Make Your M
Make your Mess your Message. That’s one motto the mother-daughter duo of Carol and Lauren Hemker ’08, has taken to heart. Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2014 and underwent four surgeries. She believes that we should take our struggles and use them to help other people – and that when you make your mess your message, it usually ends up healing you in the process. That compassion and positivity is what led the Hemker women to begin Audrey Liz, a clothing company that makes flattering post-surgical garments with patented functionality. Breast cancer, and the surgeries and treatments that often accompany a diagnosis, can strip a woman of many things that make her feel feminine, like hair and breasts. On top of that, anyone who has had a surgery like this will tell you that the post-operative drains that remove fluid buildup are quite necessary, but impractical and cumbersome. As she helped take care of her mother, Lauren wished for clothing that was functional for dealing with the drains and lack of arm mobility, yet feminine and attractive. The Hemkers were not able to find anything on the market that fit the bill – and thus was born the idea for the Audrey Liz Drain Pocket Top and Shower Scarf. These garments wrangle the pesky drains and are “comfortable, flattering and easy to use.” The idea for the company didn’t actually come until after Carol was through with her treatment and healing. The Hemkers were having a family dinner and Lauren was discussing what she’d do with the Powerball millions if the ticket she’d purchased that day was a winner – and one of those ideas was starting a clothing company to help post-op patients like her mother. She recalls that her father looked her in the eyes and said, “you don’t have to win the lottery to do that.” He was right. Lauren had graduated from Indiana University with a degree in fashion merchandising and psychology – both of which she believes helped in creating a company that supports women through a very difficult time. She and her mother began developing prototypes – they have boxes of those prototypes – and didn’t stop until their design was perfected. The traveled to New York to source fabrics and struggled to find dealers who would meet with their small company from Kentucky. But the women were persistent. They wanted fabric made in the U.S. and eventually established relationships with a couple of U.S. textile manufacturing companies. They developed and applied for the patent. Every time someone told them they would not succeed, they moved on to the next contact. Audrey Liz was named for three generations of strong women – daughter, mother and grandmother who all share the two names – and who have all been touched by cancer. Their strength and perseverance paid off in the launch of the company in February 2020.