished as a family.
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