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Dana Donofree

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Dana Donofree

- Founder of Ana Ono

 

How did the idea for your job/ business come about

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27, and after undergoing a bilateral mastectomy and implant reconstruction I learned not only did the bras I owned not fit me, but nothing on the market did either. My doctors suggested sports bras and camisoles, which just didn't work with my wardrobe and lifestyle. The only other solution was very utilitarian and matronly. I am a woman, sports bras and matronly bras did not make me feel sexy. At that time I was really struggling with my femininity and confidence as well. So, I put pencil to paper and started designing my own bra that would fit my unique needs. Before I knew it, I had an entire line and started my business, AnaOno. I figured I couldn't be the only woman who'd had a mastectomy with reconstruction and couldn't find anything to wear. AnaOno launched in May 2014, and we have five different silhouettes for every personality or occasion. Our bras stretch and mold to fit the woman wearing them, rather than expecting the woman to fit into the bra's construction. They are also gentle and soft on skin and scars, underwire-free and accommodate most women who've had breast surgery.

What is your backstory (how did you get to where you are today)? 
 
I grew up in a small town outside of Dayton, Ohio, and started my first business - babysitting - as a teenager. I was always committed to obtaining my goals, and one of those was becoming a fashion designer. I went to Savannah College of Art and Design to pursue that dream, moved to New York City and developed a fantastic career in fashion, from design to construction to merchandising to development. When I got cancer, everything shifted. I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life. I learned tomorrow isn't always a given, so it was time to stop saying "someday I will..." and just do it. I'd always wanted my own fashion line, I just didn't foresee breast cancer having a hand in that. Less than a year after I launched AnaOno, I left my full-time job to live out my dream as a designer, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. AnaOno donates 5% of all its sales to breast cancer nonprofits that help women diagnosed with the disease.
 
What motivates you? 
 
Life and the chance to live out each day fully. I feel fortunate I get to wake up every morning and do what I truly love. Meeting amazing women who share their stories and tears with me about how much AnaOno has changed their lives is the fuel to my inner fire. The ability to have even the smallest positive effect on someone's life makes me feel truly special and appreciated. 

What is your super power? 
 
I'd like to say the ability to channel my choreographic icon, Mia Michaels, whenever a great song comes on. I was a dancer and choreographer before I was anything else in this life. But, it's probably my work ethic (the Energizer bunny has nothing on me) or my innate ability to make others feel comforted. I'm not sure how I do it, but it's a wonderful quality to have been given. 

How do you protect (and give back to) your community? 
 
The breast cancer sisterhood is very important to me, and it is one of the cornerstone's of AnaOno. I am active in several young survivor support groups, and I am a member of the board for the nonprofit Living Beyond Breast Cancer and vice-chair of the nonprofit Jill's Wish. I have also made it part of AnaOno's mission to give back. In addition to our donation of a portion of our proceeds, we partner with different breast cancer organizations throughout the year to either share proceeds or help spread their message. There is a lot of love within the community, and we all reach out to each other to volunteer time, services or expertise. I've also been lucky to be a panel speaker on patient advocacy and reconstruction options.

Who is your supporting cast of characters that help you to be so darn crush worthy? 
 
I couldn't do any of this without my friends, family and survivor sisters. They've all played a part at every stage of building, launching and growing AnaOno; they are always quick to say yes or offer to help out. And, of course, we have the best clientele and fans in the world. They are always talking about our products or recommending us to others or just posting encouragement. Behind every strong, successful woman is a phenomenal network of people who believe in her. I am grateful to be one of those kinds of women.

What do you consider to be your theme or "pump-up" song? 
 
Black Cat, by Janet Jackson. Not only is she my life-long icon of choice, but this song pumps me up every time I hear it. It's so badass. 

What is the most difficult part about being an self employed/entrepreneur? 
 
Balancing your personal life and professional life. I've certainly taken on a different view of my life and my health, but I am also a workaholic. Being an entrepreneur is, without a doubt, a 24/7 job, and that is not easy. It takes determination, desire, passion and perseverance.

Who do you have a crush on? 
 
Jill Conley. She is my muse and my best friend. She has taught me more about life, love and strength than she will ever realize. Knowing her battle with Stage IV breast cancer is coming to an end is utterly heart-breaking. But, she is such a wonderful soul that has touched the lives of so many. I am and will be eternally grateful that mine was one of them.