Home Based Business Inspiration: Barb Gunselman, creator of Bella Bandanas

"One day during the holidays, completely bald from chemotherapy, I wanted to feel a little more feminine."

So begins the story of Barb Gunselman, an inspiring breast cancer survivor who is building her own business making beautiful breast cancer scarves (or bandanas, to be precise) adorned with Swarovski crystals. 

We love to profile women who have built a business out of adversity, and Barb has done just that. In doing so, she celebrates initiative, femininity, and the power of a woman to rise above a diagnosis to create beauty and freedom in her life. 

Here's Barb's inspiring story: 

1. How did you get the idea for your business?

One day during the holidays, completely bald from chemotherapy, I decided to make myself something 'sparkly' to wear on my head for a party. 

I hated wearing wigs. They were hot and itchy and gave me a headache, and the silk scarves were spinning around my head all day. I wanted something that would stay put and make me feel a little more feminine - and something to possibly distract from my obvious illness. 
I made myself a bandana with Swarovski crystals all over it. I got so many compliments that I kept making them. Now I have started a business called Bella Bandanas. It is for people who want something functional to wear, and yet still feel 'sparkly.'

Bella Bandanas are custom made Swarovski crystal bandanas, made in eleven colors, with your choice of crystal color on each one. I started the business about three months ago, officially, and I do most of the work myself, although my teenage daughters do help me when it gets overwhelming. ( I have to pay them, of course!) 

My bandanas are now in 15 different stores, salons, and cancer centers in the area [Pennsylvania], as well as in New Jersey. I also have a website where you can buy them directly: http://www.bellabandanas.com. They are also in the gift shop at breastcancer.org.

2. How many hours per week does this business require?

During the day, I market them, and contact people by email, phone, etc. trying to get the word out about my new business. At night, I start making them, and I usually do it for two to three hours unless I have a huge order, and then I do it until I am done. I am working quite a few hours every day, but it doesn't feel so much like work. Making them is actually therapeutic for me. It relaxes me. 

3. How did you finance the start-up costs? 

I started out just making them for myself. Then I was approached by people who wanted to buy them from me. I put some money away, and then I placed a big order for bandanas and crystals when I got my first big order from a salon. Every time I get a check for an order, I put it right back into the business. I work in my house, so I have no overhead, and I only get as many supplies as I can afford.

As far as the web design and web coding, I hired some great people who agreed to bill me over a period of time for the work, instead of all at once. I made sure that I got a tax ID number so everything I get is wholesale.

4. Has anyone inspired you along the way?

So many people have inspired me! Someone who was a big inspiration to me was my Radiation Oncologist, Marisa Weiss. She is the founder of breastcancer.org, and she was so supportive of my bandanas. She was the first one to say that she thought I should sell them, and told me she wanted them in the gift shop at breastcancer.org.

She was there to listen to me through all of my treatments, and really cared about what I was feeling mentally - and not only about the cancer.

5. What kind of resources helped you the most?

I would say that breastcancer.org was the resource I went to most often when I had a concern or question that I didn't want to bother my doctors with. 
I also read a lot of books on breast cancer  and tried to read the books that were written by survivors. I feel that it is so helpful to know that someone else is going through it, or has been through similar difficulties, and to know what helped them to get beyond it.

I also loved Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book. It is huge, and it has the answer to anything that you might need more information on. It explains everything about your breasts, cancer, treatment options, side effects, and more. I would recommend it to every woman, even if you don't have cancer.

6. What kind of tips do you have for women who want to build their own businesses? 

I have owned three of my own businesses, not including this one, and I would never do anything else. I love the feeling of having something of my own, and not having to answer to anyone but myself. I would tell any woman to start her own business doing something that she loves and is good at.
I talk to so many women who are so afraid to start a business because it may fail, or they don't think they can do it. Anyone can do it. You just have to want it badly enough, and you have to love what you are doing.

I don't think there is a woman out there who doesn't want some financial independence. The only one you can really rely on is yourself, and, as I know, you never know what's around the corner! 
You have to stop thinking about it, and just do it. You have to go into it believing that you are going to succeed no matter what. Good karma comes around.

7. What kind of advice or insight do you have for turning adversity into success?

People keep telling me that I "turned lemons into lemonade" by starting this business. I guess I don't look at it that way. When I got diagnosed, I just went on auto-pilot. I tried not to think about the fact that I was sick, and I tried never to think that I might die from it. 
I was determined to stay as upbeat as I could, not for me so much as for my children. I knew that if they saw me fall apart, they would worry, and then they would fall apart. I couldn't have that. 

Mostly, I tried to keep on laughing through everything. If I didn't keep laughing, I would have curled up into a ball and not moved. I knew that when the treatment was over, I needed to do something for myself, and that meant getting more independent. I also knew that I wanted to be involved somehow with cancer survivors, this is my little contribution to making people get through their day a little easier.

Barb donates 5% of all proceeds to cancer research. She will also design custom bandanas – perfect for girl's sports teams or three-day walk teams. Her website is: http://www.bellabandanas.com

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Do you know an inspirational woman or someone who has built a business out of adversity? Let us know.