Competition

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em: Why Two Competitors Joined Forces in the Fight to Beat Cancer

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Yael Cohen Braun, 28, and Julie Greenbaum, 23, have a lot in common. They’re both young. They’re both driven. They’re both Canadian. And they’re both f*cking cancer: full time and professionally.

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Yael Cohen Braun (left) and Julie Greenbaum (right).
Image credit: F*ck Cancer

For a time, the two raised awareness about the disease with their own organizations separately but under the exact same name: FCancer.

Braun launched her organization in 2009 when she was 22, shortly after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. A year later, in 2010, when she was only 19, Greenbaum launched hers in honor of her mother who succumbed to ovarian cancer.

“Both of us were trying to find a way to process and deal with what has happening in our lives,” Braun tells Entrepreneur. “When it came to cancer,” she says, “nobody was using this effervescent, funny, witty, sexy voice that our generation has become accustomed to, no one except for us.”

Now, the two have decided to join forces in the fight to prevent and detect cancer. They’re merging their two entities to become one. FCancer is currently a registered charity in Canada and a 501(c)3 in the U.S.

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Looking back, Braun says she never intended to start a charity. She sort of fell into it. “It all started with me making my mom a T-shirt that said ‘F__k Cancer,’ which was exactly how we felt after her diagnosis,” she says. When Braun’s mom wore the shirt out in public, passersby wouldn’t stop and stare. “They would stop and share. Their responses were so emotional, so amazing. It was obvious that this resonated far beyond our family.”

Greenbaum says she didn’t know about Braun’s FCancer organization until she began hers. “I just used the name because it was something my mother said throughout her battle, and I felt as though it embodied the emotions and the aggression that my family was feeling towards the disease.”

For Greenbaum, forging her own cancer charity eased some of the pain of mourning her mother. “I was having a hard time, and I wanted to create something positive to focus on.” She started by throwing parties in the U.S. and Canada to raise money for cancer research. “The movement grew organically from this events-based grassroots effort. Then it really took off.”  

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It wasn’t long before Braun found out about Greenbaum’s burgeoning organization, a one-woman show, unlike her multi-employee and multi-intern operation.

“[Greenbaum’s] nonprofit was gaining momentum in the press and people started asking me about it,” Braun says. “There was obviously brand confusion and so I reached out [to Greenbaum].”

The first time the two connected was three years ago, and it didn’t quite go smoothly.

“My goal was to try to figure out how we could do this together,” says Braun. “But our egos stood in the way. We each had our own right way." And no one was willing to compromise.

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So nothing came of the call. “It was respectful, but we were like, ‘So, okay, let’s not work together.’ and that was it,” Braun says.

Their egos weren’t the only things that didn’t mesh. Braun and Greenbaum weren’t budging on branding, specifically when it came to their logos.

“It’s the funny little things, like logos, that you stick to when you merge,” Braun says, “because, to us, they represented our mother’s battles. They were close to our hearts.”

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Another two years pass and Braun decides to try again: She wasn’t ready to give up on the idea of a unified FCancer. Greenbaum’s company could bring fundraising experience to the table. Braun’s could offer community organizing and education.

“I could see that we each did different things well and we could benefit from each other,” says Braun. “We could be stronger together."

They two met face-to-face about a year ago for round two, in a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on the corner of Sunset and San Vicente in West Hollywood, Calif. The spot isn’t too far from where the new, combined headquarters will soon be. Clearly, the meeting went well.

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The outcome: Braun and Greenbaum finally agreed to work together and a bigger, better FCancer was born. Before they merged last October, the two organizations collectively raised more than $1.25 million toward cancer research and awareness initiatives. Now, Braun and Greenbaum say the sky is the limit.

“By collaborating instead of competing, we’re able to create more of a positive change and a greater impact,” Greenbaum says. “We’re using our complimentary abilities to grow the charity in a bigger, better way.”

Greenbaum’s number one piece of advice for nonprofits and companies looking to merge is to know who exactly you’re getting into bed with. “Make sure the person you’re about to partner up with has character and integrity and genuinely cares and has a passion for the greater cause. And, on a more basic level, you better actually like them.”

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Braun feels the same way. She compares the merger to a “business marriage.” Trust and compatibility are key.

“The way your partner thinks, the way they get excited and the way they get angry, how they handle conflicts, remember all of those things are going to be part of your day to day going forward, so you have to have good chemistry together.”

Oh, and about that logo war, now that they’re working together, the ladies have called a truce. A brand new logo is in the works and should be unveiled soon. All we can say is that it features a very cleverly placed golden ribbon. And, yes, it’s f*cked, but in a good way.

Related: From Cancer Patient to a Multimillion-Dollar Beacon of Hope

Edition: December 2016

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