How a Cancer Diagnosis Led Dana Donofree to Found Her Business

Niche Business Tips from Dana Donofree, Who Discovered a Business Idea After Getting Cancer Diagnosis

Some businesses are born out of innovation, while others are born out of necessity. AnaOno is a case of the latter.

The company’s founder, Dana Donofree, recently spoke with us for our latest Smart Hustle Report. During the conversation, Donofree shared how her own experience with breast cancer led her to discover a serious gap in the lingerie market, which called her to start the business.

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To listen to the full interview with Dana, check out this player:

Donofree said, “I studied fashion design at Savannah College of Art & Design so it was the world that I lived in since the time I can remember and I had an earth-shattering diagnosis at the age of 27. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and obviously unexpected to myself, to my fiance, to my friends, to my family. But the piece that I didn’t expect was that my clothing and my underwear drawer specifically was no longer going to work for me after I underwent all of the multiple surgeries that are necessary to fight breast cancer and to fight the disease. So, coming from the background of being a designer, being able to assess the problem very quickly, very early on, I wanted to design other intimates that made us feel just as beautiful as we did before cancer rocked our world.”

Niche Business Tips

Through the process of building her business around this unique need, Donofree has learned a lot of valuable lessons about running a niche business. You can listen to the entire episode here and read some of the top niche business tips from the conversation below.

Use Your Own Unique Perspective

If you’re in a situation similar to Donofree’s, where you’re a member of that group that your business aims to serve, you can use that perspective to make better decisions for your business. Think about what you’d like to see from businesses that market or sell to you, rather than just trying to emulate what bigger companies are doing.

Donofree said, “I’m in special shoes where I am my customer and I think that that is a huge, huge benefit that I have because I know what upsets me and I know what gets me excited but, beyond that, one of the biggest things I saw when I started investigating to even decide if I was able to make this a business or if this was an opportunity, was I used all women that have been affected by the disease in any marketing I do. It was important to me to see on the other side of that screen somebody who looked like me, somebody who had went through what I had gone through whereas my competition were just hiring models and telling a women that may not have any breast at all that their product fit them when they were showing it on a model with two breasts.”

Think Small

When coming up with a new business or product idea, you don’t have to create something that’s completely earth shattering. You can still make an impact with something really specific that’s important to a niche group.

Donofree suggests, “I mean, it could be a million things. You could be giving a shoe to someone who doesn’t have a foot or you could be giving special apparel to people that live in wheelchairs.”

Get the Word Out

Once you have your product or idea in mind, the work isn’t done. Your target customers won’t just automatically know about what you have to offer. You have to consider what channels or platforms are popular with your those customers and use them to get the word out.

Donofree says, “Even though I was the first lingerie company doing it, it is not, you build it they will come. You do have to market, you do have to reach a target audience, you do have to show the world that you are there. And that’s a big task for a little company.”

Image: Dana Donofree

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Ramon Ray Ramon is an entrepreneur, best selling author and global speaker. He is the founder of Smart Hustle Magazine. You can read more about Ramon.

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