Five Questions for Bobbi Van Riper, CFm, RFM
Bobbi Van Riper, CFm, RFM, became involved in O&P after leaving behind a high-powered sales career with companies including Compugraphics, Xerox, Johnson & Johnson, the Colorado Rockies Hockey Club, Scitex, and IBM. While serving at Compugraphics, the New Jersey native was the first woman to be inducted into its President's Club, and the first woman to receive its Diamond-Ring award ten years later. During her career, she sometimes traveled up to 200 days per year for business. Then, in 2006, this lifelong sales professional became the victim of corporate downsizing when she was laid off from Scitex Corporation. Five days later, she found out that she had breast cancer. She told The O&P EDGE, "Thank goodness for COBRA insurance and good friends." During her treatment, she was hired by IBM, where she served for six years.
Now a 12½ year cancer survivor, she says that it was during her treatment that she "realized that it was very difficult to find one shop that provided breast prosthetics, wigs, headwear, and lymphedema products." Six years ago, she decided that she had spent enough time in the corporate world and "wanted to do something more personally rewarding." That decision sparked the founding of In Care of You, Colorado Springs, Colorado. With the help of her Maltese, Mya, Van Riper and her three employees now work with women from all walks of life. She stated in a Colorado News Channel 13 interview that her clients, "know that I've been through it, and they want to talk to me about it.... I've seen everything from the very young—which is very sad—I've even seen women who have breast cancer who are pregnant, and I've seen women in their 90s. I've seen everything in between.... We help you feel as normal as possible, which is very important because it's a very long illness. When women come in and they hug me and they thank me and tell me that I've made a difference in their life, it brings tears to my eyes. It still does."
During her own treatment, Van Riper also became involved in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure footraces, and now serves as race chair for the Colorado Springs race and the racecourse-entertainment chair for Denver.
1. What are your personal and/or professional goals?
I love what I do and want to be here helping people until I can't get here anymore. Real retirement is not an option for me.
2. Who has motivated or inspired you in your life and/or professional pursuits?
My mom, now deceased for 39 years, graduated as valedictorian of her high school and went on to receive a master's degree. However, she was never able to advance beyond office manager of the political science department at Rutgers because women were never promoted in the 1940s and 50s. She taught me to be independent and find my own way in the business world.
3. Please describe what your company does.
In Care of You is a medical boutique that specializes in a variety of products for cancer survivors and people suffering from venous diseases. We sell mastectomy bras and bathing suits; prostheses; wigs, hats, and scarves; as well as compression stockings and lymphedema products. All of my staff members have been trained in our products. However, I do most of the fittings for the mastectomy and hair products. We also have a permanent makeup artist, Judee Reierson, who specializes in areola and nipple restoration for breast-cancer survivors who have reconstruction. Judee also does eyebrows and eyeliner. Our office is very warm and welcoming, and we pride ourselves in the caring way we serve our customers.
4. What emerging trends or exciting advances do your see for your profession?
Every year, prosthetic manufacturers improve their products. They make them lighter, cooler, and more aesthetically pleasing. The bras are prettier. The compression products are better. The wigs are higher quality with better colors.
5. How do you set yourself apart from competing businesses and practitioners in your area?
Two of us are breast cancer survivors, so I believe that we care more about our clients. Our office is beautiful and calming and in a good location.