In talking to Kim Rainer, Appleton resident and owner of All About Spirit, one thing is clear. She isn’t afraid to ask for help, and values learning and mentorship.

"I tapped into whatever resources I could," she said.

That included SCORE, members of the business community and the E-seed Entrepreneurial Training Series at the Venture Center at Fox Valley Tech. Most recently, she graduated from the Green Bay Packers Mentor/Protégé program, where she was paired with Doug Bergan of Goodwill Industries.

"Amy Pietsch (director of the Venture Center) suggested the program," Rainer said. "I hadn’t applied yet and the meeting was that day, but Amy said I should go in and talk to Anna Steinfest (Mentor/ Protégé director) and ask if I could go in and participate."

Steinfest welcomed her, and Rainer’s journey began. The meeting was difficult. Rainer was just finishing up chemo and said her face looked like it had gone through a meat grinder. Yet, she strongly believed in her business and wanted help in taking it to the next level.

With a 17-year career in the hospitality industry and two previous business start-ups, Rainer’s new business was very personal. She had been in the midst of a career change and was planning to become a nurse when she found out she had cancer. It threw her life into total upheaval.

"When I started school, I had enough financial stability to go through if nothing changed. But everything did," she said. "I ended up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and lost my capacity to work. The impact of the cancer and fallout from the treatments created significant l! ong-term issues. I ended up retired at age 48."

In the process, Rainer developed a compassion for others who have experienced serious illness.

"When you get a cancer diagnosis, there’s a bell you never un-ring. You never go back to the world you had before cancer. You will always be different," she said.

This realization slowly led to pages of ideas for a new business that would address this issue and help others learn techniques for living a full life. She talked to cancer survivors, studied alternative and complimentary medicines, had conversations with mentors, and started to develop a business plan.

As she worked through the details, Rainer felt she needed! to fine-tune her business plan and signed up for the E-seed program.

"I was having a hard time narrowing down my focus," she said. "I needed to get it into a language that someone who doesn’t know anything about you and what you want to accomplish can understand."

With the help of Pietsch, Bergan and other Mentor/ Protégé participants, she was able to define how she would provide help to cancer survivors and others who have had catastrophic life-changing events. Rainer said she took a mountain of what felt like insurmountable tasks and learned how to manage them.

Just as she had transformed her story from tragedy, depression and hopelessness to one of experience, strength and hope, All About Spirit (www.allaboutspirit.com) teaches others to do the same.

The business includes three basic components — personal coaching, group sessions and speaking engagements. She finds each aspect fulfilling, and says that success is not measured by how she feels.

"It is not what I consider a success; it is what my clients consider a success," she said. "It is when I can feel and hear their energy switch — when the light bulb goes on and they have that ‘ah ha’ moment."

After participating in the Mentor/Protégé program, she continues to refine the business. There is a new website, and she has goals set to improve bookkeeping and marketing.

Her website has a blog that will feature 1,000 cancer stories — stories of cancer survivors and those who work a! longside them. She has a message that she wants to resound.

"You don’t look sick anymore, but you can’t do what you used to do. Going back to ‘normal’ feels impossible, confusing and overwhelming. But, after cancer, it is possible to thrive," she said. "You can build something so much more beautiful than you ever imagined. I want for you to never feel like a powerless victim again."

Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.

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