It’s hard to find a silver lining on the dark cloud that is cancer – but a dreaded diagnosis did jump-start Tara Lock’s business. “Up until then, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, or what I was passionate about,” says the Melbourne mother of three. “All I knew was that I wanted to help others in some way.” With a background in sales and beauty, the stay-at-home mum had been sweating over an idea born of her own frustration with overheating on the treadmill – a problem your stock-standard sweat rag fails to solve. “So that was the initial inspiration to begin my journey with the Chilly Towel.”
Made from hyper-evaporative fibres, a Chilly Towel retains water and stays chilled – and dry to the touch – for hours. It’s a find for red-faced fitness fanatics, anyone with a fever, and for cancer sufferers who enter early menopause as a result of chemotherapy – the treatment Tara commenced soon after being diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkins lymphoma following several trips to the ED with severe stomach pain – and an initial misdiagnosis that gave her six months to live.
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“Going through these personal hardships has definitely changed my outlook on life, and has sent me into a positive and productive position. From standing at markets in the heat wearing a wig to promote the Chilly Towel in the beginning, it was humbling to see the amazing response from so many women going through menopause, which inspired me to go further with this product.”
“Going through these personal hardships has definitely changed my outlook on life, and has sent me into a positive and productive position.”
This meant trying and testing around 30 textiles. “The biggest problem I came up with was sourcing a fabric that wouldn’t saturate your clothing or your bed linen. Many fabrics also didn’t stay chilled for as long as the Chilly Towel material did. I was so pleased with the fabric that I had finally sourced, and how it kept me so cool,” says Tara. Then, of course, there was her cancer battle to contend with.
“It was a challenge staying motivated to pursue this business while going through treatment, but what kept me motivated stemmed from the overheating,” she says, adding that she found a welcome distraction “in between chemos” through designing her labels and packaging. “My thoughts were: I need to share this product to others who are going through the same symptoms,” so she started by donating her towels to other unwell women. “I recall one lady who was going through treatment for breast cancer saying to me, ‘Whatever you do, you need to share this product to other women going through menopause and cancer treatment.’”
“I believe all women are capable of achieving success in business and should not sit back, as positivity is the key to success.”
After launching her brand in 2015, Tara decided to give back financially, also. “I learnt at the hospital when having treatment that all women going through breast cancer were going through what I was going through” – which is why, for every pink Chilly Towel sold, AU$2 is donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. “I often purchase merchandise through the Lymphoma website, as I would love to be able to support their fundraising team as well.” Although she still deals with overheating on a daily basis, Tara has been in remission for over a year, while her towels sit proudly in pharmacies and salons across Australia (and the Chilly Towel online store) and are promoted by the staff on several oncology wards.
“The biggest lesson that I have learnt throughout this ordeal that many others go through, is to gain confidence in yourself and believe in yourself. If you don’t have your health, you have nothing. I often think to myself it’s sad I didn’t pursue something earlier, all due to low self-esteem… I believe all women are capable of achieving success in business and should not sit back, as positivity is the key to success.”