It was more than a coincidence when Dana Donofree, founder and CEO of AnaOno, met Cindy Marshall, CEO and founder of SHINE Strategy.

Both breast cancer survivors, Donofree and Marshall connected through Women in Retail Leadership Circle, where Donofree is a member and Marshall is an advisory board member. Donofree was looking to hire employees for her company, which sells bras designed to fit all breast shapes, including those that have been affected by breast cancer; Marshall was running an international consulting firm that helps connect brands with chief marketing officers.

When they met, it was “love at first sight,” Marshall said.

Women in Retail Leadership Circle sat down with Donofree and Marshall during Breast Cancer Awareness Month at the 2021 Women in Retail Leadership Summit to discuss how their paths crossed, what they found in each other, and how they grew their brands and their relationship over the years as they worked to shine a light on underrepresented communities of women with breast cancer.

Every year in October, breast cancer awareness gets more attention than usual.

The reality is there hasn’t been much progress when it comes to bringing an end to breast cancer. It’s now the leading cancer in women, and women are continuing to die of breast cancer at the same rate they were when chemotherapy was first introduced into the treatment path.

One in eight women get breast cancer, so if you’re a woman in retail working in a room — virtual or otherwise — with other women, chances are high that someone you know will be diagnosed.

That’s why Donofree says it’s so important to have strong female leaders in your corner who can be supportive of whatever life hands you.

“If we want to eradicate this disease — if we want to keep our mothers, our sisters, our friends, our loved ones here for one more day — we have to change the way we treat this disease, and without that help from retailers, product businesses, all the people that donate during the month of October, we really will not see that needle move,” Donofree said.