Jaclyn Foutz, her husband and friends, founded the Human Tribe Project in 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Tell me Jaclyn, what is Human Tribe?
Human Tribe Project is a free website that allows friends and family to unite, show support and raise money for a loved one facing a health-crisis. With each personalized Tribe Page, your loved one can create a blog to keep everyone informed of treatment and progress. The blog allows her to contact everyone at once, without having to field numerous phone calls. Each Tribe Page also has a Guestbook where friends and family can build a wall of support and post their own words of encouragement. Most importantly, each Tribe Page has a Tribe Page store where Tribe Tags, personalized necklaces or key chains bearing the initial of the loved one, are sold to raise money to help with medical expenses. With each $20 Tribe Tag sold, $15 is given directly to your loved one to use as needed.
Almost half of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are filed due to medical bills by people with health insurance. Human Tribe Project was created to help patients pay these exorbitant out-of-pocket costs and to provide emotional support along the way.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was a full time attorney working at a large Phoenix law firm before starting Human Tribe Project.
How did you come up with your business idea?
In early 2008, one of my best friends was diagnosed with cancer. Realizing that I couldn't be there to hold Kindra's hand through the chemotherapy and radiation, my friends and I decided to raise money for Kindra and her husband to relieve the financial burden associated with her cancer treatment. At the time, my husband owned a wholesale jewelry company. He donated turquoise beads, and we sold turquoise necklaces in support of Kindra. We sold the necklaces in-person to friends, relatives and coworkers, and by e-mail to people in Kindra's support network all across the country.
The project was a huge success; we sold 350 necklaces and raised over $10,000. We were inspired by the breadth of Kindra's network of friends and the willingness of complete strangers to buy the necklaces.
Initially, Kindra refused to take handouts from her friends and family; however, when she knew her friends and family were receiving a necklace in return for their monetary donation, her concerns were alleviated. And, when she saw everyone from her best friend to her chemotherapy nurse wearing the necklaces, she felt an emotional support as great as the financial support she received from their purchase.
After extensive research, I learned that there were no resources available to do what they did on a larger, commercial scale. They found companies selling products in an effort to raise money for non-profits, foundations or research institutions, but none raised money directly for individuals during their time of need. I was astonished to learn about the financial burden that individuals suffering from an illness often face. For breast cancer alone, it is estimated that out-of-pocket expenditures and lost-income costs for women with insurance coverage average $1,455.00 per month. And, approximately fifty percent of all personal bankruptcies filed in the United States are filed due to medical expenses. I knew there was a better way to aid individuals and enhance the benefits of strong support networks.
It was from this experience that Human Tribe Project was born.
Do you own a business with family members?
Yes. I own the company with my husband, brother-in-law and my husband's previous business partner. The biggest challenge is to keep business affairs at the office and not let it perpetuate the relationship outside of the office. When we started the business, we had very different ideas about how things should work and those different views often led to larger disagreements. Fortunately, because my partners already had experience working together, we were able to keep our business disagreements separate from our family time.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
Don't doubt yourself and don't judge yourself by other people's standards. As women, we all too often doubt our own abilities and strengths. When you are building and running your own business, you need to push that doubt away and remind yourself how capable you are. Also, as a woman, you often have many responsibilities tugging at you from different angles. So if you are able to handle your business and run household errands during the day, don't judge yourself for being out of the office. Recognize that one of the benefits of owning your own business is doing it your way. And, if that means you work from home in the morning and don't keep "normal" office hours, that is fine. Make your own rules and as long as the business is moving forward, you are successful.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
We were extremely lucky in that we were able to contract with our manufacturer to also provide fulfillment services. This allows us to save on our warehousing and stocking fees, in addition to outsourcing the most tedious part of the business.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I didn't quite expect that I would be the jack of all trades. My experience is in management and legal, but when running my own business, I am the manager and the general counsel but also the account manager, the sales manager, the IT coordinator, the bookkeeper, the secretary and the gopher!
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Make sure you are passionate about it and be sure to raise enough money before-hand!
All us "gophers" out here appreciate the time you took to share your story with us. Best wishes for continued success!