Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Fighting Pretty Kara Skaflestad
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Fighting Pretty Kara Skaflestad
Gabriel Flores 0:00
Kara, thank you so much for joining me on my show. I really do appreciate you coming over and telling us about your nonprofit fighting pretty. So please, I would love to kind of just get a, an overview of kind of your background and your nonprofit.
Kara Skaflestad 0:16
Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. It is such a pleasure to be here and share my story. Yeah, so I am originally from New Jersey, you could take the girl out of Jersey, but you can't take the jersey out of her. So originally from New Jersey, went to school and actually majored in marketing. And so I feel like most people never major in what they actually end up in. But I always had an interest in kind of being creative, but also having that kind of strategic outlook on everything. So my first job out of school, I worked at Jackson Hewitt tax service, it was very sexy. And so you know, that was in New Jersey, it was right out of school, but I was an arm's reach away from New York City, and was dying to work in New York. And so I got a job at Lowe worldwide, which is an advertising agency. And my first account was actually the Got Milk account. Oh, interesting. Yes, it was awesome. Mm hmm.
Gabriel Flores 1:20
That sounds fun. Yeah.
Kara Skaflestad 1:21
So you know, I kind of got thrown into, you know, all the things that people want to do in advertising, you're working with celebrities, and you're, you know, doing all the creative process and, you know, working until the middle of the night to get all that stuff done. Of course, that's what you do in your 20s Grind. Oh, it was definitely the grind. And it was fantastic. It taught me so much about project management and how to manage stakeholders and you know, deal with all these crazy difficult personalities, but also learning really how to be creative. And so yeah, I worked in advertising for a couple years and then went over actually still in advertising. I worked on Procter and Gamble brands. Oh, also really sexy brands Metamucil and Pepto Bismol. Oh, that's what
Gabriel Flores 2:10
I'm talking about. That hits me right there in the intestines. Fishy. Yeah.
Kara Skaflestad 2:15
So. But the good thing about working for clients, like Procter and Gamble is they really give you kind of the foundational aspect of what branding and marketing is all about. Okay. Everything is tested through focus groups. And I mean, the process is rigorous, but it's really, really great for so early in your career. And so I was kind of climbing the corporate ladder at that, at that time, I was in my mid 20s, loving living in New York City and working there and making friends and, you know, dating and going out drinking and doing all the things that 20 year olds do. Oh, the good old days, oh, the good old days. And it was at 26 years old, that I was actually diagnosed with breast cancer. And so it obviously turned my world upside down and inside out and gave me a completely different perspective on my life. Yeah. So that was definitely a turning point in not only my life, but in my career as well. So I continued at this advertising agency publicist, at that point, I was at publicist and worked started working on Garney A, which was in the beauty realm. And so it was this really crazy Jux juxtaposition for me, personally, because right at that point, I was losing my hair. I was, you know, going through this crazy transition in my personal life, but also excelling in my career and working on this fabulous brand. That's beauty and hair, and makeup and all the things. And meanwhile, I was losing my eyelashes and my hair and all the things. Yeah. So it was just definitely a crazy experience. But it was amazing. And I learned so much at that time in my life. And really, it was at that time when I was losing my hair and getting scars and all the things that I realized that feeling beautiful was something that wasn't just so outwardly. What's the word I'm looking for? Vain. It was really something about that. When you look good. You feel good? Yeah. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it especially when you're bald. Definitely. So at the time, I was kind of fighting pretty, if you will, and someone gave me a little pair of mini pink boxing gloves as a reminder to stay strong. And so I took those boxing gloves and you know, put on some hot pink lipstick and was feeling strong and beautiful. That's what I'm talking about. Yeah. So after that, I you know, it was a couple years after Were my diagnosis. And I was still working in marketing. At this time I'd moved on to Bloomberg, I had been recruited by an old boss of mine. Nice. But I knew I really wanted to help other people. And so I started a nonprofit. I didn't know what to call it. I didn't know what I wanted to do. But all I knew is I wanted to help women battling cancer feel strong and beautiful. Nice. So I started a nonprofit, I called it fighting pretty I created a Facebook page and hope for the best.
