Revisiting the project, I decided to make a few changes and reevaluate the concept. The first change was a tilt toward image identification, specifically to expand awareness of those affected by cancer. This could be accomplished, I thought, through fashion shows and each show participant could accumulate points online. To align with this new direction, I renamed the business Model4Cancer, setting out to hire a new team to work with us. This time, any company selected would need to provide three US-based references. Narrowing the field, we signed a contract with NCPL, Inc. in April of 2016. By the end of the month, we'd already received the architectural platform for the new project.
As the platform was designed, we also brought others on board who could help in achieving our vision. Our first focus was fundraising and event planning. So we solicited an event planner and a development director to help in securing sponsorship funds. The first proposal came in from Michael, who brought immense experience in attracting sponsorship funds. But Michael wasn't quite as familiar with the goal we were trying to accomplish. So we considered Alexandro who, based in New York, branched out solo after working as part of a larger team. But after explaining our concept and what we were hoping to achieve along with our work-in-progress website, Alexandro stopped responding.
So onward to Consuela, who was based in California. But Consuela wasn't able to grasp what we were trying to accomplish even after multiple conversations. She didn't connect the important relationship between cancer and fashion, asking if we'd obtained permission from large cancer charities to carry out this project—something that wouldn't have been necessary.
Subsequently, we interviewed Kristen, who was based in Salt Lake City and who, too, didn't have enough confidence to stand behind our project. Not grasping our concept, she saw Facebook and YouTube as competitors. And though she didn't turn out to be the person for the job, she did change my outlook on some aspects, bringing me back to the drawing board. This became a major turning point.
Ultimately hiring Alana, based in Maryland, we were able to bring to the organization her solid background and proven track record for raising millions of dollars in sponsorship funds. Alana immediately got our concept and was eager to help. Simultaneously, we were looking to hire an event planner with experience in fashion show production. For this role, we found Yeka based in Arizona who brought exceptional experience in fashion, particularly as a fashion lecturer. The two were set to collaborate with one another as Yeka onboarded one more person, Grace, a student looking to intern with us as back office administrator and social media manager. Soon Yeka came to Las Vegas to view potential sites for fashion events.
Our working visit was positive and productive, with development efforts right on track for the social site. But eventually that progress began to lag, with our small development team simply unable to keep up with the scope of work required. Still after talking with Kristen, my black board visit began to take effect and our overall business voice began to improve as we reduced the fashion focus in favor of fundraising. But with this slight refinement and with a website still in development, Yeka dropped out followed by Grace and Alana. Their contributions, though, were enormous and provided a great deal of insight on aspects I had not considered previously. So moving forward, we repurposed our strategy and transformed the company into a full-blown fundraising service for families affected by cancer. This would be enhanced by a fashion undertone to boost image, confidence, and awareness. But we really needed a visible key differentiator from established websites right at the outset. So this became our top focus.
To this point, our ups and downs had not deterred us from our original goal of creating a viable platform to help families affected by cancer and to reduce the financial and economic burden across geographic boundaries. We'd invested so much time and money already, and we'd gone too far to quit. While the finish line was far ahead, it was still within sight. But we were also moving into 2017 with little to no funds, leaving no other option but to sell real property or cash out my 401K to finance development. As daunting as that might have felt, for some reason, it never deterred from the goal of making that dream a reality. Read more
Micro-investors contribute $150K.
I next opened a conversation with a friend of mine, Heine, who had been building a rebate platform called privymo (later changed to hiipe.me). His app would provide smartpoints for chat, talk, sharing, and browsing. Daily interactions became points that could win prizes and discounts from participating businesses. Soon he was introducing me to a concept he developed that raised more than $400K from friends and family.
So we collaborated to restructure his fundraising apparatus to suit Model4Cancer, and small donations started to come in from friends and family—with investments made for as little as $1,500 in exchange for a stake in the business. With micro-investors and cash flow rolling, the platform could now allow anyone who believed in the concept to play a role. By December of 2018, the start-up had earned $150K in investments, helping tremendously in further development and marketing.
In April of 2017, on a stretched budget, we decided to shoot a low budget video to launch the Model4cancer platform. Heine, who'd worked with a team of students from New Mexico Highland University, introduced me to his student contact, Patrice, who acted as a project manager for the full production team. We agreed to pay Patrice, and Patrice would pay the others. But we soon learned that those funds never reached team members. Fast forward through three more bills and we'd paid for a job that was never delivered. When I contacted Heru about the issue, he too had now been cheated in the same manner. Not knowing Patrice's character at the outset and feeling responsible, Heru took it upon himself to correct the situation and promised to ensure the work would be delivered.
