It’s been five years since Julie Greenbaum started her non-profit organization, F*ck Cancer. It all started with a simple desire to raise money for the cause and bring people together during a difficult part of her life—losing her mother to ovarian cancer.
Let’s fast-forward to 2015, where Julie has joined forces with Yael Cohen Braun, who also founded a separate organization called FCancer in 2009. Until last October, both Julie and Yael were running two different organizations under the same name. While both cancer organizations have raised over $1.25 million since 2009, Yael and Julie are excited to merge the two and as a result, have a greater impact.
Read our interview below to learn more about how Julie started F*ck Cancer, her experience with the FCancer merger, and advice she has for our readers.
Her Agenda: Could you tell us how you came to start F*ck Cancer?
Julie: It started about 10 months after my mother passed away to ovarian cancer. I was going through a difficult time of my life with my family, and I just really wanted to do something to raise money for the cause and also bring people together and give kids my age the opportunity to get involved and give back. So, we threw an event in Montreal. The year after, when we threw another event, it actually tripled in size! When I saw the reaction that everyone had, I realized that we had something special. We had a product that was resonating with my generation, and it was from that moment on that we decided to work on the charity full force and grow it to the best of our ability.
Her Agenda: What were some of the challenges you faced in throwing these parties, creating awareness, and raising money? How did you deal with them?
Julie: I say that the greatest challenge we had actually had was managing the stewardship of the movement and dealing with unlimited demand, which I guess is a really good problem to have! But, after throwing a few events and getting some traction online, we were literally in a situation where we were getting emails from people all over the world, asking for us to throw events there. At that point, I was still running the organization out of my basement. So, it kind of started as this grassroots movement, and we were getting a tremendous amount of demand before I was able to properly fulfill it.
Her Agenda: You mentioned running F*ck Cancer from your basement. Was it a one-woman show in the beginning?
Julie: At the beginning, I had help from friends and family, but it really was at the start just myself and my laptop. And, it grew from there as time went on.
Her Agenda: When did you first hear about Yael Braun’s FCancer organization? Did you ever think about joining forces then?
Julie: I actually didn’t know about them when I threw my first event. I believe it was maybe five or six months afterward that I heard about them, because there was a little bit of brand confusion. There were several people that had asked me about her. Yael reached out to me a year after my first event, and we tried to figure out if it was a good time for us to partner up. It didn’t end up working out at that time and we parted ways, but it was very respectful. A year ago, I reconnected with Yael, and we spoke again about partnering up and joining forces. It just seemed at that moment that the timing was right and that by coming together and collaborating instead of competing, we’d be able to create a greater change and more of an impact. And ultimately, that was what we both really wanted. So, it just seemed like a perfect fit.
Her Agenda: How would you describe the merger process between both F*ck Cancer and FCancer? What were some of the challenges you came across? What were some of the lessons you’ve learned?
Julie: At the beginning, it was getting to know each other. One of the things that was important to me was to understand and to know that we both genuinely cared about the cause and making a difference, and we did! We wanted to work together and use our abilities in the areas that we both excelled in to make the strongest possible foundation. So, it was a matter of sitting down in meetings and putting together a team, discussing the vision that we wanted to create together, and putting forth different plans to fulfill that as we move forward.
Her Agenda: What advice would you offer to nonprofits and companies looking to merge?
Julie: We see this all the time–myself and Yael. It’s really just checking your ego at the door. There’s no room for it. I think one of the issues we had when we originally spoke is that we were both very much attached to our brand. We had a strong vision of what we as individuals wanted for our organizations. But when we spoke, years later, I think what we really wanted was to create the greatest change and impact. So, I definitely think if you check your ego and open yourself up to work with others, it will put you in a position to achieve.
Her Agenda: How would you describe the team you work with?
Julie: We have an incredible team. That’s been one of the most positive experiences for me coming from doing this on my own. It’s just been amazing because they’re super intelligent. We all bring different things to the table, and we all complement each other. It’s just a huge support system to really implement all our ideas and follow through with them.
Her Agenda: How have you grown as a person and a businesswoman since starting F*ck Cancer in 2010?
Julie: I think when I was younger, I probably was often defensive when people didn’t agree with me. But as I’ve grown, I really have learned the importance of welcoming different ideas and constructive criticism. I now understand the value of being challenged, and I finally feel like I have the comfort to really allow myself to work and grow with team members in a way that probably didn’t come naturally to me when I started.
Her Agenda: How important is it for you to take risks? What’s your general attitude when it comes to risk-taking?
Julie: I’m all about it! I think it’s extremely important. Even if you fail, you should always take away something positive and worthwhile from every experience you have. I’m definitely a believer in the fact that you learn the most when you take risks and leave your comfort zone. These experiences often lead to new doors being opened and pushing yourself and doing things in a different light, which I think is really important.
Her Agenda: With raising awareness for cancer, have you noticed a shift in perspective from the younger generation?
Julie: For me, it’s actually been very encouraging. Our generation is replacing fear with a strong desire to get involved and make a difference. There are incredible charities out there (ours being one of them) that I think provide our generation with an easy opportunity to get involved and to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility. The more we engage people, the more they realize the power that’s created by really uniting in the fight and coming together.
Her Agenda: What are you currently working on right now that really excites you?
Julie: I’m really excited about the 2015 events model. We’ve been working on that for a few months, and I believe we’re launching it in March. I’m just excited to throw as many events as we can and continue raising awareness and funds. What’s most important is engaging people along the way, and I think that the events model will be successful in doing that. I’m pumped about it.
Her Agenda: What’s your personal motto?
Julie: Well, I have a quote that I go to. It was one of my mother’s favorite quotes, actually: “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.”
Her Agenda: What’s next for you and FCancer?
Julie: Next on the horizon is just really following through with the on-the-ground programs and initiatives we’ve been working on and really going full-force with the events model. At the same time, it’s important for us to continue our online digital presence and continue building our strong community.