New business aids in fight against breast cancer
Tuesday August 16, 2011
PITTSFIELD -- After several years in Philadelphia, a family-owned business selling fashionable medical devices for breast cancer survivors is moving to the downtown Pittsfield space previously occupied by the now-defunct Berkshire Living magazine.
Planning to open at 7 North St. on Sept. 6, LympheDIVAs sells lightweight, stylish compression sleeves and gloves that address lymphedema, an arm-swelling condition associated with breast cancer treatment.
The company, founded by Rachel Levin Troxell in 2006, continued on under the leadership of her parents, Dr. Howard and Judy Levin, after Troxell died from breast cancer in 2008 at age 37. Troxell's brother, 35-year-old Josh Levin, is now president and precipitated the company's move to Pittsfield to make good on a long-held desire to live in the Berkshires.
"I thought it would be a great place to live and to work," said Levin, who is bringing two employees from Philadelphia and hiring two more in the Berkshires.
Manufactured in North Carolina, the compression sleeves and gloves will be dyed and packaged at the Pittsfield location. The company sells online and to distributors.
Troxell began LympheDIVAs with two business partners after she had a number of lymph nodes removed during breast cancer treatment and contracted lymphedema. The only option on the market at the time was a thick, hot, ACE-bandage-like sleeve, but Troxell wanted something more comfortable and fashionable.
Five years later, the company sells about 18,000 thin, sweat-resistant, colorful pieces annually. Pairs of sleeves and fingerless gloves sell for between $100 and $145. LympheDIVAs operates with a budget between $500,000 and $1 million each year, Howard Levin said, and began turning a profit last year. Levin estimated that LympheDIVAs makes up about 0.1 percent of the compression sleeve market, but he and his family hope to see that amount increase to about 10 percent in the future.
At bottom, the family says their business is about giving breast cancer survivors options.
"At its core this is a mission-driven business," said Howard Levin.
For women who want to minimize the sleeve's visibility, there are 30 different skin tones. For those who'd prefer to show off a style item, there are patterns from leopard skin to paisley to tattoo.
As in any fashion business, the company's seven employees confer twice a year about their spring/summer, fall/winter and sports lines.
"[Rachel] wanted them to have something that was fun -- it's not lemonade out of lemons, but it's sort of like that," said Judy Levin. "It just makes them feel good, and that was very important to Rachel."
In black and hot pink, the packaging, too, says "boutique" rather than "drug store," another element that Levin said was significant to her late daughter.
"This is Rachel's legacy, and we made a promise that we would try to make it a success," Judy Levin said. "Basically, this is what she wanted, and we feel she is living on in this."
For more information on LympheDIVAs: www.lymphedivas.com, 1-866-411-3482.
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