April Wilson is no stranger to making her mark in life. “My journey began early on in the Army where women are usually outnumbered and overlooked; yet, I quickly established myself as an independent badass with life experience,” she noted. Though April couldn’t predict where her health journey and self-taught design and production of ostomy bag covers would take her, “it became something more”. My platform is all about female empowerment and changing stigmas; my aim is “Never think this hobby would turn into a business that I love”
Women have never been more visible and influential in business than they are now, globally. Women founded 49% of new companies launched in 2021 in the U.S. – up significantly from 28% just two years earlier.
It’s fantastic news, but this is only part of the picture.
Even as more women start businesses, they still do not attract as much funding than men-led ones do. Women-only teams received less than 2% of venture capital (VC) funding compared to the 80% men-led teams received — even when women-led firms tend to reach higher valuations more quickly.
Women are undervalued in many aspects of society, from healthcare to politics. Women experience discrimination and obstacles to receiving proper care ranging from having their concerns dismissed to being blamed for their own health problems – this is especially true of younger women, women of color and those living on lower incomes.
As women gain ground in healthcare (one of the top industries for women-owned businesses), they’re making tremendous changes. Not only are these formidable women making waves in business but they’re also improving health resources and care available to women. To celebrate all those women working to better our lives through products and services provided by women-owned companies, here are a few companies you should know about:
Following Dana Donofree’s double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, she struggled to find a bra that fit her changed body. Breast cancer had reduced her from an individual into something she considered an illness: it never dawned on her that she was now walking and talking medical equipment; “it was always there as a constant reminder.”
Donofree put her fashion design expertise to use, creating AnaOno with its own line of bras designed specifically to fit cancer treatment and surgery-affected chest types. “This allowed me to focus my creative energies in service of something larger,” Donofree noted.
Donofree found her greatest reward was inviting young cancer survivors over to try out initial prototypes, an emotional experience. At first she worried her designs wouldn’t meet expectations but to her delight all silhouettes were completely inclusive, fitting those both with and without breasts equally well.
AnaOno has expanded their specialty wear line over time, including pocketed mastectomy bras, reconstruction bras, radiation therapy bras and post-surgery loungewear. “What keeps me going is hearing stories from our community members – knowing it’s more than just another bra,” Donofree explained. “It represents you.”
Jennifer Gibbons decided to get a preventive double mastectomy after learning her genetic risk for breast cancer was higher than expected. Unfortunately, after surgery wearing a seat belt was so uncomfortable it made driving more challenging than she anticipated – until Carolyn Gibbons, an active member of the sewing community created a seat belt cushion as an effective solution to their discomfort.
Soon Jennifer, Carolyn and their friends began making and giving out cushions to other women in need.
As part of their recovery plan, they contacted quilting company ByAnnie about using its Soft and Stable product – designed to strengthen and stabilize sewn pieces – which helps strengthen and stabilize sewn pieces. After speaking to ByAnnie’s team about using it for these seat belt cushions, an official Bosom Buddy pattern was developed so more women could access and make these cushions. Because post-surgery life shouldn’t just mean surviving but rather flourishing along your journey.
Cinde Dolphin had become an experienced veteran of surgery by 2013. Following multiple cancer diagnoses, she faced nine surgeries that would involve medical drains during recovery; as standard pins or clips provided by hospitals did not suffice, Dolphin brought along a canvas apron with pockets to assist her with managing them during her recoveries.
The hospital team was so inspired by Dolphin’s concept that they encouraged her to design a washable version for hospital use. By 2014, she had developed and tested her prototype with patients, receiving rave reviews from them. Fast-forward a few years and today the KILI Medical Drain Carrier can be found across various hospitals worldwide and sold online – helping women regain independence and mobility following surgery while making them feel more at ease in themselves.
Carol Galland was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40, expecting that as a professional hair stylist with industry knowledge and connections she’d have options available to her for dealing with her chemotherapy-induced hair loss. But to her dismay she couldn’t find attractive, comfortable head coverings or wigs that fit properly and felt natural; using both experiences combined together she collaborated with Danielle Galland-Yates in creating Headcovers Unlimited which offers custom wigs and headwear options specifically targeted toward cancer survivors.
Once Carol passed away in 2009, Danielle continued her mother’s legacy through the company. Driven by personal experience and her mother’s life as well as a desire to help other women facing cancer, Danielle now creates head coverings that are comfortable yet flattering; taking inspiration from women sharing problems she can solve while finding colors, textures and unique ideas she can incorporate into design process.
April Wilson was only 20 when she became seriously ill while serving in the Army and ultimately diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease she managed for years prior to receiving a permanent ileostomy bag. April found the world of ostomy confusing at first; but finding quality covers wasn’t satisfying either – they didn’t fit perfectly or last more than a few washes! Therefore she taught herself sewing so she could create custom designed covers of her own for sale on Etsy to help others feel as confident as she felt herself! Her friends and family encouraged her in this venture before long convinced her friends and family convinced her they wanted her help making sales efforts so others feel the way she does.”
April’s Etsy shop sells comfortable and attractive covers for ostomy bags in order to promote body positivity, dispel stigmas, and combat limits and stigmas associated with having an ostomy bag. “I live life to its fullest! My goal is to show everyone that having an ostomy doesn’t mean anything is over for someone,” said April. “When someone orders one from me I know they are ready to embrace every opportunity they are presented with – fighting hard for confidence along the way!”
As more women discover their power and channel their creative energies toward finding solutions for women everywhere, all women will reap the rewards. Women supporting women isn’t a ripple; it makes waves. “I am so grateful I am still here pursuing my dream while supporting and impacting others just like me,” Donofree stated. “Giving back confidence and empowerment makes all the hard work worth while.”