By the end of 2017, having been active on Linkedin, I had accumulated more than 10,000 connections and followers. One of those contacts was Steve Zamzow, a retired American Cancer Society executive, who sent a supportive message through the platform, which was a great sign coming from someone of his stature within the industry. We next scheduled a call and, during our conversation, it was clear Steve was someone I could trust and would work well with. He knew the industry and the contacts, soon joining as our first advisory board member. New members were recruited afterward based on their passion and interest in fighting the financial impact of cancer, the contributions they could make to the business, and how much time they could invest.
Securing a name and domain
In December of 2017, seeing what we needed to achieve, a decision was made to revisit the name once more. We wanted our business name to reflect everything the platform represented. And Heine was the one who, during brainstorming, said: "What about Just4Cancer? That was it. After checking, the domain was available and we wasted no time in securing it.
The following January, our concept caught the attention of Becky Olson, Host of Voice America on the Breast Friends Cancer Support Radio Network, or breastfriends.org. The show asked us to become a featured guest for Voice America, speaking on the economic impact of cancer on families. So, we gladly accepted. The interview, hosted by Becky and Sharon Henifin, focused not only on the financial impact but also on my background as founder and CEO and how I was able to use a difficult situation to help others in need.
By February of 2018, we set out to recruit others who could help our organization advance. We were particularly interested in teaming up with a marketing professional who could assist with our go-to-market strategy. And while I was in Atlanta attending a work function the week of February 14, I had the pleasure of connecting with Alexandra, who brought an impressive background in the field. She was excited to learn about our concept and her experience was a great match for the role. Feeling she was ideal, she sent a few proposals along with research analysis within days. And while our intent was in the right place and our excitement was high, her services were going to be $5000 per month. With the project being in start-up mode, we were not able to work together.
A go-to-market strategy
A week after the deal with Alexandra collapsed, we scheduled a call with Barry, who responded to our request for proposal. He brought years of marketing experience and had led several go-to-market strategies and start-ups, the most recent being everythingfoods.com. Plus his approach was more mechanical, which I appreciated. There was no doubt in my mind that he was the professional we needed, so we teamed up with him and began work immediately. By May of 2018, we'd met in Orange County, California, conducting a working session at Chapman University to brainstorm various aspect of the business. It was during this meeting that we began calling sponsors "donors” on our platform to simplify. We carved out a plan to guide the business into launch. We also discussed social media, and he suggested a social marketing firm with which he already had a trusted relationship. That is how Hawke Media came into the picture.
Brainstorming sessions continued weekly as we planned various avenues for bringing the concept to market. By January of 2019, Hawke Marketing came on board and assigned Molly to engage on social media. At that time, Just4Cancer had attracted 200 loyal Facebook followers. In addition to weekly meetings with Barry and Hawke Media, I continued to work with the development team each evening to channel updates to marketing and social before conducting a formal scrum meeting on Monday night. Life was hectic, sleep scarce, and my days were booked well into the night after I'd come home from my day job. This soared to nearly 20 working hours a day at critical points. But I was doing what I loved, and this only fueled my motivation. Because success would come in two phases. The first would be the launch of Just4Cancer.com to the general public, and the second would be the platform's work as a living witness once Just4Cancer was in use globally and helping families in need. To achieve both would require continuous work.
Our first digital fashion show
In December of 2018, we launched our first digital fashion show, which was an online space where families affected by cancer could share dressed-up photos for entrance into our digital competition. Numerous participants took part, with prizes awarded to Gwen Ngu, Ruben Vavrecan, Dr. Tameka Ellington, Zuri Bracy, La Keisha Walker-Sheeley, Cindy Lavene, and Daisy Achidi.
Ashley Giza, a thyroid cancer survivor, soon reached out to express her desire to participate as an artist. From her, the concept of art and the therapeutic relationship between art and cancer was incorporated into the business plan. Ashley won our first art competition followed by Nanci Williamson. Competitions were bringing like-minded people together from remote locations so they could exchange stories and gain a sense of fulfillment and well being. Read more
Just4Cancer joins Association of Cancer Executives (ACE)
A large and essential part of business is always networking. So in November of 2018, I attended the International Oncology Leadership Conference in Milan on behalf of Just4Cancer. Conference attendees included global oncology professionals who were part of the common community served including patients, survivors, and families. After the Milan meeting, Just4Cancer became a member of the IOLC Planning Committee and member of the membership and vendor committees of the Association of Cancer Executives.
