May 9, 2011, 9:44 AM

Beyond sympathy

An e-commerce site lets friends and relatives chip in to help women with breast cancer.

Lead Photo

Paula Jagemann

One in eight women will get breast cancer. A new e-commerce site launching today, SomeoneWith.com, aims to provide those women with a single source for the skin lotions, anti-nausea pills, shampoos, arm sleeves and other non-prescription items they’ll need—and a way for friends and family to help pay for these products.

The launch is timed to coincide with National Women’s Health Week, a weeklong observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

SomeoneWith.com features a registry that, like a bridal or baby registry, lets the woman with breast cancer add products she wants. But there’s a crucial difference, says Paula Jagemann, founder and CEO of Someone With LLC: To protect her privacy, only people she e-mails will be able to see the registry. And each e-mail recipient gets a unique link that only the recipient can use, and that can’t be forwarded.

The aim of the registry is to help women with breast cancer cover the costs of the many items they’ll need as they go through treatment, items that often are not covered by insurance, Jagemann says.

The financial burden of treatment came up repeatedly in focus groups with breast cancer patients, caregivers and social workers, she says. “Not only are you on this journey you don’t want, you have to pay for it,” Jagemann says. “If only you could take the cost of all the bouquets of flowers and the balloons and the teddy bears and the coffee mugs with ribbons, and funnel that money to paying for products that will make her comfortable while she battles cancer. It’s a way to take all these sympathetic and thoughtful but unproductive gifts and apply it to something that will be a burden on her.”

Jagemann says SomeoneWith.com will bring together in one place for the first time all types of products women with breast cancer need, including apparel, lotions, over-the-counter medication, therapeutic devices and books. “These items are not only hard to find, but they’re from brands you’re not familiar with and in categories with which you don’t have any experience,” Jagemann says. She says SomeoneWith.com will let visitors rate products and comment on them, giving women a better idea of what products will suit their needs. There are 2.5 million U.S. women living with breast cancer, the e-retailer says.

In fact, the e-retailer, which will offer about 300 SKUs at launch, plans to add products based on consumer feedback, says Andrew Schiff, chief web officer. He says the site will post what it calls its Eye to Eye catalog that lists all the products the retailer could sell and ask visitors to vote for the ones they would like added. If a product gets enough votes, the retailer will stock it and notify those who voted for it by e-mail, he says.

The retailer will also provide an incentive to participate in the crowd-sourcing process. “There will be a second button that says, ‘I want to purchase.’ They’ll automatically get a 10-20% discount for a small down payment when they hit that button,” Schiff says. “We’ll know not only that an item is going to be popular because it has a lot of votes, but we’ll have a gauge of how many customers will buy right away.”

Someone With will stock all the SKUs it carries in its 50,000-square-foot fulfillment center in McKinney, TX. That will enable the e-retailer to send a woman all the items she orders in a single box, rather than have some drop-shipped from suppliers. “Women told us they were willing to pay extra to have one nicely packaged box and not to have to be aware of multiple shipments,” Schiff says. “This was an idea that came straight from the community.”

Someone With also went to great lengths to make the box appealing, choosing a high-quality bright white carton and aromatic tissue paper, Jagemann says. “The box is beautiful to look at, and when you open it you get a slight scent of lavender. That’s important, because what’s in the box sucks—it’s the first confirmation of cancer. The products in the box, you really don’t want them. To restore some dignity we thought the experience should be as Nieman Marcus-like as you could possibly make it.”

The box also will contain multiple receipts, so that the woman has all the copies she needs for insurance claims and tax purposes.

SomeoneWith.com launched in beta two months ago, initially inviting its Facebook fans—now numbering more than 6,800—to test out the site. The retailer also began offering a handful of products for sale from its Facebook page last week.

While SomeoneWith.com describes itself as “The Marketplace for Pre, During and Post Treatment Products for Your Breast Cancer Journey,” the company is already thinking about similar sites directed at people dealing with other diseases. Jagemann, who founded and sold in 2006 online office supplies retailer eCommerce Industries Inc., says she has purchased such web domains as SomeoneWithAutism.com, SomeoneWithApnea.com and many others.

The next Someone With site, Jagemann says, is likely to be aimed at men diagnosed with prostate cancer. That could launch as soon as this summer.

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