The Pink Door Opens

How two Oakland County women started the nonprofit of their dreams.
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the pink doorAlong the charming brick-paver streets of downtown Milford sits a small, ivy-covered corner shop called The Pink Door. Inside, fleece jackets, long-sleeve T-shirts, and men’s button-down shirts hang on racks, all embroidered with The Pink Door’s pink and white flag or swirling ribbon logos. Near the door are bright, printed “sleep hats” that keep women’s heads warm at night, after they’ve lost their hair to chemotherapy.

But it’s not a breast-cancer store. “We don’t sell breast cancer here,” says president and founder Julie Durham, with a laugh. What it is, is a fundraising business — selling clothes to pay for mammograms.

By day, Durham is the lead mammography coordinator at Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills. The Pink Door got its start in 2006 when Durham wanted to decorate her hospital scrubs with a breast-cancer ribbon. So she turned to her neighbor Kim Kowalsky, an embroiderer and the owner of Say It With Stitches in Highland. The traditional ribbon was too closed, Durham felt, so instead, she drew her own free-flowing ribbon. “I liked [my ribbon] because it looked like it was being pulled open,” Durham says.

At work, patients loved her design. Then, in July 2006, frustrated after turning women away because they couldn’t pay for mammograms, it dawned on Durham — why not sell clothing with the ribbon embroidered on it and use the profits to pay for mammograms? Kowalsky agreed to help, and they spent the summer perfecting the logos, building the inventory, and starting the storefront.

Durham, 49, receives referrals for mammograms from doctors through The Pink Door’s Web site www.shoppinkdoor.com, then she acts like an insurance company and negotiates with the hospital to pay for mammograms. They funded their first mammogram in February 2007 and have since paid for 60 patients’ mammograms and follow-up tests at a cost of roughly $14,000.

Kowalsky buys the clothes and adds The Pink Door logo in subtle places, on front pockets, along the sleeve, or on the back of the collar. “I’m surprised that people really dig the clothing,” she says.

Breast cancer is the third most common cancer in Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. The American Cancer Society estimates that, in 2007, 5,900 women in Michigan will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 1,320 will die from the disease.

“I [want to] do everything I can to help anyone who needs The Pink Door,” Durham says, “because no one should consider a mammography a luxury.”

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