Gabriel Flores 5:33
That's that sounds now. Now fighting pretty. So can you give me a little background? What is it that you guys do now?
Kara Skaflestad 5:40
Sure. So again, I originated fighting pretty in an effort to help women feel strong and beautiful while they're battling cancer. So I realized through my journey, that it was all about strength and beauty. And that is what helped me change my perspective on the treatment and the emotional side effects that I was going through. So what I really started doing was creating these pretty packages. Okay, so I would put in items that made women feel like women, not like cancer patients, lipstick, a fun scarf, accessories, and of course, a pair of mini pink got boxing gloves as a reminder to stay strong.
Gabriel Flores 6:21
Oh, that's great. That's great. And yeah, I'm not sure, you know, for those folks at home, but you might one of my oldest sister's, my oldest sister, she was diagnosed with cancer at a pretty young age as well. And, you know, something like this was was never around. If I recall correctly, I don't remember anything like this. And I do remember my sister going through that process of losing her hair. And and I remember, taking the Clippers of my own scalp, you know, and making sure we did it in unison, but I never never really thought you know, that deep into it that you know, emotionally right. How are you? How are you feeling as well, because you're going through a lot, right, your body's changing. So how did that you know that change? How did that affect your career?
Kara Skaflestad 7:04
Yeah, I mean, it definitely, just going through cancer, especially at such a young age where I didn't really know anyone else my age that was going through this type of experience, it made me realize that I needed to not only share my story, but to help inspire other women like me that they're not alone. And that, even if it's just one woman right here, who understands what they're going through, and can remind them that they are strong and beautiful, whether or not they have hair, or breasts, or eyelashes, or ovaries or anything, they are still a beautiful, strong, amazing woman. And that's what fighting pretty is all about. Nice. And so I really made it as part of my kind of lifelong mission to help all people battling cancer to remind themselves that they're strong. And of course, for women to remind them that they're beautiful.
Gabriel Flores 8:00
And so what exactly is in these packages? To kind of help reinforce that message?
Kara Skaflestad 8:07
Yeah, so the main items in there are really the boxing gloves and the lipstick, okay. And things have changed a little bit with COVID. So we used to send out pretty packages that we created ourselves, someone would donate to us, we'd send it out, you know, say to your sister who was in her treatment. Now with COVID, we've had to shift a little bit so we are actually sending just lipstick and gloves, okay, to women that are currently in cancer treatment that are battling at hospitals right now. So we're partnering with hospitals. However, we have a make your own pretty package on our website at fighting pretty.org that you can now kind of just select your own items for the person you love. Oh, nice. You make it a pretty package and we send it on for you.
Gabriel Flores 8:51
That's cool. That is great. Now now, if I recall correctly, you're fighting pretty. Brand has actually been on some pretty big, you know, different marketing things like the Today Show, and let's talk about that a little bit. How did that happen?
Kara Skaflestad 9:06
Yeah, so it really all goes back to the mission. I was in a wedding for my girlfriend, Becca. She actually worked with me at publicists. In New York. She actually married one of my very best friends, Justin, who I went to high school with. And so I was in their wedding. And at Becca's shower, there was another girl who was in the bridal party. She said my mom is going through breast cancer. You know, I'm so sorry. Blah, blah, blah. We talked and I said can you please send me your mom's address? I want to send her a pretty package. So I sent her a pretty package Gosh back in 2014. And I got a call or actually a message through Facebook. Hey Kara. Do you remember me I was in the bridal party with you Becca's wedding. My mom absolutely loved you're pretty package for years ago, and I am now the senior producer on the Today Show, I want to highlight your efforts because this is so important. My mom loved it so much and you're really making such an impact. It's
Gabriel Flores 10:13
amazing. Talk about paying it forward. Right? And all that provided was you as a larger reach to even do more. Exactly. Like Jonas Salk, the great the great quote from Jonas Salk. The old, what does it say? The opportunity for the job, the reward for a job well done is the opportunity to do more. Oh my gosh, yeah, that's just that's just it right there. I think one of the things that you've been kind of talking about, you know, kind of organically and highlighted that is so important for the listeners at home to kind of love to kind of talk about this a little bit more is the networking. How important was your network and building that fighting? Pretty brand?
