Small Business Spotlight: 4Women.com, @thebeaubeau
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Who: Susan Beausang, founder and designer
What: Provide fashionable solutions to women and girls with medical hair loss
Where: Sarasota, FL
How: "Just because you lost your hair, does not mean you have lost your sense of style." That’s the motto at 4Women.com, and founder Susan Beausang wants her clients to feel bald, bold and beautiful.
Beausang, a BRCA2 gene carrier, has had a prophylactic mastectomy as well as her ovaries removed to reduce her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. She also suffers with Alopecia Universalis (AU), an autoimmune genetic condition that stripped her of all her hair.
Beausang comes from a family with three generations of breast cancer survivors, but does not actually know what causes AU. Anesthesia is a possible trigger, she says, noting she had four bouts of anesthesia within six months because of her risk-reducing surgeries. One day, her hair started falling out in huge clumps. In three months, she was bald.
These events ultimately led her to switch gears from her career as a registered representative for several brokerage firms and a trader on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. She dusted off her degree in fashion, and in 2006, Beausang launched 4Women.com to provide fashionable solutions to women and girls with medical hair loss.
“I was horrified with the caps available to women who lost their hair from chemo,” says Beausang. “They lacked fashion and comfort and didn’t fit securely.”
Instinctively, she says, she knew what was missing: soft fabrics with bright colors and beautiful prints. Beausang used these to create her signature product, the beaubeau head scarf which is pre-tied, pre-fitted, sized and lined to help women and girls with hair loss feel good sporting a secure alternative to a hat or a wig.
“If women don’t have hair, they are conditioned to think they’re not feminine or fashionable,” she says. “The beaubeau gives them an alternative almost like their own hair. It can be styled and matched to their outfits.”
Clearly, Beausang’s fashion degree fosters her core business and there’s no question her financial background helps with budgeting, pricing and other financial considerations. But, she says, manufacturing is daunting, especially because she has been determined to use only U.S. manufacturers. This can be a problem because many manufacturers don’t want small lots. In the early years of the business, she had to order from several places, one as far away as Washington State. There was a four- to six-week lead time and “women don’t want to wait that long. They want it yesterday.”
An ad in a Florida paper eventually led her to a local manufacturer, a woman who’s a “real perfectionist,” says Beausang. “We make about 900 scarves a month and have added seamless sleep caps and swim caps to the line.”
Currently, the beaubeau sells in boutiques nationwide, as well as in Canada and Europe. Beausang also envisions a future in which she will expand her business.
While a silver-lining is an overused term, Beausang says she likes to think she can take bad situations and turn them into something positive. “It doesn’t come easily, but, wow, I’ve been through it and here’s what I am. It may have been easier to stick my head in the sand, but what a very different person I’d be.”