Brand Interview: Dr. Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, Founder of BBFL Co (Best Friends for Life)
How long has your company been in business? Please tell us a bit about your company, its mission, goals…
Athlete, mother of four, and Johns Hopkins-educated physician, Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, 44, of Scarsdale, NY, has focused her entire career on improving patient care. However, it wasn’t until becoming a patient herself that she came up with the idea for her company, BFFL Co. (Best Friends for Life), that strives to enhance the patient experience before, during and after a hospital stay or treatment.
After undergoing a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, she found that there were many items she could have used for better comfort and care during her hospital stay and recovery. Elizabeth felt that while the surgeries and radiation treatment for diseases have rapidly evolved, the patient experience had not. For example, the surgical garments were designed in the 1970s and had not kept up with the medical progress and there was nothing for patient dignity in the Radiation Oncology space.
Also, she found that her own patients and friends were concerned and confused about their upcoming hospital stays: “What should I bring to the hospital? Why does this surgical bra hit just where my drains exit? Why are these undergarments I’m supposed to wear during my prostate treatments so uncomfortable? What will help me to recuperate quickly after childbirth?”
Elizabeth decided to design a line of cheerful and attractive bags, surgical accessories and helpful patient amenities to address these issues. Just weeks later when a dear friend asked what she would need for her own mastectomy, Thompson created the first BFFLBag®, full of items to improve the care experience for her.
Since then, Thompson put her New York City oncology practice on the side burner and started BFFL Co. to make her idea a business. She has been busy inventing and customizing specialized products, such as post-mastectomy bras and prostate dignity briefs, to ensure her BFFLBags improve the comfort and care of a wider range of patients. Most recently, she launched her delivery and postpartum Mommy/Delivery BFFLBag and Prostate Cancer BFFLBag, which are available online at the company’s site, BBFL Co (Best Friends For Life).
Transitioning from oncologist and busy mom to the head of a rapidly growing business has been an adrenalin-filled experience for Thompson, who also holds a Masters in Public Health from Harvard. Today, she juggles seeing patients with attending meetings with potential distribution partners and hospital buyers, which provide the bag to leading hospitals around the country. She is proud to lead her company, BFFL Co., in greatly improving the patient experience and is excited that BFFLBags are taking off.
Do you donate to charities? Tell us about that also and why.
Currently, each retail purchase includes a giveback of 15% of the net proceeds of profit. Eventually we will donate bags to underserved communities.
Tell us about your brand.
BFFL stands for Best Friends for Life. Our brand messages friendship, support, optimism, and recovery.
How did you know what typeface (font) would be right for your company wordmark or logo? If your logo has an illustration, describe why that art was the right thing, animal, place, object, etc…
We chose the font: omnes. It is rounded, soft and relays modernity and comfort.
How did you decide on the right color palette to fit your company look and feel?
We chose colors that men and women of all ages could relate to—bold colors
How did you decide which type of designer to work with, or did you design your own identity and web presence?
I brought my ideas to a graphic designer who presented several ideas
In what order did you present your company to the world? Did you start with marketing and products, or website, blog and social media?
We started with a website, photos of our products, and testimonials. We then moved on to a blog, social media and marketing materials.
How long after the launch of your company did you start pitching in social media?
About 6 months. It takes a long time to learn how to use Facebook, Twitter.
Did you do research or study any software, take webinars, teleclasses, before approaching any area of your marketing or web presence?
I listened to the webinars posted on Savor the Success.
Do you advertise locally in newspapers and/or nationally in magazines? Are they effective?
Do you advertise online using Google, Facebook or on other company sites? Are they effective?
I have not had any success with google adwords. We have not paid for any advertising other than the google adwords.
Which social media site to spend the most time on and how does it help marketing your business?
Facebook and Twitter but I am not sure if it leads to sales, just awareness for now.
Do you belong to community sharing websites? Which ones and how effective are they in building your audience? What are the best features that help your business?
I am not aware of website sharing, what is that?
When you printed your products, packaging, business cards and other print marketing did you choose an online printer or visit a local vendor?
We use a local printer in NY
Did you know anything about different types of papers, when you wanted to print your marketing materials?
We loved the glossy finish and rounded edges. We try to keep the same feeling for all of our materials.
Have you ever used “green” technology in printing, using FSC certified papers or recycled paper and if not, how likely are you at trying this on a next project?
Would love to try this. Budget is always an issue.
If you sell products, are they produced in the USA or abroad?
About 50% of our products are produced in the USA. We would love to have 100% of our materials made in the USA.
Do you speak at events? If so tell us about that.
I speak at many events—Breast Cancer Toast to Survivors, NY, NY; Pink Tea in Mobile, AL.
What is coming up in the year or two we should watch for?
November 2012 I will receive the Ally award from American Cancer Society. I will give a speech at the event.
Is there anything you haven’t yet tackled, but will want to do soon?
We are thinking about HSN or QVC….
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