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Cancer Survivor, Sommelier Infuses New Venture With Purpose

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Kirsten Henry Fox is an executive sommelier and entrepreneur who survived breast cancer in 2014. The cancer scare inspired her newest venture, Uplift Gift, a company launched on October 1st that sends gift boxes, typically including just the right wine for the occasion, to people experiencing cancer or other challenge.

Fox says, “For our launch, we are offering two types of gift boxes: one without wine, one with wine. Each gift box contains the following: a soft, ivory pashmina, hand-crafted chocolates, gourmet tea sampler, velvety sipping cocoa, three essential oils and a custom, hand-written greeting card. Optionally, if desired and legal to ship into the distressed friend’s state, the customer can add a bottle of white or red wine.”

“The gift boxes we will be offering at our launch,” she says, “include items that personally were meaningful for me when I was going through the trauma of diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer. These are similar to packages my friends brought to me.”

The package without wine costs $176 with shipping. The package with wine costs $205. She projects a 53 percent gross margin with these prices.

From the start, 5 percent of the sales price will go to charity. Initially, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation will be the beneficiary. Ultimately, Fox says, she’s solicit charity nominations from her vendors.

Over time, she says, she plans to add more gift boxes for more circumstances.

Kirsten Henry Fox, courtesy of Uplift Gift

Kirsten Henry Fox, courtesy of Uplift Gift

Fox is the author of The Profitable Wine List and is also the CEO and founder of the Culinary Wine Institute.

There’s a need, she says, for the Uplift Gift service. “When friends are going through life’s challenges – divorce, death, bad medical diagnosis, pet loss – women are compelled to do something to show they care, but often they don’t have the time or ideas as to what to do, especially when their friends live out of town. They ponder what to send that means a lot to show the depth of their feelings; their friend is struggling and needs more than a ‘typical’ gift. And finding words to say is sometimes even harder.”

Fox hopes that the carefully curated packages will give recipients comfort, not only because of the contents, but also from seeing the donation to a nonprofit.

She also sees that her venture is stepping into an emotionally difficult situation, raising the bar on customer service. “Both parties involved are in pain – the supportive friend needs a meaningful way to show her love; the distressed friend is dealing with a huge life challenge. We can’t screw up by over promising and under delivering. If we screw that up, we will have two hurting people hurting more.”

There are limitations inherent in her business model. The prices are not accessible to everyone. “These are not gift boxes for women who are trying to put food on the table or who are struggling to pay bills. We help them by funding non-profits,” she says.

Despite the challenges and limitations, Fox is confident that Uplift Gift can make a difference for women in distress. “Our success will mean that distressed women will feel their friends’ love when they need it most.”

Karyn Barsa, a recognized leader in social entrepreneurship who previously served as CEO of Investors’ Circle, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing together social entrepreneurs and accredited investors, sees the potential for Fox to make a big difference. Uplift Gift makes it easy to express support and affection, fundamental to the peace we seek throughout the world.”

On Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Fox will join me here for a live discussion about the launch of Uplift Gift and how she hopes to help women going through what she’s already been through. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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