When Linda Herter was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2000 it was a routine mammogram that saved her life. Her cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes and had she not immediately begun treatment, her outcome would have been poor. In a conversation one day with a nurse, she mentioned how grateful she was that her cancer had been found. The nurse responded that there were women who couldn’t afford mammograms or treatment and their chances of dying were greatly increased.
Herter was incensed.
At that moment she decided she needed to raise money for women who were not able to receive basic preventive care. First she planned a fundraising luncheon with the help of the local women’s cancer task force in South Bend, Indiana, raising $185,000 to pay for free mammograms. In looking for other ways to raise money, she turned to her own treatment, recalling that one of the few foods that gave her pleasure was chocolate. She contacted a local chocolate maker and designed custom raspberry- and caramel-filled chocolates, one of which has a ladybug design and the other a ribbon design.
The ladybug concept came from Herter’s treatment when she recalls holding on for spring because it meant new birth and a new time in life. When her husband called one day to tell her he had found a pink ladybug, she was intrigued. She knew pink would be part of her name for breast cancer. When their research revealed the pink ladybug was the herald of spring, Herter knew her company should be Pink Lady Bug Designs.
Less than a year later, Herter’s Pink Lady Bug chocolates were featured in O magazine’s October issue. She now sells her chocolates online and at fine retailers in Indiana with more locations to come.
“We have donated approximately $6,000 in chocolates and sold at least double that amount, if not more, at wholesale,” Herter says. “We try to accommodate most fundraising groups by selling the chocolates at discounted prices.”
Among those who have received free chocolates are American Cancer Society events, Lifetime Television’s Stop Breast Cancer For Life Hero Luncheon in Los Angeles, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation events and dozens of small breast cancer fundraisers for door prizes and goody bags.
In addition, Herter has made cash donations to inflammatory breast cancer research, several chapters of the American Cancer Society, her local free mammogram program and breast cancer fundraisers in her area.
Herter chose not to go nonprofit for a number of reasons. “I’m a one-man band and the idea of setting the nonprofit up with all the paperwork, boards and advisory panels was a bit overwhelming for me,” she says. “I also liked the idea that I could decide at any moment to donate to an organization, sell my chocolates at wholesale, or do whatever if I were my own boss.”
But Herter is still nonprofit in the sense that she has made no profits since starting the venture. “I haven’t had a paycheck since I started. This has been a huge sacrifice for our family, but they know what’s in my heart and support me even though it has been a long, tough year.”