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Missing ingredient leads cancer survivor to turn entrepreneur

Awakenings Boutique specializes in wigs for women who have lost hair due to cancer treatments.

By Kathie Stamps

Heidi Fuller has opened a boutique in Louisville to help women who are battling cancer feel better about their appearance.

Heidi Fuller stumbled into entrepreneurship because she didn’t want anyone else to go through the same demoralizing experience she did after being diagnosed with stage 3 uterine cancer in September 2015. Devastated over losing her long blonde hair after chemotherapy, she went to purchase a wig.

“At this vulnerable time, I did not receive the warmth and love I needed during the wig selection process,” Fuller said. Back home with her purchase, she couldn’t really figure out how to wear it, so she went back to the store for assistance, only to be told “You can’t return it!”

Fuller just knew there had to be something better: a store with a caring service for people going through cancer. She journaled about what such a space would look like.

In April 2016 she was in remission, and three months later she saw some amazing cancer care-centered items in Atlanta. She thought about opening an online boutique and toyed with the idea for quite a while. In spring 2017 as she was planning a sabbatical from her corporate role with Starbucks, Fuller wound up leaving the company and became an entrepreneur. She opened the doors to Awakenings Boutique in May 2017.

Located off Chamberlain Lane in Louisville, the 1,600-s.f. store specializes in wigs and healing essentials. Fuller carries breast-cancer clothing like bathing suits for women who have had a mastectomy; natural skincare products and essential oils; cancer-recovery items and caregiver products, along with specialty gifts. She has two employees.

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Everyone who walks in to Awakenings is greeted warmly. Fuller spends one-on-one time consulting with wig buyers to help them find the right one. She will cut and style a wig upon request, and has been known to go to customers’ homes for consultations when someone is not feeling well enough to come to the store.

Fuller has donated more than $8,000 to the American Cancer Society, Friend for Life Cancer Support Network and other local organizations. She has given 80 wigs, so far, to Norton Cancer Institute, and she’s partnering with Gilda’s Club and the Kentucky Chapter of Susan G. Komen.

“Awakenings is my heart and soul,” Fuller said. “I have built it out of love to inspire and instill hope for everyone who walks through our doors. It’s my mission and goal to lead this war against cancer and what cancer cannot take from us.”