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“I don’t think of myself in terms of success and failures.”

Handana is a fashion meets function fitness accessory that has changed the lives of so many, including my own. I invented Handana after being diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a reaction causing your skin to blister to the point that you have 2nd and 3rd degree burns.

MO: What inspired you to launch your business?

Katie: When Katie was 16 years old she was a typical teen living in St. Louis, Missouri. She was a fantastic student and enjoyed her friends and good health until a reaction to a medication sent her to the hospital one afternoon. She was diagnosed and admitted into the burn unit at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS)– a not well-understood immune disorder that attacks soft tissue leaving the patient with 2nd and 3rd degree burns. The first indication that something was wrong was that her throat became unusually dry and scratchy and blisters appeared around her eyes. Unfortunately, the disease doesn’t discriminate and not only does the skin burn, but lung tissue is attacked making breathing more difficult. Even the tissue of the eye is not spared which makes blinking a painful and dreaded exercise.

With excellent care from the nurses and doctors that treated her, Katie was extremely fortunate to have recovered almost completely. She bears no noticeable scars; though there was hardly a place on her body that didn’t slough off in the three weeks that she spent in the burn unit. Most patients diagnosed with SJS do not fare as well. The one lasting injury of this experience however is to her eyes which remain very sensitive to irritants and as a runner, sweat that can find its way into your eyes can be very irritating.

MO: Do you have any recent success stories that you’d like to share with our readers?

Katie: Disney invited Handana to the Disney Princess Half Marathon later this month. This invitation came only months after Handana coming to market. Handana is sold in retail stores throughout North America and available online at http://myhandana.com.

MO: What issue does your core product help solve and how so?

Katie: Handana allows you to workout fashionably and to manage sweat. It keeps me moving even with the sensitivities I often suffer from SJS.

MO: What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner and how have you met that challenge?

Katie: I am not a patient person. My biggest challenge as a business owner has been learning to be patient with myself, my circumstances, and those around me trying to help. I quite frequently have to remind myself that the reason I started Handana was simply to inspire and this grounds me.

MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you/your Company?

Katie: We are currently waiting to hear if we will be featured on Good Morning America. This would be a dream come true. I am a huge fan of the show and would be honored to have Handana on the hand of Robin Roberts!

MO: Where do you envision your company in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?

Katie: Handana will be offered in retail stores throughout North America in 5 years with sales rep in each region. In 10 years, I hope to hire some of my daughter’s friends after graduating from college that promise me now that they hope to work for Handana one day. 20 years, I will be traveling the world with my husband. I will check in on the company that will be run by my son. I know he will be a great success. So fun to envision!

MO: Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you? Describe the impact.

Katie: My greatest role model was my mother. She always encouraged me to reach for my dreams and work hard to achieve my goals. She showed me by example how to juggle being a good mom and have a career. As I mentioned earlier Robin Roberts is a mentor. I love her ability to demonstrate a woman with a strong faith during challenging times.

MO: Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?

Katie: I don’t think of myself in terms of success and failures. I have been given many blessings in my life that has allowed me great opportunities. I have also been faced with many troubled circumstances that I chose to be grateful for because it came with purpose to help mold the woman I am today.

MO: How do your competitors view you?

Katie: I don’t think I truly have competitors. If someone sees me as a competitor I hope they take time to know my story and realize I am not about taking someone down, but my passion is to help build each other up.

MO: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and business owners? What do you wish someone told you?

Katie: My advice for other entrepreneurs is to take the next step. Don’t be overwhelmed or frozen by the big picture. We would never accomplish any of our dreams if we thought we had to to from A to Z. Just go from A to B today. Also, reach out to your friends, family and contacts. You will be humbled by how many are willing to help.

MO: What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?

Katie: The biggest risk I took was marrying my husband and after celebrating 15 years last fall I would say it turned out pretty awesome. He makes me laugh every day and brings joy to our family each moment he can. He shows me how to laugh through the storm and makes me feel beautiful always.

MO: What do you think people would say about you at your funeral?

Katie: I was asked once what I thought people would say at my funeral about me. That stuck with me all these years. At the time I didn’t like what my answer was. This journey has lead me to better answers and I pray that I am correct one day at what I may hear.

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