Defining our mission and vision
Oftentimes we came close to writing our mission and vision. But we never could get it right because It never had the simple and direct message we hoped to pass along to the public. While attending a corporate meeting in December of 2018, the president of the company mentioned their mission and vision statement more than three times. It was a simple and direct statement with tremendous impact, and it sparked an idea of my own. Soon I'd drafted and redrafted, finalizing our mission and vision statements as follows.
Mission: Fighting the financial impact of cancer on families and boosting image.
Vision: A world without financial difficulties for families affected by cancer and a celebration of image prowess.
When Ashley Giza encouraged us to incorporate art into our vision, the vision statement was updated as well to become:
Vision: A world without financial difficulties for families affected by cancer and a celebration of image and creative prowess.
In 2019, in line with our commitment to ongoing networking, we attended the Association of Cancer Executives' 25th annual meeting in Charleston, South Carolina. The conference was a great success, and we met a lot of wonderful people in the oncology industry, all of whom were striving to help patients.
Nomination to serve on the board of the Association of Cancer Executives (ACE).
In 2019, I was nominated to serve on the board of the Association of Cancer Executives (ACE) in the capacity of Director at large (2020-2022). ACE is the parent organization for IOLC. And while I wasn't able to secure enough votes to sit on the board, it was a great honor and offered the organization and brand the visibility we needed. This exposure tied in with our go-to-market strategy for building a meaningful network. That same year, we reaffirmed our commitment to building a network that could touch all oncology players worldwide by attending our second International Oncology Leadership Conference (IOLC) in Antwerp, Belgium and by acting as part of the Planning Committee.
As we move forward in 2020, Just4Cancer is slated to attend the 26th annual ACE conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The past eight years leading up to today's launch of Just4Cancer have been eventful. We took a simple idea for a platform and made it into a viable solution able to raise cancer awareness across geographic boundaries while pointing families to the financial resources they so desperately need. This concept has ebbed and flowed to become a much needed peer-to-peer fundraising platform able to help countless families affected by cancer worldwide.
It's been a long journey, rightfully assuming the nickname "The Journey Man”. Along the way, we've met people who've contributed in so many ways to help us reach this goal. Each played a unique role in shaping the platform and has made a significant impact on where we are today. We're grateful for their voices, their time, their efforts, contributions, and professional support along the way.
To this end, I would like to thank:
Steve Zamzow, Doretha Burrell, Dr. Uly Labilles, Magdalene Shalo, Keeon Rudder, Pamela Ndikum, Panseh Tsewole, Zhyle Fleury Tsewole, Dr. L. Alee Moore, Solange Fonkem, Roosevelt and Ann Tsewole, Cletus Fotibu, Vitus Shalo, Dr. Tameka Ellington, Dr. Triya Collier, Dr. Jude Niba, Barry Libermann, Molly Lindheimer, Paschal Fuh, Barbara Bouchard, Dr. Chantal Nde, Jacques Shalo, Michael Chando, Zoss Group, Dr. Fosah Henry, Srikanth Bhonagiri, Dr. Theodore Tanke, Kenneth and Esther Biaka, members of Just4Cancer micro-investors group, Heine Nzumafor, Nge-nwie Azefor, Dr. and Mr. Besong-Asah, Dr. and Mrs. Molih Orock, Remond Mbiada, Dr. and Mr. Fokum, Frida Tende, Fri Kigham, Karen Tam, Claire Herbert, Vasupilli Rambabu, Oscar Tsewole and Erla Menard, Paulette Vildberg, Kelly DeRossett, Vamsi Krishna Sirisala, Harika Kowtharapu, Revada Bhuvana Reddy, Srinivas Patnaik Dabbiru, Ramesh Raja Babu Palleti, Mario Chávez Anduaga, David Gavin, David Gavin Voice Over, Ujjwol, Flora Asongwe, Joey Merino, Marla Briones, Michelle Sophia, Mellanie Parinas, Estrella Parco, Vincente II Sarcia, Vinay Kumar, Sandeep Saini, Gwendolyn Ngu, Ruben Vavrecan, Zuri Bracy, La Keisha Walker-Sheeley, Cindy Lavene, Daisy Achidi, Dr Christian Bime, Alana Alsop, Yekatherina Bruner, Grace Yeh, Heru, Ashley Giza, Nanci Williamson, Marilyn Lapaix, Manka Nkimbeng, Ivor Mitchell, MitchellWebMedia, Java Master International LLC (javamasters.com), QHR Pharmacy (qhrpharmacylv.com) and Peritia LLC (peritia.pro).
Reflecting on the meaning of the name of my son Zhyle one more time, one thing stands true. The Just4Cancer dream did not end.
PROVERBS 16:3 "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”
Belong to Just4Cancer.
Clifford T. Rhayns
Founder and CEO of Just4Cancer