By Joyce Smith
The Kansas City Star
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the three female entrepreneurs who have created a business out of delivering special “care packages” to those who may need a little extra TLC.
KANSAS CITY, Mo.
Sarah Brewster was devastated when her dear friend was diagnosed with a brain cyst. But she knew just where to turn for a gift to show her support.
A year ago, Brewster, her sister, Jill Wuetherich, and their sister-in-law, Elisa Trozzolo, took over Cancer Gifts, an Ohio-based website selling gifts and care packages designed for cancer patients and their caregivers.
Now with offices in Kansas City, the women have rebranded the company under Care Center Gifts (www.cancergifts.com) and they’ve launched a new line. Upside Down Gifts (www.upsidedowngifts.com) offers a broader selection of gift bags, including some for people going through a divorce, sick (or just homesick) college freshmen away from their parents for the first time, a child with a broken leg, or for those folks just having a bad day.
Prices range from $25 to $135 for gift bags. But they also have gifts for under $50. The following are some examples.
-Friendship Heals ($45, on Cancer Center). A “Group Hug” scented candle from Brookside’s 5B & Co. Candlemakers, Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookies (crisp caramelized and cinnamon-spiced Belgian cookies), a pair of Notes to Self socks (high-quality athletic socks made in the U.S. with “positive affirmations” woven in the toes and the soles), a deck of cards and lip balm, all in a metal bucket.
-Men’s Chemo Comfort and Care Package ($114, on Cancer Center). A large fleece blanket, “I am strong” Note to Self socks, cozy beanie, unscented skin care products, peppermint tea and container of Queasy Drops for nausea relief, Mega Book of Wordsearch and pen, and an aluminum water bottle, all in a backpack.
-Mommy-to-Bed ($80, on Upside Down). For pregnant moms on bed rest, plagued with nausea or just fatigued. It has a keepsake journal, “I am a great mom” Notes to Self socks, a tumbler that says “You are a good mom. That’s all,” Jolly Rancher candies and lip balm.
-Bravery at Any Size ($65, on Upside Down). For children ages 3 to 7, it has a stuffed animal, coloring books and crayons, a “Story Lines: I Can fly” book, squeeze ball, playing cards and Dum Dum pops.
-We Hated Him ($28, on Upside Down). For a friend going through a divorce who needs a little laugh. It includes Kansas City’s Roasterie coffee, Laffy Taffy and Jolly Ranchers candy, and a coffee mug that says “Congratulations on your divorce. We hated him. That’s all.”
Many of the gifts are by Kansas City companies, including wooden signs with slogans such as “Be you every day” by Brookside’s FarmDog Studios and inspirational painted canvases by area artist Becky Blades including a colorful one that says “A courageous heart is a work of art.”
Customers also can customize their gift baskets by selecting specific colors, add-on items or a unique gift bag.
Brewster and Wuetherich grew up in the family business, Trozzolo Communications Group, a Kansas City-based advertising and public relations company. They’ve known Elisa since she started dating their brother, Angelo, when they were teenagers. Angelo Trozzolo is now president and chief executive officer of Trozzolo Communications.
The women not only wanted a company they could buy into and expand, but also one that their children could participate in, as they did when they were children. The women have nine children between them, ages 1 to 15.
After a recent school day, Brewster’s son, Luke, 6, pulled out a black notebook and ran through a list of items for the Men’s Radiation Comfort and Care Package. He knew where each item was stocked but needed help reaching the fuzzy neck pillow on a high shelf.
he children also personalize the gift bags by including a “Your gift was made with love and sent with a prayer” card. But some cards are more personalized than most.
When Trozzolo’s son, Mario, and husband, Angelo, first packed some gift bags together, Mario signed their card: “Mario, age 9, and Angelo, age 41.”