October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Wrapped in Love—a line of wraps and caps devoted to cancer patients—is dedicated to easing discomfort and raising spirits. We asked owner Karen MacDonald, who splits time between Sarasota and Michigan, about her products, her hopes for Wrapped In Love and why what she does is so important to her.
What was your inspiration and motivation behind this idea of starting this business?
My mom was very ill about eight years ago, when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It was Christmas Eve, and all of us were dressed up and I wanted her to be able to participate. So I went home and put together a makeshift wrap she could put over her patient gown. She loved flowers and gardening, so I included a flower pin, and she lit up [when I gave it to her]. She felt pretty and special because she was dressed up like the rest of us for the holidays. I knew then that one day I would do this for others.
You’ve only been open for a year, but what has your consumer and community response been like?
I have been well-received despite just starting out. Last year, we had a photo shoot that actually took place on Palm Avenue with models from the American Caner Society in Sarasota out on the street. The owner of Marianne E saw us and invited us to come take photos in her shop to provide a colorful background. Coincidentally, she loved the wraps so much, she offered to carry them and now she is one of our retailers.
How do you choose the designs and determine the functionality of the products?
I follow fashion and take pieces from here and there, but most of the designs are [based on] input from the patients. Aside from the superficial patterns and prints, I want to make sure that the fabric is comfortable and breathable. I also talk to nurses and use focus groups. For example, I’m developing a wrap that has a drainage pocket and I’ve realized that not all patients are cold—sometimes they’re hot after chemotherapy. I adjust my designs accordingly. I’ve learned a lot thanks to the direct communication I have with the women.
What are some of the products that you carry or produce right now?
I have sleep caps, head wraps, poncho-style wraps and am coming out with a couple more designs soon. Everything is made in the United States. I try to focus on one size fits all, because most buyers are caretakers or family members, and I don’t want them having to guess on sizes.
What is your goal for Wrapped In Love?
I left the Taubman Company after 30 years to pursue my dream to start a company with the purpose of providing people with warmth, dignity and beauty. Studies have shown that when people are ill, their appearance and how they see themselves can affect their emotional well-being. I knew that I could make a change and help alleviate those insecurities. I give a percentage of the proceeds to a different charity every month, among them Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. And I eventually want to expand the line to men and children, but currently I want to perfect what I’m doing first.