Kara Skaflestad 10:58
Yeah. So even going right back to, you know, when I said I wanted to create a nonprofit, I didn't know what to call it. And I didn't know what to do with it. I just knew I wanted to help women battling cancer feel strong and beautiful. So my first tactic was I created a Facebook page in 2013, with a really bad logo that I created by myself, probably in PowerPoint. And but my mission was clear. And so I had a question that said, Do you know someone battling cancer that needs to feel strong and beautiful? Contact me and we'll send her a pretty package. And it was everyone within just my Facebook network of all my friends and family from New Jersey. All the people I went to high school and college with. And little by little, I got 50 requests in one month. And I wasn't fundraising. I wasn't doing anything. I this was just going to be a fun little activity for me. Okay. And then little by little people came out of the woodwork. There was this wonderful girl. Woman Jean de I went to high school with her hadn't talked to her since the year 2000. She's like, Hey, I work for a lawyer's office. They do nonprofit work. Do you need a pro bono lawyer? Yes. Well, my old clients at Garn yay. Hey, can you take some donated lipstick for your pretty packages? Yes. Then everyone's coming out? How can I just donate to you? So you can send a pretty package to someone? I don't know. I mean, it was such an organic way of networking that I just simply asked the question and pulled on all the people that I'd ever met in high school, in college in my career, and they all came out of the woodwork to support this amazing mission. Yeah, that's,
Gabriel Flores 12:47
that's incredible. And I feel like there has to be some pretty phenomenal stories that you've some really engaging in an inspiring and uplifting stories. What would you say, is one of your favorite kind of things about you know, starting the fight and pretty brand and where you've been today? What can you say is one of those mo highlighting moments for you.
Kara Skaflestad 13:10
I think that the best moments are always when I hear or I get a thank you note or a post on Instagram or a private message through Facebook or just someone that says this pretty package, these gloves came at the right time for me. And it's it's definitely not a formula, we do not make sure we send them pretty packages, when they're diagnosed, or after they go through surgery or whatever we send it whenever we get the request. Because the best thing about fighting pretty is you need to be reminded that you're strong and beautiful, whether you're just newly diagnosed, whether you're in the middle of treatment, or you are five to 10 years out of treatment, it is still relevant all along the way. And I think that, you know, I've we've been doing fighting pretty now since 2013. And even just last week, we got another thank you that said everything in this box. When I first got it, I thought I didn't really deserve it. I just had a lumpectomy. And, you know, I know there are other women out there who are going through more extensive treatment than me. And then she went back in for a scan a couple of weeks later, and she came out to be fine. But she was so scared. Yeah. And she came home and she looked at those gloves and she's like now I understand why they mean so much because they're a constant reminder that I'm strong, I'm beautiful and that I can get through this.
Gabriel Flores 14:42
And that is that is so in powerful impactful for the individuals that receive it. i No actually had the opportunity to send one of my cousin's one of your packages before as well. And those those things are it's just very meaningful. So so running, running a small nonprofit, right? What are some of the difficulties that you see is the founder of founding pretty and running this thing since 2013? What are some of the difficulties you ran into?
Kara Skaflestad 15:10
I think, you know, a nonprofit is not only a startup, but it's a nonprofit, you kind of have to zingers against. But the best thing is, is there's a clear mission. And I will say that the most important thing is to have a clear mission. But I think the most challenging piece of this is really the structure behind the nonprofit is figuring out, you know, how to build that foundational donor base, how to stay really communicative, with your donors with your recipients. And, you know, not really having the employees or the staff are the people to do it with you. Because the money is always so limited. It's just a constant, uphill, uphill battle with finances. Yeah. Especially with a nonprofit like fighting pretty because we are not taking the funding and giving it out to research or giving it out to another effort. We actually have hard costs, like products that we have to pay for, in order to then provide to cancer patients. So, you know, I think, I think the infrastructure piece is always the hardest. I think also building a really good board and keeping them engaged. And keeping volunteers engaged is also a really big challenge. But it's also always such an exciting adventure, because you never know what opportunity is also around the next corner.
Gabriel Flores 16:50
Yeah, definitely. And one of the things you were mentioning briefly is, you know, starting this nonprofit, and having to help who currently helps you and how does how does that work?
