Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mailet Lopez > www.ihadcancer.com


Mailet Lopez, Founder, I Had Cancer

What do you need to be an entrepreneur?
Tough skin, passion and a strong work ethic. You need to believe in yourself, even when others don’t, and be willing to take risks. That’s where the best ideas come from.

What did inspire you to start your business?
I have been involved in two start-ups. The first is Squeaky Wheel Media, a thriving digital agency in NYC that I co-founded on the heels of the 9-11 attacks in NYC.
The second is IHadCancer.com.  While undergoing treatment for Type 2B breast cancer, I realized that there was a serious problem that accompanied dealing with cancer that even I – with my loving and devoted support network – couldn't escape: the feeling of isolation and confusion that accompanied the disease and treatment.
After surviving my battle with Cancer, I wanted to help the next person who was affected, so I leveraged that experience along with my many years in the digital space as technologist and digital pioneer to build I Had Cancer.

How did you finance it?
I Had Cancer was 100% financed by myself, my agency and a small group of colleagues.

Being Hispanic…Does it have any influence on your business?
Yes, it has taught me the value of hard work and courage. My family escaped from Cuba when I just a young girl as a part of the Mariel boatlift in 1980. I have seen firsthand what it means to fight for everything you have. My parents are a great example of that and have been an inspiration. I have definitely picked up on their amazing work ethic. 

In the face of adversity, how do you decide to keep going?
I was so lucky to have the support and love of my family and amazing friends while fighting cancer. I felt a great deal of gratitude and responsibility to pay it forward. I knew I had to make it so that nobody felt isolated or alone while dealing with this horrid disease. It was just a brilliant stroke of luck that I met someone who was around my age and had just gone through what I was about to embark on. Talking to this person made the process of dealing with cancer much easier for me. From hearing about what to expect to knowing that my symptoms were normal, connecting with someone who could relate to what I was going through made me feel less isolated and confused. That’s when I realized the power of connections and I knew that I had to make that available to others. I wanted to help people and that’s what kept me going.

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
With very little funding for outreach, we are relying on word of mouth to start the movement. We have to manage our expectations for growth, which we recognize will happen over months, not days.

If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
To do a better job at making people recognize their story is truly important, no matter how trivial they may think it may be. It’s important for people to know that the sum totals of their stories will help turn our site into a movement.

What was your childhood ambition?
I’m living it right now. I always wanted to start my own company and help make the world a better place. As cliché as that sounds, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and living it is truly a blessing. Going forward I want to continue making a difference in people’s lives.

Tell us about three entrepreneurs that you admire?
The first is my business partner, Anthony DelMonte. I believed in him when he started Squeaky Wheel Media, and when it was my turn to incubate I Had Cancer; he was 110% behind it. He is passionate, hard working, extremely generous and also one of the most creative people I know.
The second is Steve Jobs. He has proven to invent and reinvent Apple from day one. He continues to be a leader in innovation, technology and human behavior. His company excelled with him at its helm and continues to do so while he battles illness.
Lastly, like a true Latina, the others would have to be my parents. They are not entrepreneurs in the full sense of the word, but they came to the US with nothing and built the American dream through hard work, determination and love.

For business meetings: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
All of the above, but business lunches are best. We are fortunate enough to be located in New York City and we definitely take advantage of the awesome restaurant selection by our office. We also cook together pretty often (black beans, rice and tostones). We have a pretty well stocked kitchen in the office and the whole staff will sit down for a meal together a few times a month.

What sacrifices on your personal life did you have to make in order to become a business success?
Sometimes I had to give up having a personal life at all. The success I have achieved has taken a lot of hard work, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it! The sacrifices you make in running a company is time. It’s the one thing you cannot get back, so it’s important to do things you love to do and make them a part of your life. As such, I work with my best friends and enjoy the challenges of building a company with people who share the same dream.

What is your favorite quote?
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.William James

Is it difficult to be unconventional?
No! Especially if you’re Latina.

Biggest mistake made?
I wish I had thought of this idea sooner! 

Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?
Most definitely, I do. I want to change the way that people in this world deal with cancer. I want to eliminate the stigma around the disease, open up conversation and find a solution to managing life before, during and after cancer.

About the company
I Had Cancer is a social support network with the mission of helping people deal more effectively with life before, during and after cancer. For more information visit www.ihadcancer.com

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