I was diagnosed with breast cancer weeks before launching my company. Now my products sell at CVS — here’s how I kept business running.

Suzanna Sinatra founder of Private Packs
Suzanne Sinatra, founder of Private Packs. Suzanna Sinatra
  • Suzanne Sinatra is an entrepreneur and the founder of Private Packs, a therapy pack for vulva pain. 
  • She quit her full-time job in 2017 and spent her savings on treatment after a diagnosis of breast cancer. 
  • Despite setbacks, Sinatra kept growing her company and eventually secured a distribution deal with CVS. 

Private Packs in my journal that night — it was a topical water and gel therapy pack that could be heated and chilled, with a specific design that curved to my body to be comfortable and hands-free.

After speaking with other women about their experience with vulva pain and trauma, I realized that vulva pain is a widespread issue without a high-quality solution to provide relief, so I got to prototyping.

With a full-time career in marketing, I worked on Private Packs in my spare time

I had a 20-year career on Wall Street, but I was craving more meaningful work to help others and felt eager to pursue Private Packs full-time. I was excited to work on my business and mission to empower women in their sexual health journey and making sexual health products more available. In order to fund the company, I emptied my 401k to jumpstart the business solely on my own.

Early prototypes of Private Packs. Suzanne Sinatra
Early prototypes of Private Packs. Suzanne Sinatra

I was diagnosed with stage 2 metastatic breast cancer on August 11, 2017. My last day of work was scheduled for August 31.

I was immediately taken into surgery and scheduled for ongoing chemotherapy. As my cancer diagnosis quickly moved to Stage 3, my medical team advised me to set aside my business aspirations. Instead, I brought my computer daily to chemotherapy and was determined to make it through treatment healthy and with a thriving business.

I didn’t anticipate that 8 weeks into cancer treatment, I’d be forced to go on welfare and food stamps

With medical bills piling up around me and no source of income, my 401k savings was quickly depleted. I spent the next two years surviving on government assistance and going through cancer treatment, all the while working on Private Packs.

In the hospital, I asked about vulva pain points firsthand from my doctors and other patients and even tested the prototype myself when chemotherapy brought on chronic vaginal dryness due to early onset menopause.

The one thing that truly saved my business was Private Pack’s IndieGoGo campaign. We launched in September 2019 and surpassed our goal of raising $10,000 within days. Not only did it provide the money needed to continue building Private Packs, but the campaign also gave me a confidence boost and confirmed that what I’d created was resonating with customers. It was great to see that Private Packs was a product that spoke to a lot of people.

Suzanne Sinatra/Soona.co private packs
Sinatra secured an distribution deal for Private Packs with CVS in February 2021. Suzanne Sinatra/Soona.co

We launched our ecommerce store in January 2021

Soon after, I was selected to participate in the XRC Labs inaugural Elevate Fellows program which connected me to CVS. I pitched Private Packs to CVS on February 3, 2021, and the next day was invited to be a part of their pilot program, which quickly led to a nationwide and online distribution deal.

Today, Private Packs is now available at CVS online and in over 550 stores nationwide, proudly displayed alongside other sexual-health products. The pack contents are made of 70% water, as well as glycerin, preservatives, and salt to keep it shelf-stable and have a gel-like consistency. They’re also free of chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.

Suzanne Sinatra
Sinatra meeting Barbara Corcoran at a networking event in New York in 2019. Suzanne Sinatra

Along with the CVS deal, we’re growing our ecommerce website and continuing to build out our wholesale model for other retailers. I’m so happy that now both my health and business are thriving — it makes all of the challenges worth it.

Suzanne Sinatra is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Private Packs