Kara Skaflestad 16:59
Yeah, so we, we have a very dedicated board. Now, it took a couple years to do that, especially because again, it all goes back to your network. You know, the first board, all the board members were my mom, my sister, you know, my couple best friends from high school, and people that I knew that loved me, and would do anything for me. And now we finally gotten to a board where we have folks that, you know, I haven't known since I was in sixth grade. And you know, they are really, really talented professionals with their own networks that can help us continue to build awareness and build on our infrastructure and operations, etc. In addition, for the first Gosh, five years, we never had anyone that was committed, meaning we were not, we didn't pay anyone, it was simply me. And friends and volunteers to put pretty packages together to send out emails and all that. Now we actually have three people on staff. Oh, wow. Okay, so we have one director of community and outreach, who really helps us work with the hospitals to get the materials to help their patients feel strong and beautiful. And we have a social media manager and an operations manager. Hello. So the operations manager really is helping to deliver on our promise, we say we're gonna send you something and we need someone physically to do it. Right. And then our social media manager slash marketing kind of content manager. She's really out there engaging with all the women out there who are fighting pretty nice on a daily basis. Nice. Yeah.
Gabriel Flores 18:32
That's, that's, that's a pretty, pretty big team has grown. Now, how many packages have you guys sent out? Do you know?
Kara Skaflestad 18:40
So over the course of Gosh, these seven years, almost eight years, we have impacted over 15,000 women, and 50 US states? And I think we're up to 17 countries globally.
Gabriel Flores 18:54
Wow. So that is incredible.
Kara Skaflestad 18:57
And I forgot to mention in the staff, we do have me I am the Executive Director, the president, the scheduler, the admin. Everything else that can't do this is exciting. People. Oh, yeah. And I also have a full time job,
Gabriel Flores 19:12
man. And so yeah, it's it sounds like you know, your career continued to progress, even though you started this nonprofit, how has, you know, juggling a full time career and running a small nonprofit? How does? How's that? Gone? Is that difficult? It's easy.
Kara Skaflestad 19:31
So it's, you know, some days it's really easy, and it's amazing. And other days, it's really difficult because I feel like my heart is pulled in two different directions. One is, is working as the Marketing Manager for OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, and I couldn't be more proud to work for an organization that is really paving the way for cancer care in Oregon. And it's it's insane Anabelle however, you know, there are other times where I think about fighting pretty. And I think about how much fighting pretty needs my time to grow. And I just simply can't give it because I need to pay myself money right now. And I just can't do that at fighting pretty. Yeah. So, you know, it's a constant struggle for sure. But I think eventually we will figure out, you know, a solution where, you know, it works on both ends. Yeah. So,
Gabriel Flores 20:29
yeah. So you you continue to move forward, right, you continue to grow? What continues motivates you?
Kara Skaflestad 20:37
I think it's, I honestly think it's those letters, those thank you notes from the women that are impacted every single day. And you know, they're specially with COVID. It was such a scary time to say, Well, initially, we were creating these pretty packages, we had big community events and volunteers who would come and put these packages together. You know, donations were coming through, because we were doing events and all sorts of things that involve the community. Well, when COVID hit, just like everyone else, everything came to a halting screeching stop. So we really brainstormed about how we could help cancer patients, especially now when they're going through treatments and surgeries alone, they can't bring anybody in with them. So that's tough on the healthcare heroes, the nurses, the infusion nurses and all of them. Not only are they covered in head to toe more, you know PPE than ever before. But they also are feeling horrible for these patients that they can't even rub their shoulder anymore that they used to be able to get personal with their own patients. So fighting pretty kind of stepped in with this will, hey, nurses, let us help you by giving your patients something really small, like a pair of gloves and a lipstick, and a little note that says you are strong and beautiful. And hey, patient when you're all by yourself, because you can't have anyone there with you. Here are some things to remind yourself that you feel strong and beautiful. So we kind of shifted. And I think the fact that fighting pretty has been really nimble since day one, especially with all these crazy events that come through with today's show and Fashion Week and collaborations here and there with Silvermoon brewing. Oh, Ben bend, I mean, all sorts of things that are really kind of fun and exciting. And
