Saving Lives in Style
When people ask me what I do, I show them my Medical ID bracelet. Or bracelets. I’m usually wearing a few, not because I need all that extra engraving space, but because I absolutely love my medical ID jewelry. And I should. It’s been the cornerstone of my life for the last 15 years.
In 2001, I was an at-home mom with a part-time business selling custom mothers’ bracelets at craft shows with a friend. It was basically a traveling lemonade stand with bracelets. We did it for fun and some extra spending cash. And then one day, a new mom in the neighborhood asked for an extra special custom bracelet. She didn’t want what we normally made with her kids’ names in little silver blocks. She didn’t even want something for herself. She wanted us to make a medical ID bracelet for her 13-year-old daughter, Lauren.
Lauren and her family were new to Kansas City, and as a shy teen, Lauren was reluctant to tell her friends that she had type 1 diabetes. Her mom had tried everything to get Lauren to at least wear a medical ID, but Lauren simply refused to wear old school, traditional, stainless steel medical alert bracelets. And I couldn’t blame her! As a bit of a fashionista myself, I knew we just had to do something special for Lauren.
So I bought a boring medical ID bracelet at the drugstore with, “Diabetes” engraved on the ID tag, removed the bracelet, and set about turning that into a fabulous bracelet. But I didn’t just want to give Lauren one bracelet. I wanted to give her a whole jewelry wardrobe. So I made about a half dozen beaded bracelet strands, each with a lobster clasp at either end, so Lauren could easily take her tag off one bracelet and move it to another. And I thought that was the end of it. It was a random act of kindness for a neighbor’s kid.
But then, Lauren went to a diabetes education meeting, and there were eight people in the room. And every one of them wanted a bracelet like hers. So then I thought … Maybe that wasn’t the end of it. I got online and started looking up medical ID jewelry. A few quick web searches showed me that absolutely no one was making fashionable or interchangeable medical ID bracelets. And certainly no one was doing both. I had inadvertently created a whole new market segment. I was going to make medical ID bracelets for girls with type 1 diabetes.
That summer of 2001, we started selling by word of mouth. I decided we needed to get into some magazines, and I really wanted to be in InStyle. So I emailed InStyle. Hey. We want to be in your magazine. And they said, “Great. Who’s your celebrity?” Celebrity? I’m working from my kitchen table and these guys want me to have a celebrity?
Well, around that time, Halle Berry was very vocal about having type 1. So I got on her website, Hallewood.com, and sent her an email. “Dear Halle Berry … My name is LeAnn Carlson …” I explained how we were donating a portion of our proceeds to the JDRF and how the more of her fans she was able to positively influence in making a decision about wearing medical ID jewelry, the safer and more empowered they would be and the more we would be able to give back to the JDRF. Even with that said, I thought it was a one in a million shot. But as luck would have it, Halle’s team reached out and said she loved our concept and would love to wear our jewelry.
WOW. Over the next couple of months, we were in two national magazines and Halle Berry went on the Rosie O’Donnell Show and spent two minutes talking about how much she loved her Lauren’s Hope Medical ID Bracelet. The phone line just blew up. And I really do mean, “line.” The only phone we had was my cell number. I would be on the phone taking an order and have 16 voice mails. My phone was constantly dying. I was calling every at-home mom I knew, asking them to come over and learn to make bracelets while I was trying to figure out things like payroll and inventory and how exactly one runs an actual business. That was the beginning of things. And that was really fun.
Over the years, we moved out of my kitchen and into an office building that we thought we’d never fill, yet somehow have. We have an incredibly talented team that has helped expand Lauren’s Hope from a kitchen table business making bracelets for teens with type 1 to a thriving e-commerce company providing custom medical ID jewelry to men, women and kids of all ages and conditions.
True to our roots, however, we support dozens of charities, including numerous type 1 diabetes organizations, such as Beyond Type 1, Kansas City’s Kids With Courage Foundation, JDRF chapters nationwide and many more. Being able to give back, particularly to organizations that support our amazing customers, is core to who we are as a company and who I am as a person. I want to do things that matter. And that’s something I hope our customers know. When you buy from Lauren’s Hope, it matters. You’re supporting charities that do good works. You’re supporting a small business. You’re supporting the phenomenal people who hand-craft and design and engrave every single piece of jewelry. And those are things that truly matter.