Antonella Pisani’s Journey from Corporate America to Launching an Apparel Startup Aimed at Finding a Cure Today
3.13.18 Social Responsibility

Antonella Pisani’s Journey from Corporate America to Launching an Apparel Startup Aimed at Finding a Cure Today

By: Jon McDonald

The Crunch: Even with high-level corporate jobs at Guitar Center and JCPenney on her résumé, Denver-based marketer and e-commerce pro Antonella Pisani was ready for a change. Her wanderlust led her to travel internationally while launching a deals website, Official Coupon Code, to help fund her adventures. But when her best friend, Scott, was diagnosed with cancer, Antonella cut her travels short and returned home. Inspired by survivors’ stories, she created FACT Goods (FACT is short for Find a Cure Today). The apparel shop donates 25% of its sales revenue to research-based nonprofits seeking cures for diseases like breast cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. While Antonella’s business background helped launch FACT, she and Scott — who is now in remission and her business partner — are still mapping out the company’s future.

In 2015, Antonella Pisani was the Vice President of Global E-Commerce at Fossil Group when she decided to take time off to pursue some of her other passions — travel and photography.

That same year, one of Antonella’s friends emerged from an infection paralyzed, and her best friend, Scott, was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma. Antonella immediately started researching everything she could about the disease, and focused on being the best friend she could be during this difficult time.

Photo of Antonella Pisani

Antonella Pisani launched Fact Goods after her best friend was diagnosed with lymphoma.

After spending time supporting Scott while he was undergoing treatment, Antonella chose to use her business know-how to help others.

“I’ve got to do something that matters,” Antonella said about her thinking at the time. “Too many friends have been impacted. It was just time to do something to give back.”

With this goal in mind, Antonella used her talents to start FACT Goods, short for Find a Cure Today, an apparel shop that donates 25% of its proceeds to research-based nonprofits.

Even though it is early on in the company’s journey, FACT Goods is already earning buzz among philanthropists and worthy charities. And it wouldn’t have been possible without Antonella’s dedication, knowledge, and perseverance.

Looking for Richer Experiences Outside Corporate America

Antonella began her professional career as a web developer at St. Edward’s University in 1996. Her experience in this burgeoning technological field helped her move up the ranks quickly to positions that included VP of Acquisition Marketing at Provide Commerce and VP of Digital Commerce at JCPenney.

But after 20 years of high-powered corporate positions, Antonella felt like she was not nurturing her other interests and passions — including photography and travel.

So, she left her position as VP of Global E-Commerce at Fossil with the intention of traveling the world.

She planned to return to the corporate world after taking a year off to travel. In the meantime, she would build Official Coupon Code, a website that helps consumers find the best deals. In 2016, she became a digital nomad, using her skills from the corporate world to develop Official Coupon Code from many places around the globe.

Screenshot of Official Coupon Code

Antonella Pisani started Official Coupon Code while taking a break from the corporate world.

“I took some crazy trips,” she said. “I went to Antarctica, the Arctic, Bhutan, Morocco.”

Another aspect of Antonella leaving corporate America was to gain knowledge while pursuing new opportunities.

“I love learning and being hands on. That’s always been a driver for me so I decided to build a new site with my own two hands,” she said.

After a year was up, Antonella started thinking about going back to work.

But life derailed her post-travel plans.

The Importance of Looking After Those You Care About

While Antonella was taking a break from the corporate world, her best friend Scott was diagnosed with lymphoma.

“My plans changed. Life happened. The most important job I could have at that moment was to be a best friend,” she said.

Back in the US, Antonella focused on supporting Scott while he underwent treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Her primary role was to bring welcome distractions and to help research tough questions so that he could stay off of the Internet, which they found to be full of outdated statistics. She found her time immensely rewarding because she was able to help keep his spirits up and help take his mind away from what he was going through – ultimately Scott started getting better.

“One thing we saw when he was sick was that it’s all about positive attitude. It’s all about having that perseverance and that internal strength to get through some truly horrible things.” — Antonella Pisani, Founder of FACT Goods

Antonella attributes Scott’s improvement to his positive attitude.

“One thing we saw when he was sick was that it’s all about positive attitude,” she said. “It’s all about having that perseverance and that internal strength to get through some truly horrible things.”

But the messages on apparel she saw companies selling in support of those battling diseases were not as uplifting. Too often, she was unimpressed by the flippant or ironic designs she saw available on T-shirts aimed at helping a cause or making patients feel better.

“You might be very angry about what’s happening, but people don’t necessarily want to go out in public wearing shirts like that,” Antonella said.

Though Scott has won his battle with cancer, Antonella found herself a changed person. She did not want to return to the corporate world. Instead, she decided to create a business that sold apparel that helped people get through their personal battles — whatever those may be.

FACT — Find a Cure Today — Sells Products that Support Research

Combining her love for philanthropy, positivity, and entrepreneurship, Antonella — with Scott as co-founder and advisor – created FACT Goods, short for Find a Cure Today, in October 2017. The company donates 25% of sales to nonprofits that use most of their funds for research.

Focused on inspiring disease sufferers and their loved ones, Antonella decided FACT Goods would only sell understated, quietly positive apparel, like T-shirts with the slogan “You are stronger than you think.” FACT Goods also sells hoodies, hats, and even baby clothes.

FACT often finds its apparel designs through crowdsourcing platforms like 99designs. The goal is to create apparel that is wearable every day – not just for a cancer research march or fundraiser once a year. That’s why you won’t find many ribbons or traditional awareness designs on their items.

FACT Goods identifies charities that lack the fundraising potential of larger, more well-known nonprofits. Instead, they have lower profiles, but that doesn’t mean that their missions are any less lofty.

Screenshot of FACT Goods website

“A lot of smaller charities do amazing research work, but don’t get the notoriety or money that the big guys do,” Antonella said. “We’re trying to focus in on those smaller organizations that give a high percentage to research and don’t have a lot of overhead. Specifically, organizations that don’t spend a lot of their own money on marketing.”

The criteria for choosing a nonprofit includes its rating on Charity Navigator, an independent organization that rates nonprofits on their financial health, accountability, and transparency.

Antonella and Scott build partnerships with nonprofits that can benefit from FACT Goods as well as with influencers who can help extend the brand’s reach.

“There’s a lot of legwork in trying to form these relationships,” Antonella said. “We’re reaching out to organizations to try to partner with them directly. We’re also reaching out to influencers, or folks that have been impacted in their own lives.”

As FACT grows, its goal is to donate a more substantial portion of its proceeds to these charitable organizations.

Leveraging an E-Commerce Background to Grow FACT Goods

FACT Goods is already poised to impact research-based nonprofits in a significant way. With subtly messaged clothing and a growing list of nonprofit partners, the company is quickly finding its footing.

Still, despite her corporate background, Antonella found starting her own business to be anything but simple. She could set up the website easily, and she knew how to operate marketing software. But other aspects of getting a startup running were as difficult for Antonella as they would be for any new business owner.

“It’s a lot, even with the experience I bring to it,” she said. “The hardest part is, at the end of the day, we’re building something from nothing.”

But Antonella’s philanthropic instincts and background keep her motivated. Both friends and strangers are getting involved to ask her how they can help grow the business. Many tell her personal stories about their own — or a loved one’s — struggle with disease.

For now, she wants to make sure she is mindful of growing the company to help as many people as possible.

“We’re bootstrapping this,” Antonella said. “So, our testing and learning will work, but it takes time and money. We’ll probably grow a little bit slower than we’d like, but we try to be very thoughtful about every dollar we spend since we’re focused on raising money for charities.”