by Stella Shepard
Simonne Cormier of Valleyfield became an entrepreneur out of a need and a passion to make a difference for breast cancer survivors.
Her entrepreneurial journey began after she was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 2016. After her lumpectomy surgery, she did not feel comfortable with a chemical-based prosthesis, which she considered unhealthy and unhelpful to the healing process.
“My doctor advised that if I choose to buy a breast prosthesis, I should look for one made with natural fibres,” says Simonne.
“I searched many specialty stores for two years without success. So, I decided to open a business manufacturing prostheses made from all-natural materials. It was not in the plan to become an entrepreneur, but I want women to experience freedom from toxic materials when using a breast prosthesis.”
In 2019, Simonne launched Au Naturel Solutions Inc. which recently moved to the LaunchPad in the Montague Business Development Centre.
LaunchPad is a non-profit incubator that supports the growth of new technology companies on PEI.
“Au Naturel Solutions Inc. is the first company to introduce a patented, innovative, all-natural handcrafted breast prosthesis to the marketplace, filling a need for those who are looking for a natural alternative,” says Simonne.
“I chose bamboo/cotton material for the outer shell with a layer of felting and fill made from alpaca fleece. I am working with a designer, a mill, and a manufacturer, all in Atlantic Canada.”
The company plans to have material produced and ready for manufacturing by April 2022, Canada-wide, with the goal of eventually becoming an international supplier.
In 2019, Simonne was one of the winners of Innovation PEI’s Ignition Fund and received a grant of $25,000 which she invested in start-up costs.
“I was able to patent the product, incorporate the company, research Canadian-sourced natural materials, and develop prototypes for testing that were shipped to 100 women who are new or experienced prosthetic users.”
Production will begin at the LaunchPad location until a larger facility is necessary. Plans are to hire Inclusion East clients to do final assembly and packaging. Simonne will also be hiring a Manager in a shipping, receiving and supervisory role.
“Hiring depends on need but I will be starting with two or three full-time positions. Over time, other positions will need to be filled.”
Advice for entrepreneurs
“My business was born out of a health journey and a need for a product not available to breast cancer survivors,” says Simonne.
“I retired in 2020 after working for the federal government for 33 years. It was scary and challenging stepping out of my comfort zone.
“When starting a business, the main thing is to know what you want to achieve. Do your market research and an evaluation of your product to see if it is viable and how different it is from what’s already out there.”
For a 2021 interview with Simonne done by the Eastern PEI Chamber of Commerce, click here