11 Businesses Owned By People With Chronic Illnesses You Can Support
Starting a business is never easy, and when you’re dealing with the complexities of building a company in between doctors’ appointments, flare-ups, and other demands of chronic illness, it’s even more challenging.
Still, some chronically ill entrepreneurs have founded their own companies — in fact, for many chronically ill business owners, their inspiration was their illness. The world isn’t exactly made for people who have chronic health challenges and disabilities, so some business-minded warriors have taken it upon themselves to create products for our community that no one else is making. Other “spoonie” business owners got started when they found that being their own boss actually works better for their illness than a traditional job.
Below are 11 businesses created by people with chronic illnesses that you can support. Some offer products made for fellow chronic warriors, while others have found ways to turn their passions into a business anyone can enjoy.
1. Mighty Well
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The idea for Mighty Well came to Emily Levy out of necessity. Levy was diagnosed with chronic neurological Lyme disease during her sophomore year of college, and was horrified when a nurse suggested she protect her PICC line by covering it with a sock. “I’m sorry…what? A sock? On my arm? In public? Like…on dates?” Levy thought. Realizing there actually weren’t more fashionable options out there, she created her own line of PICC line covers that are feature fun patterns and are specially designed to protect your insertion site. Mighty Well now also offers T-shirts as well.
Buy the PICCPerfect PICC Line Cover in Arlene for $29.95.
Charlotte Jones had already experienced health challenges (she had a heart operation at 16) when she first got the idea to start her own handbag line. She attended a business training at age 19 to learn the basics, but two weeks later collapsed with a mysterious illness. She was eventually learned she had postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, essentially losing the ability to move.
However, a few months after her illness began, she started slowly sketching out her designs and working to find manufacturers and suppliers. She launched her online store in 2016 and told The Untold she hopes to make Charlotte Elizabeth a company that supports those who find it hard to secure a job due to their health or history.
“I thought if I can create something through all of this I can do anything,” she told The Telegraph. “That’s why my business is so special to me as it started at the absolute rock bottom. It has been with me through my worst moments.”
Buy the Blue Bloomsbury bag featured above for $182.49.
Those who can’t drink alcohol due to their illness may identify with founder Ted Fleming’s story. In 2005, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and needed to eliminate alcohol from his diet. But the non-alcoholic beers offered in supermarkets and grocery stores were disappointing. “That’s when I became determined to find premium quality non-alcoholic beer with great taste and in a variety of styles,” Fleming explained on his website.
Fleming founded Premium Near Beer, a website that offers a variety of non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits from around the world. He also told CBC News that he’s working on brewing his own non-alcoholic beer.
“People just want to participate and share in socializing and drinking with their friends,” Fleming said. “When I started the business, I didn’t understand that was what we were doing, but as we went on, that became an important part.”
Buy a 24-pack of Texas Select Non-Alcoholic Lager for $27.49.
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Spoonspirations is a clothing company with designs that promote chronic illness awareness, founded by chronic warrior Nisa Katz. According to the website, the business was founded two months after she was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, after she discovered there weren’t many awareness items for POTS and many other illnesses. Her goal is to one day have products for every illness.
Buy the Yes, I’ve Tried That shirt for $21 on Etsy.
Jasmine Stacey had a lifesaving ileostomy when she was 20 due to her Crohn’s disease, and told The Mighty it left her feeling lonely and vulnerable. So she channeled her feelings into creating beautiful lingerie design specifically for women with ostomies.
“My goal was to make women who were in the same position as myself feel confident again,” Stacey, who lives in London, said. “All the products we use are so medical, so to make something that is personal, made with beautiful fabrics that are specifically chosen and designed for ladies with ostomies, I hope adds a bit of comfort as well as spice.”
The collection features bras, bodysuits, and underwear that is supportive, high-waisted, and features strategic straps and ties that help support and conceal ostomies. The items may also be appreciated by women with scars and stretch marks who don’t feel confident in traditional underwear.
Brandon’s Best offers donuts, cookies, pizza crust and cookie dough that is free of the USDA’s top 10 allergens as well as their derivatives. The recipes were developed by Brandon Negri, a high schooler who has lived with severe food allergies his entire life. He told Food Allergy Buzz he first started cooking when he was 9 years old, to create a pizza crust he could actually eat and tasted good.
