How These 4 Entrepreneurs Overcame Cancer to Succeed in Business

Humans are tough and weak at the same time. However, we are capable of overcoming everything.

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All entrepreneurs face challenges as they move into the marketplace, but some entrepreneurs face specific health challenges that make it more difficult for them to succeed in the fast-paced world of business, where a perception of strength and flexibility can be the difference between getting a client and having a business fold.

We often talk about cancer in terms of struggle, fight, war, and battle. When looking for stories of entrepreneurs who had survived cancer, we found that many businesspeople drew inspiration and power from their stories of diagnosis, treatment and recover. In particular, these four entrepreneurs faced incredible challenges around their health and were able to overcome their struggles to succeed in business.

Jon Wick, Cancer Survivor, Branding

Originally from Wisconsin, Jon Wick now lives in Butte, Montana, where he works with local businesses on branding efforts. His company, 5518 Designs, creates logos and websites, with a focus on local companies who may not understand how a Facebook page can help to bring in local customers.

Jon married his wife Cassie in 2009, and Cassie is now an active participant in the business. But just a few years after the two married in 2009, Jon developed rectal cancer. For many entrepreneurs, the aggressive diagnosis might have derailed their business plans, but Jon stayed focused throughout his treatments; he worked on logos while he underwent chemotherapy infusions, and stayed as active as possible throughout his treatment. He is now in remission.

After recovering from his illness, Wick was inspired to expand his business in a new direction. He created Simple Places, a new printed item shop that celebrates the outdoors and a sense of place. The expansion aims to “Just [shed] all of the nonsense that we carry around with us and get to the core of who we are and what we stand for.”

Shauna Martin, Cancer Survivor, Juicing

Shauna Martin was mother to a one-year old boy and was practicing law when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She needed many different surgeries and treatments to fully remove the cancer, and to help recover her health and energy, she began making herself green juices. She strongly believes that the juices she drank during her treatments made it possible for her to regain her health and energy.

As she began to feel better after her treatments and surgeries were complete, Martin continued to make and drink her green juices. She began sharing her recipes with her family members, who also started to feel better, but found the process of making juice time-consuming. In order to spread the benefits of her juices to the greater public, Martin founded Daily Greens, a juice company that has its products placed in grocery stores across the United States.

Martin’s advice to young entrepreneurs? “You need to believe 110% in what you’re doing. That unwavering belief in what you are doing will get you through the really hard moments. You need to believe with every fiber in your being.”

Dee Burrell, Cancer Survivor, Motivational Speaker and CEO

Before she started her motivational speaking career, Dee Burrell was an administrative assistant. Now, she both launched the National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation and travels the country as a motivational speaker, helping women to build self-esteem and self-motivation. As a breast cancer survivor, Burrell notes in the book Think Like An Entrepreneur that she is particularly passionate about encouraging women to look for and recognize the signs of breast cancer.

Specifically, Burrell often speaks about breast cancer, finding that sharing her journey with cancer and remission helps women learn how to detect breast cancer, encourage them in their treatments, and move forward with their lives during remission.

Offering advice to new entrepreneurs, Burrell says “Make sure [you are starting] a business that you love and have a wealth of interest…Network and meet as many people in your interest and allow yourself to make mistakes. Sometimes that is the best way to learn!”

Donna Zobel, Cancer Survivor, Manufacturing

Donna Zobel was the president of Myron Zucker, an electrical component manufacturer when she was diagnosed with cancer at 45 years old. At first, she struggled with whether or not to tell customers and clients about her diagnosis. Once she did start telling clients, she found that disclosing her diagnosis helped her create connections with her customers. Instead of feeling like cancer was a no-no topic, many of her clients shared stories about how cancer had touched their own lives, or the lives of loved ones.

Zobel believes that women entrepreneurs in particular struggle to share their personal details with clients. “We’ve spent our lives assuring everyone that we’re strong and confident and can conquer all,” says Zobel. Her diagnosis and remission have helped her to create her business and work with her clients over time.

As an entrepreneur, there will be challenges to overcome as you look to make your business the best it can be. What challenges do you see on your horizon?


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