Rare cancer and husband’s stroke can’t stop Belfast woman from success

Despite battling a rare cancer and her husband suffering a stroke, determined Belfast woman Jennifer Cairns has set up her own successful business.

Entrepreneur Jennifer created Brand Evolution Academy after a series of earth-shattering setbacks.

One week before the scheduled launch of their business, her 42-year-old husband unexpectedly had a stroke.

Jennifer said: “He had a stroke three days after gallbladder surgery. It was only after he had the stroke that we learnt he had a hole in his heart.

“After his stroke, he wasn’t able to take the stroke medication and thus the effects couldn’t be reversed. He was in the hospital for four weeks and continued as an outpatient at the brain injury clinic for several months.”

Whilst trying to work on the new business in its infancy, Jennifer was doing online learning courses and taking care of her husband and two children, becoming more overwhelmed by the day.

Then two-and-a-half months later Jennifer was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer in her tailbone.

She said: “During the first lockdown I had to go for treatment and I honestly wanted to give up and throw in the towel.

“But one day I was sitting in the garden when a delivery came for me. It was the Pioneer of Freedom award for being an ‘inspiring leader and entrepreneur’, so I knew I couldn’t give up.”

Through sheer determination, Jennifer is getting her business off the ground.

She said: “At Brand Evolution Academy, all of the micro kits and membership training are designed for humans, not robots.

“The first micro kit, Branding In A Flash, has had fabulous feedback so far. It’s designed to walk entrepreneurs by the hand as they create clear cohesive branding in four hours or less. The community seem excited for the full membership, Brand Launch Love, that is coming out in July. It’s all about adding more depth to your brand/ing and helping people to roll their brand out into all of the touchpoints like website, social media and marketing, messaging, packaging and more.”

There is no stopping Jennifer who has already delved into her latest project Lady Rebel Club® , a community for women entrepreneurs who are neurodiverse and/or who have a hidden disability or disorder.

She explained: “My neurodiversity is what has enabled me to power forward and not give up. It felt almost like a super-power to dig deep and stay focused.

“I want to show others that despite your life circumstances or hidden disabilities, disorders or even if you’re neurodiverse, you can do whatever you want. I want to inspire and prove that no matter what is going on in your life you are more than capable.”

On the future, Jennifer revealed: “Doctors wanted to bring me back in for cancer treatment a couple of months ago but, because the drugs completely kill immunity for everything, I’d be susceptible to coronavirus. I’m having to wait until there is more herd immunity.

“I am focusing on the Brand Launch Love membership launch, which will give me a great platform to offer more to the Lady Rebel Club® community. I want that community to be about real relationship building, mentoring each other, supporting each other through circumstances many wouldn’t understand and to skyrocket women-led businesses.”

Jennifer previously ran a consultancy with her husband where they helped startups with their brand development and strategy.

They realised they needed to switch things up when Jennifer’s health started to impact the business and when they realised clients didn’t know how to manage their brand moving forward.

She added: “Because they weren’t involved in the creation of the brand/ing and strategies, they didn’t understand the nuances of the brand, how to deal with third parties or how to communicate what had been created.”

“That’s when I knew we had to teach. The original idea was a 1-1 programme; however, after I became so overwhelmed with the external learning trying to get things in place, I knew there had to be a better way for people to learn while running their businesses. That’s when I had the Branding In A Flash idea. It’s that concept of saving time while still delivering full-on action-based knowledge bombs – that’s the crux of what BEA is all about.”

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