ScaleUp WV Success Story: Billow Global
Marnie Rustemeyer is a former Wall Street professional, thyroid cancer survivor and breast cancer previvor. Breast cancer is particularly close to Marnie’s heart as her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40 and she and her mother both carry the BRCA gene mutation. In August 2013 Marnie had a preventative double mastectomy and subsequent reconstructive surgeries to decrease her risk of getting breast cancer.
Following surgery, Marnie conducted an exhaustive search of products on the market in an effort to find a comfortable pillow for sleeping, recovering and getting a massage. During her many doctor visits, Marnie also saw the distress of other breast cancer patients trying to find relief post surgery, often resorting to a nest of pillows to find a comfortable sleeping position or rolled up towels when getting a massage. Additionally, existing “breast pillows” on the market were uncomfortable and did not provide support in the areas that a patient needs post surgery – specifically the breast, lower back, under arm (due to lymph node removal) and neck.
Marnie found a positive and creative outlet during her recoveries to work on designing the Billow (breast+pillow). She made it her mission to create a product that offered supportive comfort and relief where a woman needs it most post-surgery. After a year of research and development, the Billow was created. Keeping in mind the many sensitivities the skin and body go through during surgery, chemo and radiation, she designed the Billow with 100% organic, hypoallergenic, chemical free and cruelty free materials. The Billow gives women a soft yet supportive full body hug that helps them feel secure and comforted while sleeping, resting or getting massage therapy.
Five percent of Billow Global’s profits are donated to breast cancer charities who allocate money towards research programs to help find a cure. With each purchase of any of the Billow pillow products, you can feel good knowing that you are contributing to improving a woman’s life and helping to find a cure.
For most entrepreneurs and early-stage companies, getting their product designed and a basic business structure in place to make it possible to take a product to market is difficult enough. Position their product and business for success after launch and for outside investment requires additional specialized support.
INNOVA’s role in ScaleUp West Virginia was to help entrepreneurs and early-stage companies identify opportunities in the market, complete thorough proof-of-concept and prototype development processes, create a solid management structure, and identifying the right sources for early-stage funding.
Enabled by the U.S. EDA’s and the State of West Virginia’s investment in Grant 01-79-14690, INNOVA helped Ms. Rustemeyer identify potential capital investors and then map out a strategy for approaching those investors. With INNOVA’s support, Billow secured a total of $100,000 in institutional and individual investments.
As Billow continues to grow through its unique line of products and mission, so will the impact that the U.S. EDA’s and the State of West Virginia’s support through ScaleUp West Virginia.
**Note: TechConnect’s partners on the ScaleUp West Virginia program include the Robert C. Byrd Institute, the Center for Applied Research & Technology, the Chemical Alliance Zone, INNOVA and the WV Manufacturing Extension Partnership.