Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sherrie Palm, Founder and CEO of Association for Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support, located in Mukwonago, WI, USA.

What's your organization, and who are your members?

Association for Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support (APOPS) is a US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy agency with global arms, founded in September 2010 to generate awareness of pelvic organ prolapse (POP), to provide support and guidance to women navigating the physical, emotional, social, sexual, fitness, and employment quality of life impacts of POP, and to bridge patients, healthcare, industry, research, and academia for the betterment of POP understanding and treatment evolution. APOPS following consists of patients, clinicians, researchers, academics, and industry throughout 183 countries.

Tell us about yourself

Like most women experiencing pelvic organ prolapse, I had no idea this condition existed prior to being diagnosed with it in 2007. I had been very proactive with my health after a diagnosis of MS at around 30. I was shocked to discover I had a condition that I'd never heard of. I was even more rattled when I realized how common POP is. POP remains shrouded in stigmatized silence because it is vaginal health, which is extremely frustrating to me. Health is health.

At the point of my diagnosis, POP was estimated to impact 3.3 million women in the US (the current estimates are usually ballparked between 40-50%). I knew within two weeks of my diagnosis that I had to do something to change the status quo. Childbirth and menopause are the leading causes of POP (multiple others compound risks for all women), It made no sense to me then, and it makes no sense to me now that women are neither informed of nor screened for POP throughout the female life span given pandemic prevalence.

My journey started with writing my first book on POP to educate women (I recently published my 4th book, The Biggest Secret in Women’s Health: Stigma, Indifference, Outrage, and Optimism). About 18 months into marketing my 1st edition, the lightbulb came on. If I wanted to help women effectively and support them effectively, I should start a nonprofit. The rest is history, APOPS journey is a continual effort to guide, educate, and support women mid-teens through end of life as they navigate the diverse physical, emotional, social, sexual, fitness, and employment quality of life impacts of POP.

Watching women come into APOPS support space every day in high states of anxiety, anger, and fear and being transformed into empowered women moving forward with their lives is incredibly fulfilling. Watching them "pay it forward" in our support space is the frosting on the cake!

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Lifting the POP veil globally. The fact that our following is women midteens through end of life, that we have been able to shine a light and emotionally support them in 183 countries, that we intersect freely and comfortably with patients, healthcare, academia, research, industry, and to small degree policymakers, validates the need to address this highly disregarded aspect of women's health. We have already changed the status quo, but there is so much more to do and so much more in motion.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Clocking out. When you love what you do, you have difficulty taking time off. I think about the needs of the women we serve every waking moment, as is relatively common in the nonprofit sector. Women walking the POP walk fan my advocate flames with their voices and energy all day, every day.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

If you want to start a business, you best be willing to put everything into it. The misconception that owning and running a business is easy is ridiculous. If being in business for yourself was easy, everyone would do it.

Do you have daily rituals for work / wellness / fitness / mindfulness?

As far as daily rituals, the one thing I do for myself routinely to combat the physical and emotional fatigue that comes with being deeply committed to my advocacy work is I meditate and exercise. It is the only thing I do that is truly, consistently just for me. And when I am upset with an individual as all of us are at some point in time, I inhale calm, and exhale love, directing it toward that person.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Life is full of surprises. I was perfectly happy being a partner in and running a service business and was good at it. When POP occurred and shifted my course in my 50s, I began a journey that was truly my destiny, a labor of love. I had no interest in the nonprofit sector beyond volunteering for Special Olympics. I had no interest in writing books or articles, building websites, public speaking, engaging in research, networking with the medical community, or advancing women's health. I didn't choose my current path; patient advocacy chose me. Late life career shift and I fell totally in love with it. Follow your heart to have a successful business.

Where can people find you and your business?


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