The Survivors' Boutique

Mickey Kunnary was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in April 2013. At that time Helena didn’t have a place to shop locally for the hair loss products she needed during and after her chemotherapy treatment.

She ordered items online and often kept things that didn’t fit correctly instead of spending time and money on the return shipping process. At one point she had to purchase a wig while traveling, because finding the correct fit or style online would have been almost impossible.

These challenges are what inspired her on a path to open The Survivors’ Boutique in Helena two years ago on Valentine’s Day. "I had no idea how to start a business but I knew I wanted to start one." She is now is making it easier for cancer patients in Helena to purchase headscarves, wigs, books and gifts intended to bring hope and support.

"I got my business plan together with help from the SBDC, (Small Business Development Center) and then started to find out about financing so I could approach a bank," Kunnary said. "The SBDC was amazing. It's definitely a resource you need to take advantage of."

She was able to get an SBA loan for 95K. She also cashed out some of her retirement account and was able to apply and receive a 14K grant for Native Americans from the state, which helped her buy inventory.

Kunnary is certified in mastectomy fitting so she is able to help women adapt after a mastectomy and take measurements and fittings for prostheses. She carries swimsuits, bras and post-surgical garments and bills insurance when possible. There’s a private area of the store where Kunnary does the fitting, which she says is often difficult for her customers.

“It is really emotional,” she said. “You’ve been told you have cancer and you’re going to have surgery. You’re terrified.”

Since Kunnary experienced this first hand she is acutely qualified to answer questions patients don’t even know they have. She also provides emotional support as needed. Cancer patients often see Kunnary before they have surgery to be fitted for a camisole made to accommodate a surgical drain. After they heal, patients return to be fitted for prostheses and are able to choose from many options.

Before The Survivor’s Boutique, patients previously traveled to Butte, Bozeman and Great Falls for cancer care products.

"If I've helped someone not be so scared, navigate the process; make a little change that makes things better for them, that is what I want," Kunnary said.

Kunnary has now been in business 2 years. Her social media presence and customer base has grown steadily and she is hopeful for the future and better treatments for cancer.  "It's a labor of love. I just want to cover expenses and keep it going," she said.

"I'm adding more new things that people are looking for, I keep the most popular items in stock and a survivors' group meets here twice a week. I'm trying to work from a place of love so my clients can find the support they need,” she said.