Nonprofit Bite Me Cancer Helps Teens Cope

Chamber spotlight

Chamber Spotlight is a feature from the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce. Reston Now will spotlight the chamber’s local businesses and business leaders on a regular basis. Today’s spotlight is on Bite Me Cancer, a nonprofit run by Sharon, Michael and Nikki Ferraro.

Why did you decide to start your business in Reston? Bite Me Cancer is run out of our home office in Chantilly. As a small growing nonprofit, we have to keep costs low. We spend a lot of time in Reston, so we feel many times like we live and work in Reston.

What are the challenges and rewards of being a business owner? All three of us consider ourselves the business owners (Michael, Sharon and Nikki Ferraro) since we are the co-founders of Bite Me Cancer. Being a business owner as many rewards and some challenges.

Rewards include: making a direct difference with our own beliefs and goals, flexible schedule, quicker decisions, able to shift priorities quickly, having complete ownership of the direction andsuccess/failure.

The challenges: flexible schedule can be a challenge because it’s very easy to work more hours and can be harder to step away from the work, most of the time need to wear many hats and so need to keep up with skills needed for the business, sometimes don’t have the “experts” available.

Name something about your business that most people don’t know? Bite Me Cancer’s name came from our daughter (Nikki, founder and cancer survivor) saying “Bite me, Dad” when he thought he came up Sharon, Nikki and Michael Ferraro of Bite Me Cancer
with a great name for her new Relay for Life team (a week after being diagnosed) and she thought his choice for the name was silly. As soon as she said “Bite me, Dad” we all looked at each other and she said “Bite Me Cancer?” The name was born for the team, and five months later it became the name of her foundation.

What is the unique value proposition your clients know when using your services? Donors and volunteers to Bite Me Cancer know that we run an honest and efficient nonprofit where over 90-92% of the dollars goes directly to program goals of the foundation. They know that we care deeply about helping cancer survivors, and they know that we are available almost 24 hours/day if they need to reach us.

Describe a typical day as the business owner? For Bite Me Cancer, there are many activities going on through our five committees and our board of directors. So as a business owner, there is a lot of coordination of the needs with our volunteers, making sure they are following through, having questions answered, etc. Also, there are emails and calls that come in that need responses.

Being a business owner in our small foundation with no staff means that the day can be juggled very quickly depending on an immediate need of a cancer survivor, the availability of a volunteer to work on something at that moment where they need feedback, someone requests a meeting and they are available at that moment by phone or in person as well as those corporate/individual potential sponsors who contact us about our sponsorship packages.

When donations come in during a day, hospitals have requested bags, a mom has a teen with cancer and asks for help, those are in need of responses. Prioritizing competing needs is usually a challenge.

How has the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce helped your business grow? With the chamber, we have been able to spread the word more quickly to the members regarding our events and our needs. Using the website has been helpful to display our events. Being involved in committees and/or the board has also raised awareness for Bite Me Cancer. Many committee meetings and chamber events have also helped to teach us some things. The network is great and very supportive too.

What is the quote that best describes your business? “Anything is possible if you just believe.” When we started the foundation in September 2010, we had no idea if it could grow beyond a small project that was important for Nikki.

Through the support of friends, business colleagues and organizations like the Reston Chamber, we’ve been able to dream bigger, accomplish more and believe that the foundation can really make a great positive impact. Reston is a very caring community, and we appreciate the continued support.

What is your advice to someone who is thinking about owning a business? Do it if you have a passion for the topic. But make sure you are knowledgeable and would enjoy the “running” of the business as well. There are many business operations/activities that many business owners aren’t aware of or don’t like when they start their business. They are only focused on the topic of their business. You need both sides to be running effectively.

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