Hope Chest for Breast Cancer founder named tops by TwinWest

Also honored for 2014 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year was Gophermods 

TwinWest Chamber of Commerce recently announced its 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year award, the winner of which carries a touching mission and an important cause.

More than a decade ago, Barbara Hensley lost two sisters, Kathy and Patsy, to breast cancer. Hensley, then a high-level executive at a Twin Cities company, was stricken with the realization of the challenges and struggles facing those with breast cancer.

Barbara Hensley founded Hope Chest for Breast Cancer after losing two sisters to the disease. On May 15, Hensley was given the 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year award from the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce. (Submitted photo)

She decided to leave her job and venture on her own accord to create a unique and inspiring business model. Ten years later, at TwinWest’s Small Business Awards Luncheon on May 15, Hensley’s entrepreneurial work was recognized as the year’s best chamber wide.

Hensley founded Hope Chest for Breast Cancer – a combination nonprofit foundation and for-profit set of retail stores that generate income to support women, men and families affected by cancer.

On the nonprofit side, the Hope Chest Foundation provides the quickest access to help when urgent needs face cancer patients. In working with hospitals in the Twin Cities and Rochester, Hope Chest establishes funds to address patients’ needs in trying times.

For example, if a breast cancer patient can’t afford to pay a utility bill, nurses at the patient’s hospital can allocate funds from Hope Chest in order to keep the lights, gas or water on.

“We pay the rent if they’re going to be evicted,” Hensley said. “We also pay for transportation to treatment or pay for childcare while [a patient] is undergoing treatment.”

The money from Hope Chest is handled by the respective hospital’s administration; therefore, if a patient needs urgent help, everything can be handled on one level. There are no applications for assistance or grant writing requirements to receive the help.

The nonprofit also delivers nutritional chemotherapy-friendly meals to families in the area.

Hope Chest funds the organization through two retail stores – Orono and St. Paul – that feature high-end women’s clothing and accessories as well as upscale furniture and home décor.

All store items are donated to Hope Chest from a number of sources including boutiques, retailers and private donors.

Hensley said that when seasons or styles change, high-end dealers are often left with remaining inventory. Smaller boutiques don’t feature the liquidation options of larger retailers, so they donate merchandise to Hope Chest.

Hensley said the cost of the goods at Hope Chest is typically a fourth to a half off retail prices. For example, Hensley said the store recently featured a $20,000 dinning room table with a Hope Chest price of $5,000.

Hensley said she is thrilled to be recognized as the Entrepreneur of the Year from the chamber.

“To be honored by TwinWest is remarkable,” she continued. “And the fact that they’ve recognized a social entrepreneur … demonstrates the compassion and the understanding of the chamber for the people in their community.”

In the future, Hope Chest has plans to open a third retail location in Bloomington. To contribute to the organization, Hensley encouraged people to shop, donate and volunteer. More information can be found at hopechest.us.

Also feted from TwinWest Chamber of Commerce was Casey Profita, founder of Minneapolis-based Gophermods. Profita was recognized as the 2014 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year on May 15.

Gophermods began as a custom video game accessory supplier in 2009 and has since grown into a technology device repair company specializing in iPads, iPhones, MacBooks and other tech.

The company employs 11 technicians in four Twin Cities locations and services more than 20,000 devices annually. For more information visit gophermods.com.


Contact Brian Rosemeyer at [email protected]