In Conversation with Katy Tinney, Kerry Solmonsen, and Shelly Tinney-Miller of Cancer Cartel

Cancer Cartel_Blog Header

Describe your business in a few words?

Fashion Funds the Fight – we are cleaning up the cost of cancer by cleaning out the closet! Cancer Cartel is a nonprofit that provides funding to people who are struggling financially due to a cancer diagnosis.  We fund the cost of living, which cancer dramatically increases!

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

We are three brave cancer survivors who knew that we were called to do more. When you survive, it changes you. We could take the gifts that we have been given and combine them to build a creative, fashion-based nonprofit that will change the financial landscape of people fighting cancer. So instead of talking about it, we did it. And it has been a whirlwind of joy, and hard work, ever since.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

We are three experienced business people. Katy is a lifelong entrepreneur, owning multiple small businesses. Shelly has a background in corporate finance, but knew she was made to use that skill-set to do something more significant. Kerry comes from a customer service and business development background. The combination of skills that these three of us possess complement and are a recipe for success. 

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Katy absolutely did. Shelly found the drive to start after she left the corporate world. In the business development world, Kerry caught the entrepreneur spirit. The timing of Cancer Cartel was perfect for all three of us.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

We had pretty clear marketing objectives and brand identity created when we launched. That being said, we learned a LOT as our first year progressed. We started with social media, and though building it has taken longer than we thought, we have a remarkable group of followers and some great people who have been lending us their expertise. We have never done any “pay for followers” or “like for like” promotions, as we want this to be grass-roots, hard earned success. We have done some media, had a local news feature, and have been featured on a few podcasts, and know that those channels will be of great importance to our future.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

A big mistake we made early on was taking things very personally if people said “no” or didn’t follow through on a promise. We believed in our mission so much, that we had a hard time when people didn’t want to support us. We now know that rejection can be protection, and the people who are truly meant to align with our cause are the ones we want on the Cancer Cartel team. 

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

We are most proud of overcoming the challenges that we faced in fundraising due to the pandemic. We were worried when all of our 2020 events were cancelled. We weren’t sure how we were going to raise money to support all of the people who needed us. Covid made the financial pressure of cancer even worse, so we were even more driven to help. So, we got creative and raised money in other ways and managed to help many people who needed it!

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

Right now, it is just the three of us. But, in the future, the most important thing will be culture fit. Skills are important, but many can be taught. We want people who are committed to our mission and understand the culture and environment we are trying to create. 

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

We have been impacted in too many ways to list. The nonprofit world has been especially hard hit, as charitable gifts are one of the first things people cut when their financial situation changes. We also had to cancel some events that had incredible fundraising potential, which was tough. But we also look at Covid as a blessing in disguise, as the three of us had more time together to work on creating the future of Cancer Cartel. We also connected with many incredible people who we may not have been able to during “normal” times.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We are launching the Cancer Cartel Closet Challenge in February. (Think Ice-bucket Challenge only with Fashion!) We have some pretty fabulous fashionistas slated to participate, and we think some of your readers would love to join as well! Check out Cancer Cartel Closet Challenge on our website or in the highlights on our Instagram page.  

Over the next few years, we have extremely high goals. Our big goal in 2021 is to secure grants and sponsorships to fund our overhead costs. We have been doing this as volunteers for over a year, and know, with some funding, we will be able to achieve our goals of giving away 11 million dollars to those who are struggling. Our commitment to giving 100% of donor funds to our grant recipients, means we have to secure overhead funding from other sources. So, in addition to giving away money, this is high on our priority list. 

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Everything you can dream, anyone you want to talk to, overcoming any challenge- it is all possible.  Even in the midst of chaos and fear. Love wins. And when you do everything from a place of love, there is nothing you cannot do. 

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

People are generally good. They want to help. If you reach out with a compelling cause, people will jump right on board and do what they can.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

We are all three big believers in positive affirmations and visualization. We love a good motivational quote or a guided meditation. Building something from nothing takes some serious time and mental toughness, but we know the value of self-care.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

At this phase in our journey, it is much more work than life. But this work gives us life. It fills our cup instead of draining it. Thankfully we have very supportive families and do our best to really make the most of the time we have when we aren’t working.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

We started Cancer Cartel with nothing. We are three women with a dream. We did not have a financial backer nor are we experienced philanthropists.  This is a pure grass-roots movement. 

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

Set up your day, use a planner or a google calendar, or both! Know your why. If it won’t get you closer to your mission, or doesn’t bring you joy, don’t do it. Know your skills. If you aren’t good at it, get help! There are people that can do the things you can’t- find them!

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Women are the future. The age of male dominance in the nonprofit space is coming to a close. We want to pave the way for the women of the future who dream of making a big difference in the world.  We are coming into an age where vulnerability is actually strength and love is the power behind everything. We are very proud to be part of this time and this movement.

Share it!

