Charming Charlie’s former vice president now designs care packages for medical crises


After Serena Houlihan’s mom handed away from mind most cancers in 2009, the previous retail trade veteran determined it was time to take stock of her life. She’d made a reputation for herself at Saks Fifth Avenue, Hole, Membership Monaco and Coach in New York as a merchandising and shopping for government earlier than transferring to Houston along with her husband, who works in oil and gasoline.

As soon as they settled in Bayou Metropolis, Houlihan landed a vp title at Charming Charlie’s — the now-shuttered equipment firm — however that wasn’t sufficient. Vogue not fulfilled her. She and future enterprise companion Amanda Goller dreamed of making a product that was greater than only a revenue — one with coronary heart.

When Houlihan’s step mother-in-law was identified with mind most cancers in 2019, she knew what to do. And, what to offer.

“I knew what she wanted as a result of my mom had been via the identical protocol,” Houlihan says. “There are such a lot of gifting platforms on the market now, however nothing for girls going via a medical disaster, particularly most cancers. My step mother-in-law was a lady of implausible style. I struggled to discover a care bundle that was elevated.”

She and Goller, whose mom is a breast most cancers survivor, couldn’t imagine that curated reward bins for girls in disaster didn’t exist already within the e-commerce world. So that they designed some, and Le Wren Care was born.

“My mom’s identify was Wren and Amanda’s mother’s identify is Gretchen Lee,” Houlihan says of their firm’s identify. “Wren the chook is in lots of cultures generally known as a caregiver, image of care-taking, assist and nurturing.”

A gift box with a handwritten note is shown at the home of Serena Houlihan, co-founder of Le Wren, Wednesday, June 16, 2021 in Houston. Le Wren was created by two women, in honor of their mothers' battles with cancer. She is currently using her guest room until Le Wren moves into a larger space this summer.

A present field with a handwritten observe is proven on the residence of Serena Houlihan, co-founder of Le Wren, Wednesday, June 16, 2021 in Houston. Le Wren was created by two ladies, in honor of their moms’ battles with most cancers. She is at the moment utilizing her visitor room till Le Wren strikes into a bigger area this summer time.

Melissa Phillip, Houston Chronicle / Workers photographer

The duo’s personal experiences as caregivers inform the merchandise they choose for every reward field. Their purpose is to take the guesswork out of supporting a beloved one going via a tough time.

Goller beforehand labored as a administration advisor within the oil and gasoline trade. She’s now chief monetary officer of Le Wren and logs hours remotely from Atlanta, the place her household relocated.

Houlihan, who says she’s been within the product growth sector for her total 15-year profession, makes use of her ability set to make sure that each care bundle is thoughtfully constructed.

“One in all my favourite components of the enterprise is being a product particular person. I attempt to supply solely from women-owned enterprise and in addition need to be certain we’re supporting firms of a smaller scale. Artisan, handmade — issues that may’t be discovered on Amazon or (at) Goal.”

Her step mother-in-law grew to become Le Wren’s first buyer in September 2020, when she bought a bundle for a household good friend recovering from surgical procedure. Houlihan included a neck remedy wrap from Gradual North, an all-natural boutique in Austin, a Tech Sweet Mattress Fellow mattress valet, lavender candle and cashmere socks.

“The idea behind it’s unimaginable, as a result of I prefer to ship care packages to associates and I’ve household who doesn’t dwell within the states,” says Natasha Valasek, Houlihan’s actual property dealer and a repeat Le Wren buyer. “Everybody I’ve despatched them to is due to a passing. The presentation alone is gorgeous, then you get thinking about her ‘why.’ All the pieces she contains reveals how a lot she cares. It’s issues folks don’t take into consideration.”

A postpartum gift box is shown at the home of Serena Houlihan, co-founder of Le Wren, Wednesday, June 16, 2021 in Houston. Le Wren was created by two women, in honor of their mothers' battles with cancer. She is currently using her guest room until Le Wren moves into a larger space this summer.

A postpartum reward field is proven on the residence of Serena Houlihan, co-founder of Le Wren, Wednesday, June 16, 2021 in Houston. Le Wren was created by two ladies, in honor of their moms’ battles with most cancers. She is at the moment utilizing her visitor room till Le Wren strikes into a bigger area this summer time.

Melissa Phillip, Houston Chronicle / Workers photographer

Valasek explains that almost all reward bins in the marketplace deal with snacks or treats. Le Wren may ship a comforting nighttime lip balm or a pillow spray to assist calm nervousness. Her different favourite objects to request are cashmere blankets and a fastidiously chosen e book.

“One of many folks I despatched one to reads lots and teaches lots,” she stated. “He couldn’t imagine the e book that (Serena) included. You possibly can simply inform that there’s thought behind it.”

One in all Valasek’s recipients was so impressed that they gifted her a Le Wren care bundle as a thank-you.

Houlihan isn’t stunned. Phrase-of-mouth has been her largest supply of enterprise. “You’re touching two purchasers on the similar time, the recipient and the gift-giver,” she says.

Instagram additionally generates a major variety of referrals. And Pinterest has been an unlikely supply for site visitors, too.

She’s fulfilled roughly 250 orders since Le Wren first launched. Forward of its one-year anniversary, Houlihan’s massive purpose is to maneuver the operation out of her visitor bed room and into a correct work area. She and Goller wish to double their quantity subsequent yr, although they’re cognizant of not rising too massive, too quick.

Of their case, it’s not simply enterprise, it’s private.

amber.elliott@chron.com



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