How one woman's tragic experience with cancer helped form a business idea to help countless others

Dealing with cancer can be a hugely traumatic experience for patients and their families. And it's an experience all-too-familiar to the founder of the next business we feature in our blog series on the companies given Business Wales AGP support.

Jo Riley started CancerPal after her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She found that after researching online, it was difficult to find answers to specific questions, and even more challenging to find products that would directly address cancer symptoms. 

Here, Jo Riley tells the story of CancerPal and advises others setting off in the world of business.

 

Tell us about CancerPal.

CancerPal is an online platform that provides advice and support to the family and friends of those diagnosed with cancer. 

Our website sells a range of cancer support boxes that people can give to their loved ones. These include Inner Strength boxes with a selection of items hand-picked for when someone receives their initial diagnosis. We also offer Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy Boxes, which include supportive products such as ginger sweets for sickness, balms for dried skin and aloe for burns.

After my mum was diagnosed with cancer, I realised what a minefield coping with a cancer diagnosis could be. For example, I was only able to find what kind of shampoo would be suitable for hair loss after a couple of hours of reading support forums.

I created a "cancer box" for my mum, which had items of support as well as small keepsakes. It was a massive help to her, both in terms of practical support, but also because of the thought and care that went into it.

Sadly, my mum died, and after returning to a corporate career, I decided I wanted to start a business that would make a difference.

Noting the difficulty in finding advice and support for friends and families of those who have cancer, I decided to start CancerPal, to provide people with an online resource and marketplace to support and care for their loved ones.

 

What are your proudest moments in business so far?

I'm so proud of the feedback from family members of cancer patients. At first, friends purchased from the site and gave me feedback that the boxes made a big difference.  But as the business grew, I started getting orders from across the UK, and recently had several orders from the US, exporting boxes to customers across the pond. Knowing that my business idea is helping people not just in the UK but overseas too, makes me proud.

 

If you were starting again, what would you do differently?

I built the business from scratch, including the website and its contents. In hindsight, I would have sought support from programmes such as Business Wales AGP a lot sooner, as I would have been able to build the business faster and more efficiently.

 

How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?

I received support through Town Square Spaces, and that led to me enrolling on Business Wales AGP. The business is still in very early stages, after our soft launch in November 2019. 

If the business continues to grow as planned, I aim to employ someone full-time in the next 12 months and will be seeking to improve the look and functionality of the website.

 

 

What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?

● Seek help early. Enrolling on a program with trusted experts and advisors, such as Business Wales AGP can prove invaluable.

● Find a community. Getting the support of a community of other business founders can help you talk through ideas, as well as provide feedback and support that results in faster growth.

● Set realistic goals. This helps you to keep moving forward. It's fine to aim high, but if you don't keep targets within a reasonable scope, you can feel as though you aren't succeeding, even when you are.

 

For more information on CancerPal visit here.

Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme.

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