He also runs an annual event called Allergen-Free Donuts With Santa at a health-food store in Pennsylvania, so kids with allergies can enjoy a holiday event, too.
“Just because you have food allergies doesn’t mean you are not cool. We get to eat special stuff every day and that makes us cooler than you,” he said.
Buy the Cookie Dough in a Jar: ChocoChip-a-Licious for $15.99.
Beautiful color blocking and focal point design. Turquoise (or red, white, silver, yellow, pink, purple, or blue) 6/0 seed beads black 6/0 seed beads surround a beautiful gray glass pearl. Perfect for layering with other necklaces or making a statement on its on. Long, 26 inch size means no clasp, no hassle, and goes with anything! On an extremely durable, heat-sealed dead bead cord in black. Personal color requests are always welcome! Only $10 at etsy.com/shop/chronichopejewelry! Link in bio ♥️????
Mary Ramsey lives with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, POTS, vasovagal syncope, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, panic disorder and PTSD, according to her Facebook page. As her condition worsened, she had to stop her work as a traveling piano teacher, so she decided to explore her other passion: designing and crafting jewelry.
“If you are struggling, my desire is for you to be inspired — by our jewelry and our story — so that you know you are not alone and that you can have hope, too,” she wrote.
Her designs feature colorful beads, dyed shells, silver charms in leaf and awareness ribbon shapes, and Swarovski crystals.
Buy the Seed Bead/Glass Pearl necklace above for $10.
New Empathy Cards are here! A side effect of basically every major illness is that you must endure a constant barrage of green smoothie recipes from well-intentioned people. Stand in solidarity with this card. (If someone's sick, it's safe to assume that they've spent more time researching cures for their illness than you have, and suggesting they eat X or Y can be frustrating to hear. Even if you really really think they should do it.) Shop link to this (and all the rest of our new August release) in profile!
Emily McDowell is a designer known for her humorous and honest cards. When she was 24, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which opened her eyes to the fact that few people seem to know the right thing to say to a friend going through illness. She created a line called Empathy Cards, which say what chronically ill people want to hear during difficult health challenges.
“I created this collection of empathy cards for serious illness because I believe we need some better, more authentic ways to communicate about sickness and suffering,” McDowell wrote on her website.
She also offers an entire range of cards for all occasions, as well as pins, pouches, magnets, tote bags, notebooks and more.
Buy the Smothered With Kale Empathy Card for $4.50.
Faye Savory began to notice a gradual decline in her health in her early 20s, eventually learning her symptoms were due to Lyme disease and becoming unable to leave home. After receiving a thoughtful package from a friend, she was inspired to create BearHugs, a company that curates care packages for occasions like birthdays, Christmas, illness, congratulations and births. Or, you can create your own by selecting each item you’d like to add.
“When you can’t leave the house very often, anything arriving through the post takes on greater significance,” Savory wrote on her website.
Items featured in boxes include candles, cards, chocolate, sleep masks, socks, pencil sets, coffee, hand cream, soap and more.
Buy the Sleepy BearHug box featured above for £39.99.
10. Stickman Communications
Stickman Communications founder Hannah Ensor uses stickman drawings to educate others about various chronic illnesses (she herself lives with POTS and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome). She makes laminated cards that explain various medical needs and illnesses, leaflets with more detailed information, badges and buttons that notify others of your disability and children’s books.
According to the website, Stickman Communication’s mission is to “challenge the view that disability is a negative and scary thing, and to create a better understanding and acceptance of disability as a different normal instead.”
Buy the I Faint keyring card featured above for £2.
11. Sabo Skirt
Thessy Kouzoukas, co-owner of Sabo Skirt, an Australian fashion label, lives with endometriosis. She earned viral fame earlier this year when she posted photos of her stomach after a ruptured cyst, next to a photo of how her stomach looked five weeks later after she began taking a drug that stopped her hormones and sent her into early menopause.
“Please, spread the word about endo. And if you know anyone with bad period pain PLEASE tell them to get checked for this. And to my girls with endo.. you’re not alone,” she wrote on Instagram.
Sabo Skirt features a collection of womenswear, as well as Sabo Mini for kids, Sabo Swim, and Sabo Formal.
Buy the Tigerlily Dress featured above for $88 AUD.
Know a business run by someone with a chronic illness? Let us know in the comments below.