Posted in

Leave a Comment

8 Inspiring Latinx Entreprenistas that have launched groundbreaking companies

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve put together a list of 8 incredible Latinx women founders that have launched groundbreaking companies. Check it out: Jessica Alba: The Honest Company Founded in 2011, The Honest Company makes sustainable, well-designed products that work – built on transparency, trust, and a deep sense of purpose. In…

Susan Sarit of Operations-Made Easy on achieving your goals by getting organized

Describe your business in a few words: I am a mom, daughter, sister, business owner, and more! I started my business for both financial freedom and to be a work-at-home mom. I created Operations-Made Easy to help diverse women with the Operations of their business. Deliberative, disciplined, and detail-oriented are just a few words we…

Lisa Nutt of Make Every Minute Count on personal and professional growth

Describe your business in a few words? The Make Every Minute Count ecosystem encourages us to go (do that thing), grow (personally and professionally) and give (through a membership based family to family giving circle). What made you take the leap to start your own business? I’m a serial entrepreneur. This is the third time…

Connection Coach Kristjana Hillberg on trusting your intuition and having an open mind

Describe your business in a few words: I’m a Connection Coach who helps women unearth their deepest desires, move from auto pilot to intentional action and prioritize their wellbeing. What was your background prior to starting your own business? I’m a multipotentialite – meaning, I have tried multiple things and tested multiple careers ranging from…

Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon: Finally Back to Delicious Meals For Everyone

Cuisine varies by culture, but no matter how societies segment and define themselves, certain foods show up in households across the globe — only differing in their forms. Some of a culture’s time-honored meals are created by its culinary icons.  Among America’s culinary icons, Martha Stewart is, without question, its most trusted. In 2014, Martha…

7 Entreprenista League Members share the biggest business challenge they overcame and what it taught them

Brand Photographer Brittney Guy-Atakpo of Brittney Jean Photography The biggest business challenge I have faced is sticking to a schedule that made me feel productive and good about my work ethic. What I have learned is that there is no right or wrong schedule or routine that produces success. I have been more grateful for…

Courtney Spritzer of WorkRobe on her “secret sauce” for a successful product launch

Describe WorkRobe in a few words? WorkRobes are designed to have you looking your best during any video meeting, so you can go from bedroom to boardroom in seconds and in comfort. My mission is to reimagine what you wear to work (from home).  Can you pinpoint the moment you knew you wanted to create…

Brand Photographer Brittney Jean Guy-Atakpo on helping women show up confidently on camera

Describe your business in a few words? I’m Brittney with Brittney Jean Photography & Company. I help women show up confidently in photos and on social media to grow their brand and business. I’m a Brand Photographer and Strategist. I have over 5 years working for Fortune 100 companies in sales and marketing and over…

Lorena Tapiero of Conscious Consulting on the power of networking

Describe your business in a few words? Conscious Consulting is a Latina-owned, bilingual marketing and public relations agency with 20 years of experience in the hospitality, sports and wellness sectors. Our thoughtful, comprehensive approach helps brands establish clear communication priorities and a long-range vision for meaningful press coverage, value-added partnerships and sustainable influencer relationships. As…

Lindsay Applebaum Stuart of Mamalux on the beginning stage of business

Describe your business in a few words? Mamalux is a first-of-its-kind leakproof sleep solution for breastfeeding moms. Our Kickstarter launches on 10/19! What was your background prior to starting your own business? I spent the first 10 years of my career as a sports journalist for the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated! So this has…

Jessica Bargenquast of Lady ChangeMakers on organic marketing strategies that work

Describe your business in a few words? Lady ChangeMakers is an exclusive e-commerce platform for women-owned businesses to gain valuable exposure and sales. Most of my life I’ve been encouraged to be seen and not heard. Growing up extremely introverted and shy I felt invisible. I wanted to create a platform so women-owned businesses could…

Jennifer Gligoric of EntrePods on the importance of mindset

Describe EntrePods in a few words? Cutting-edge entrepreneur and investor network answering the question “So Now What?” for business owners powered by fractional consultants and coaches with decades worth of experience. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I had no choice.  My mother owned a staffing company for 54 years…

Certified Financial Planner Maggie Gomez on investing and building wealth

Describe your business in a few words? An accessible place where anyone can learn to invest and build wealth, regardless of their net worth. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I realized that it was only those who were already wealthy that had access to quality financial guidance. I got…

Claire Jones of Cushy Couture on shifting paradigms in the fashion industry

Describe your business in a few words? Cushy Couture is a customer-driven clothing brand that creates high quality sweatpants in a wide range of colors and patterns that come in three different inseam lengths because we believe that you don’t have to settle for less. We create functional sweatpants that will last you for multiple…

Writer, Speaker, Podcaster, and Life Coach Chelsea Austin on taking care of yourself first

Describe your business in a few words? I advocate for others to find their own self-worth and acceptance through self-care, love, respect, and storytelling. What made you take the leap to start your own business? When I started writing my book and my blog, I don’t think I ever realized it would become a business.…