We are all works in progress; even the successful women you see owning it on Instagram faced stumbling blocks along the way and continue to work hard to stay at the top of their game. In this series, we're sitting down with the people that inspire us to find out: How'd they do it? And what is success really like? This is "Getting There."
In 2017, as a 30-year-old military spouse, mom of four, blogger and fashion stylist, Kelsey Bucci was doing a breast self-exam when she found a lump. A month later, she was diagnosed with Stage-2 breast cancer near her home outside Savannah, Georgia.
While her blog content had always circled around lifestyle topics, like motherhood and fashion, Bucci published a piece "The blog post I never thought I’d write" after her first round of chemo and has never looked back.
It was in the midst of treatment that Bucci launched her podcast, "But You Don’t Look Sick," which covers her cancer journey and features interviews with other cancer patients, as well as answers questions she has received, but it was also during this time, she realized one of her own personal dreams — owning a boutique.
Bucci's Paris Laundry, launched in 2018, is an all-natural beauty and lifestyle brand. In 2022, her brick-and-mortar store opened in Savannah.
Can you walk me through the moment you found the lump? What were your first thoughts?
It was quite an interesting moment, that’s for sure. After dealing with health issues for more than a year and getting absolutely no answers from doctors, I had a dream one night that I had breast cancer. It was so vivid and emotional that I woke up and frantically started feeling my breasts. I had never done a breast self-exam before and I’m not even sure that you can call what I was doing in the middle of the night an exam. But I felt a lump in my left breast. I was shocked. Probably not as shocked as the first doctor I saw and told him that. Pretty sure he wanted to order a psych evaluation rather than a mammogram.
That August you were diagnosed with breast cancer. Did you have a family history?
No family history, no genetic links to breast cancer. After getting diagnosed, things moved really fast. It was one doctor’s appointment after another, just filling in all the pieces of my diagnosis and going over the best treatment plan.
You let your kids shave your hair. Was that an empowering moment?
That is still a moment that makes me very emotional. Trying to tell your 7-, 5-, 4- and 2-year-old that you have breast cancer is difficult because they have no idea what cancer is. They didn’t understand why I was feeling so sick or why I was always at the doctor. When I started to lose my hair, I felt like that was a teachable moment for all of us. I wanted to show them that I was still their mom; nothing changes. My hair and my appearance had no bearing on my love for them or how hard I was going to fight and that we were going to get through this together.
What was your lowest point of treatment?
One particular moment that always stands out was after my fourth round of chemo. I was just so sick; I could barely keep my eyes open. I felt awful that I was missing out on soccer games, or just the day-to-day taking care of the kids. I basically crawled out of our bedroom to the kitchen after my husband had put the kids to bed and he was standing there getting lunches ready for the next day. I pulled myself to my feet and just hung my arms over him and said, “I’m so sorry, I just don’t think I can do this.” I think that was the lowest point. I wanted to give up. It all felt so hard; we had no family around us, we had just moved to a new place and I didn’t know how to be a mom, a wife and someone fighting cancer.
Your diagnosis, treatment and recovery inspired you to start Paris Laundry. What was the "a-ha" moment for you in clean beauty?
Clean beauty played a huge role throughout treatment. My skin had horrible reactions to the chemotherapy. I had rashes, dryness and overall skin sensitivity. All the products I was using at the time were just making it worse. I became very sensitive to fragrance, preservatives and harsh chemicals. So I started researching brands and products that were natural.
What do you want people to know about the brand?
Paris Laundry was born out of my own need. I wanted one place that I could shop at that had products that I knew were safe; products that I tried while going through cancer treatments. I wanted to be able to share and help other women who were looking for these same options. Within that I also created my own skin care line with high-quality, oil-based products that I had used to help my skin through radiation and multiple surgeries. I want people to know that Paris Laundry is so much more than an e-commerce destination. It’s a lifestyle, because I truly believe that beauty is a life well-lived.
What do you wish people knew about entrepreneurship?
I could list so many things. I wish people knew that for many entrepreneurs it isn’t about the money; it’s about the freedom! The freedom to create a values-based brand on a mission to do good, to give back. For me it is much more about being able to be there for my children, run this company as a family and watch it grow. Being a self-funded company doesn’t come without tons of sacrifices on all our parts, but it’s worth it.
What advice would you give fellow women/moms about starting a company with kids or pivoting in life to follow your passions?
Lower your expectations! It’s not all going to happen overnight, so give yourself a lot of grace. There is nothing easy about motherhood, there is also nothing easy about building a business. Combine the two and it almost seems impossible. Know your why and believe in it wholeheartedly. Entrepreneurship is lonely; not many people talk about that just like they don’t talk about it with cancer either. No one can see your vision and when you tell people, even friends and family, they won’t understand. Keep going!
Do you have any regrets?
No. Everything that has happened in my life has brought me to this point.