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PROFILE: Sharon Coleman Survives Cancer (Twice) and Builds a Deeply "Purposeful" Business

Level 5
3 1 2702

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Name: Sharon Coleman

Business: Lemon and Honey Gifts

Location: Mill Valley, CA

Launched: September 2018 (wahoo!)

Seven years ago, professional voice actor Sharon Coleman was diagnosed with colon cancer. She underwent extensive treatment, including spending many uncomfortable hours getting chemotherapy at an infusion center. Two years later, the cancer returned, and Sharon once again endured surgery, radiation and chemo. Thankfully, today Sharon is five years cancer-free. She’s also celebrating another significant milestone: This month, she launched an online business that’s directly inspired by her own harrowing experience with cancer. Sharon has founded Lemon and Honey Gifts which offers a carefully curated selection of gift boxes for men, women and kids going through chemo. Sharon thoughtfully and lovingly selects products she knows will help ease the side effects of the difficult treatment. When we caught up with this newly minted entrepreneur, Sharon had been in business for exactly one week -- and she was excited to talk about her decision to build a “purposeful” and deeply personal business.

Sharon, congratulations on launching your brand new business! You must be excited.

I am so happy! But, at this very moment, I’m pulling my hair out because my products are being flagged on Facebook for having “sexual content.” I’ve spent hours trying to figure out which words in my product descriptions are creating the problem. Talk about an unexpected roadblock! On the other hand, it’s so typical as an entrepreneur to suddenly have to stop what you’re doing and focus on something else. It feels like a silly priority, but I know it’s really important.

Lemon and Honey Gifts is launching as you celebrate five years of being cancer-free. Both milestones are significant – and deeply connected.

My business has been a long time in coming. Between 2011 and 2013, I was diagnosed with and treated for colon cancer twice. It was grueling, as you can imagine. Then, about 18 months ago, my best girlfriend in New York and a good friend in San Francisco both were diagnosed with lung cancer. I knew what was ahead for them in terms of dealing with chemo, and I wanted to be there for them during this scary, difficult time. I started putting together care packages filled with products that had helped me during my chemo.

That’s when I had the idea of creating a business around cancer care packages. Everyone has been touched by cancer in some way, and we all want to help when someone we know is going through treatment. But it’s hard to know what to do. Sending a gift box filled with carefully selected products can make both the giver and the receiver feel a little bit better.

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Tell us about the products you include in your gift boxes.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about which items to include. When I was going through chemo, I washed my hands a million times a day to avoid getting sick. I had nausea, and my mouth got so dry I was at risk for terrible mouth sores, which can create a whole host of other problems. The chemo can make your skin sensitive to the sun. And, of course, during the treatment, you spend hours sitting in the infusion center.

With all these things in mind, I’ve created a variety of boxes for women, men and kids at different stages of treatment. For example, I offer a Chemo Relief box, a Comforting Chemo Companion box, a Chemo Recovery box and an End of Treatment Celebration box. Depending on what type of gift you want to send and how much you want to spend, the box will include things like organic sanitizing hand spray, goat’s milk hand cream, a nourishing lip balm and sunscreen. I’ve got Biotene for dry mouth and assorted ginger teas and candies to help settle your stomach. I’ve also picked out cozy socks, a luxurious blanket, a stainless steel water bottle, a journal, and a handy tote bag.

Some gift boxes also include my favorite cookbooks by Rebecca Katz. She wrote the Cancer-Fighting Kitchen and Clean Soups. I reached out to Rebecca directly and was thrilled when she said she wanted to be involved. I order her cookbooks through the publisher and buy them at a wholesale price.

Sadly, many people go through cancer diagnosis and chemo. But not everyone turns that experience into an entrepreneurial opportunity. Tell us about your mindset in making that leap.

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I’ve worked for myself as a voice-over actor for more than 20 years, so I know about the hustle and the challenges of working for yourself. I also know how rewarding it is to set your own hours and be in charge of how much your business grows. But starting Lemon and Honey Gifts has given me a sense of purpose I’ve never have before.

I think it’s related to the out-of-control feel you have when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. I spent a long time feeling uncertain about what was going to happen in my life. It’s constant -- I felt it even when I had my last scan a few months ago. Building this business and creating these care packages helps me feel like I’m back in control.  And knowing my business helps someone feel supported during a really difficult time is a wonderful feeling.

Sharon, before you get back to solving the Facebook algorithm problem, is there anything else you want to share about your entrepreneurial journey so far?

I absolutely love what I’m doing. It’s incredibly rewarding to have turned my idea into a real business. Every day, my to-do list gets longer, not shorter, because I’m so excited about growing Lemon and Honey Gifts and making it even better! 

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QB Community members, what experience or inspiration sparked your decision to work for yourself? We can’t wait to hear!

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1 Comment
Level 7

What an amazing story, @sharoncoleman - thank you for sharing it with us!

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