Gabriel Flores 22:30
let's let's talk about that. What is this collaboration with silver moon, you had me at burning? So let's let's talk about that. What is this collaboration? Yeah, so
Kara Skaflestad 22:38
last year, silver moon brewing actually reached out to our team about their F cancer beer. So every year,
Gabriel Flores 22:47
I'm liking this already. Can you tell me more? The last
Kara Skaflestad 22:51
year they came out and said, Hey, we have this F cancer beer we normally choose cancer organizations where we give a percentage of the proceeds. And so actually, for the knight Cancer Institute, they're doing it for them as well. Oh, nice, kind of a double, you know, double effort there. And so what they do is for every, every, every year, excuse me, they design a new can that has all cancer survivors names on them. Oh, wow. So for a minimum, I believe of $20 you can make a donation to get your name on the can and you can select fighting party or Knight Cancer Institute. Oh, that's cool. Get your name on there. And then that nonprofit gets that money. And so in May they then launch the beer. Your name is on it. So my beer My name was on it last year. Nice. And you know, normally they do a big launch party. I don't know that. They'll do that again. COVID. But it's super good. Super awesome. The beer is amazing. It's a really yummy IPA. And last year Silvermoon donated over $10,000 to fighting pretty Wow, that's how and that's just fighting pretty. They're doing this for other organizations. Oh, that's
Gabriel Flores 24:02
awesome. Now. Yeah, that's awesome. So besides, so obviously, purchasing some beer is one way to get involved. Right? What are other ways that people at home can get involved with it and pretty either that donating or volunteering time? What can they do? Yeah, so we
Kara Skaflestad 24:18
have just launched a Fight Club, which if you are talking to me talk to me directly. So if you donate $10 a month, you become a recurring donor and you join the fighting pretty Fight Club. And so every quarter there will be different things that are available just to the Fight Club members. But the best part about it is that just $10 helps one woman battling cancer feel strong and beautiful. So it's a no brainer. $10 you could spend on two coffees at Starbucks, maybe even one and a half. So and also for $10. You can literally change a woman's life. So it feels like a no brainer.
Gabriel Flores 25:01
So where would they go? Where's your website? How do they do this? Yeah, so
Kara Skaflestad 25:04
the other thing is you could donate at fighting pretty.org and join the fight club. But if you know someone battling cancer and you want to help her feel strong and beautiful, you can also create your own pretty packaged for her. Yeah, head on over to forgot pretty.org and select a slew of amazing products. We have new merch coming out every couple months. Nice. So they're it's just very inspiring, really beautiful stuff. And it's just a way to to to remind her she is strong and beautiful. Love it.
Gabriel Flores 25:37
Love it now. 13 years or 2013? So we're almost seven, almost seven years now. Yeah. So looking back on everything, what what advice would you give your younger self?
Kara Skaflestad 25:53
Gosh, what advice would I give my younger self? I think from from the cancer perspective, I would say take it one day at a time, just be patient. Don't get yourself wrapped up and worry. Because it's so easy to do that. As a cancer patient. As you know, a nonprofit founder and professional marketing professional, I would say be nimble. And don't get so set in what you think is going to happen. Network your butt off. Yeah, see as many people as you can. And just be a sponge, learn as much as you can about as much as you can. Yes. Because just because you might start out in marketing. You know, I'm still doing marketing to this day, but I've all of a sudden become a philanthropist. And I've also become, you know, an operations director. And I've built websites now. And I've built communities and I am a content expert. I mean, we have over 15,000 women in our network that we are constantly engaging with and teaching and, you know, corralling so that they can all meet each other. That's incredible. So, you know, it's not just what you think your career will be. You know, someone once told me, the world will tell you what you should do. Yeah. And I so believe in that. You know, the world told me somehow that I needed to help women feel strong and beautiful. And 15,000 Women later, I believe that that was the right decision. And that's only 15,000 women out of all the women diagnosed with cancer. We have a big job to do. And so we're just getting started.
Gabriel Flores 27:44
That's incredible. Kara, thank you again so much for joining me today on my show. For those that are at home please visit me on the shades of e.com Thank you and good night.