So much diabetes news, so little attention to the individuals "in the trenches"...
It seems we're bombarded with headlines, often about developments from the major pharmaceutical and device companies that do play a key role in how we live and manage our diabetes. But what about the folks that don't have a billion-dollar budget? The passionate people out there working to make an impact on life with diabetes from the "bottom up"?
Folks like Rickina Velte, a mother of two from Virginia who's been designing attractive and practical glucose meter bags for nearly three years at her home-grown shop, Stick Me Designs. Rickina was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during her first pregnancy. Even though she doesn't have diabetes anymore, she's remained committed to helping people with diabetes manage their illness more conveniently, and with a little more personality!
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DM) Rickina, what's your D-story?
RV) While I 'only' had gestational diabetes, I had to deal with the lifestyle of it enough to realize that it sucks. But when I saw that taking better care of myself and moving around a bit more made it more manageable, I thought, 'I can do this.' Managing it proved to me that I can accomplish goals, and push myself in times when I thought I couldn't. My son was born weighing in at 7lbs 11oz, and I think that was a wonderful accomplishment!
How did you get started with Stick Me Designs?
Stick Me Designs began after being diagnosed with gestational while I was pregnant with my son Ace. I had no background on diabetes and what it meant; I was scared. It wasn't until I reached out to others that I learned more about it and began to understand what it meant to be diabetic. I found I could still be me and deal with this head on. But what I couldn't deal with was the plain black, depressing-looking bag my meter and supplies came in. I did what I could to fancy it up a bit, but when my glued-on gems came off and my fabric frayed, I thought, 'This isn't cuttin' it.' So I turned to online searching... when I still couldn't find what I wanted, I made my own.
When others wanted to know where to buy it, I thought, 'Maybe I'm on to something, maybe I'm not alone.' That's what initially launched the business idea.
How did this become a passion for you?
The people I've met along the way have been fuel for my passion. I never would have guessed that I would have met and befriended so many wonderful people along the way. It's been such a positive experience that it's a part of who I am now and who I'm going to be.
Most people who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes don't become quite as invested in the diabetes community as you have. What made you stick around?
I guess because I've made friends and have learned so much that it just would feel weird to leave. The connections alone have been enough to motivate me to hang around, and stay in touch with the community. I may not be diabetic now, but I still have to take better care of myself because I have a 60% chance of developing type 2 in a few years. I like knowing that with the right tools I might be able to beat the odds.
From a business standpoint, Stick Me Designs accomplishes several goals for me:
- The need to be creative
- The need to do things for others
- And the need to feel like what I do really means something to someone. It's not just a cute bag or case, but it's creating a feeling for someone that they didn't have before. Knowing that what I create makes someone smile and feel just a little better about living with diabetes is pretty cool.
You originally made these by hand. Do you still sew each bag individually?
Actually just my first prototype was made by me, but I couldn't be friends with my sewing machine long enough to make enough bags for full distribution. So I've enlisted the help of contractors in New York, Colorado, and abroad to assist with production.
What's the most popular product you offer?
Right now our Deluxe bags are the most popular, with our diabetes charm bracelets gaining popularity also. I think people like that they make a statement without screaming: I'm diabetic!
I'm always looking for ways to keep our collections fresh, so new designs are on the tables all the time. We're working on a bag that can keep insulin cool if needed, and possibly some masculine styles for guys too (much tougher than it sounds). So be on the lookout for those. We also just launched a new design called the 'Grabber' that's a small case for little D-goods and for young people on the pump, or if you want to just carry small stuff.
Thanks for sharing your story, Rickina!