About three years ago, Kimberly Fink didn't know if she would survive. After nearly nine months of trying to figure out what was wrong with her, Fink was diagnosed with uterine cancer and the grueling treatment process began.
"When I was diagnosed, one of the first things I did was went on Etsy and ordered a bunch of inspirational art prints that were letter press and really pretty and I put them up in my room," the Missouri native said.
She was wearing a bright, rainbow splashed blouse, tailored black blazer, skinny blue jeans and pointy toed red pumps. In her striped oversized tote, Fink carried a box she hopes will change the way people affected by cancer will fight, survive and care for loved ones.
Fink is the co-founder of a new subscription based gift box service called TREATMiNT boxes, made by and for cancer patients and survivors.
"We trademarked the tagline 'fuel for the fight' because that's exactly what we feel like these boxes are," Fink said. "They provide you with fuel to keep fighting."
The idea behind the boxes, which are available in one, three, six and twelve month increments, is that they can act as a buffer between friends and family who may want to help but don't know how and cancer patients and survivors who crave support in their darkest times.
"One of the things that happens when you're first diagnosed [is] everybody comes out of the woodwork," said Fink.
As time goes on, interest begins to dwindle because friends and family are unsure what to say or do. It is during this period, said Fink, that those diagnosed with cancer need support the most. That's what makes the subscription periods so innovative. Rather than sending a onetime package, subscribers have the option to arrange to have TREATMiNT boxes sent automatically over a period of time. This serves as a constant reminder to the recipient that someone is thinking of them. Having been in a lonely place during her own diagnosis and treatment, this idea is something very close to Fink's heart.
TREATMiNT products include things like skincare lines, tea and a tote that the pair designed especially for the boxes. For the men, Fink and Wendy Nichols collaborated with Duke & Winston to design a hat.
"We wanted the brands to be things people would be really excited about," said Fink, who hinted that the company will be working with VIPs in the cancer community very soon.
Prior to her diagnoses, Fink, the then 32-year-old Styled Creative co-founder, knew something was wrong, but her case got overlooked because of her age. Uterine cancer is most common in women over the age of 50 with the average age hovering around 60-years-old.
It wasn't until Fink was helping her family clean up after their home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama was hit by a series of deadly tornadoes, that her answer came.
"I go down to be with my family and I'm helping clean up and I notice I'm starting to get really out of breath so my family was like you need to go to the emergency room," said Fink.
At the hospital, Fink was told she had only half the blood she needed in her body and required a blood transfusion.
"And then finally," Fink recalled, "I was diagnosed."
During her battle with cancer, Fink said she was constantly searching for something to inspire her to fight on. All she could find, though, were cheesy, low-quality pieces that likely wouldn't be able to serve as a lasting reminder of her fight and triumph over cancer. What Fink couldn't find, she decided to create. It wasn't the first time Fink, who has a background in design, had founded a business.
Styled Creative is an event planning service in Philadelphia that Fink helped co-found along with close friend and former business partner Beka Rendell. While the business was successful, Fink had a hard time finding it fulfilling.
"I just felt a calling that 'this is not what you are meant to be doing,'" she said. "'You're meant to be doing something else.'"
So she combined her interest in end-of-life care and her background in design and, along with Wendy Nichols, created TREATMiNT.
Fink and Nichols began the start-up process about a year ago and, funded by an angel investor, the duo is officially ready to release their product. There's one challenge, though, that Fink hopes to overcome.
In recent years, companies that provide a product marketed toward cancer patients, survivors and their supporters have come under fire because of the idea that these corporations profit from the deadly disease.
One Forbes.com article defines 'pinkwashing' as "the practice of using the color pink and pink ribbons to indicate a company has joined the search for a breast cancer cure and to invoke breast cancer solidarity, even when the company may be using chemicals linked to cancer." The concept asserts that corporations exploit cancer for profit. Fingers have even pointed at the Susan G. Komen Foundation for perpetuating the idea that cancer can be commodified.
Moreover, the issue of whether profits from corporate use of 'pink' associated with 'breast cancer awareness' actually go toward breast cancer research.
Fink is well aware of this issue.
"I don't ever want people to think that we're doing this to profit," she said. "I just feel so passionately about this."
To curb the idea that TREATMiNT seeks to profit from the debilitating disease, Fink and Nichols plan to implement a few practices that will give back to the community they hope their products help.
Originally meant to be a non-profit, Fink and Nichols soon realized their venture was too expensive to be anything other than a corporation.
"So we're hoping in the next couple months to become a 1-for-1 like Tom shoes," Fink said.
With benefit corporation status, TREATMiNT will be able to donate a box for every box purchased. They're already partnered with underserved hospitals in rural and urban areas where TREATMiNT users can choose to donate to an unknown party.
Set to debut at the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure in Philadelphia, Fink said people can begin buying TREATMiNT boxes May 11th and the first boxes will be shipped on June 1st. Thus far, only two boxes have been received by Robin Roberts and Amy Robach of 'Good Morning America.'
"This is the thing that I can do," Fink said. "I'm sure there are other things that are bigger and better but this is what I can do."