May 16, 2024, Salt Lake City, Utah

It’s a rare skill to recognize a challenging problem in life. It’s quite another to have the mindset and ability to do something about it. This is exactly what Corrine Ellsworth-Beaumont did when she founded Know Your Lemons, a nonprofit whose mission is to educate people globally about breast health with the goal of saving lives through breast health education for early detection. As of today, Know Your Lemons reaches nearly 1.85 billion people in 65 countries. It has been translated into 40 languages and has trained nearly 1,000 educators. On any measure, it has been a successful journeys resulting in many positive outcomes for thousands of women globally who are struggling with breast cancer. But, as we learned, Ellsworth-Beaumont's entrepreneurial journey, although rewarding and impactful, has not been easy.

Corrine Ellsworth-Beaumont was just starting her master’s degree in Design at Utah State University when she lost her second grandmother to breast cancer. This loss revealed a large gap in her own knowledge regarding the specifics of the dreaded, but all too common, disease that took her grandmother. Ellsworth-Beaumont’s own research on the topic revealed that there wasn’t a single, easily-accessible, comprehensive resource that explained the basics of breast cancer. Instead, she had to visit myriad websites and pamphlets on the topic, only leaving her exhausted and more confused. As a designer, Corrine knew that she had skills and a unique perspective that could be applied in rethinking the way relevant cancer-related information could be presented. She wanted it to be in one place, easy to understand and engaging. She landed on the metaphor of a lemon as a unifying concept and representation of a human breast. She knew she needed to create a campaign that was visual but overcame censorship so she used lemons to spread awareness about breast cancer.

While living in London she finished her PhD on global breast health communication where she refined the Know Your Lemons campaign, Ellsworth-Beaumont lost a close friend to breast cancer. This untimely death caused Ellsworth-Beaumont to quit her job and rededicate her energies full-time to her non-profit. At that time, around 2015, it was just a website. Throwing herself—and her savings—into the project, she founded a charity for Know Your Lemons, and she created a mobile app.

Today, Know Your Lemons offers multiple programs to promote breast cancer education. One program is Know Your Lemons mobile app designed for all ages. The app has many impressive features including a period tracker, clear instructions and a video that can teach a user how to do a breast cancer self exam, information on the different types of breast tests, and custom screening assessment based on risk factors. This risk assessment is especially valuable considering that 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of it. This common misconception results in many women never taking the necessary steps of understanding the disease.

Know Your Lemons also has a volunteer educator program in which nearly one thousand people are now trained through online courses which teach people how to become breast health educators in their communities. These volunteers are able to use the Know Your Lemons tools to go out and teach about breast health which is pretty special. 

Another branch on the spacious tree of resources that Ellsworth-Beaumont has created to understand breast cancer is Dandelion Toolkit. Ellsworth-Beaumont realized another problem in the journey of battling breast cancer is the gap in communication between the health professional and the patient. Not everyone understands the esoteric medical terminology used by health practitioners when conversing about a cancer diagnosis. This is where the Dandelion Toolkit comes in. Ellsworth-Beaumont once again applied her genius design skills to the problem, this time applied to a suite of tools including a navigation notebook, conversation cards, and a patient diagnosis video, all using the imagery of a dandelion to explain the various cancer stages as well as treatment options. Currently, Ellsworth-Beaumont is beginning to promote the toolkit to offices and hospitals in order to bridge the gap between physicians’ immense knowledge of the disease versus patients’ uneven base of knowledge on the subject.

Leaving behind everything you know to start a company as complex as Know Your Lemons of course is a challenging undertaking. For Ellsworth-Beaumont, the most important tool she had in her toolbox to face these challenges was what she called her “positive naiveté.” Ellsworth-Beaumont jumped headfirst into the charity with ambition, determination and grit to propel her to keep the enterprise moving forward despite the failures and obstacles that lay in her path. In reality, if everyone knew from the beginning every failure and setback we would face in our life it would be much harder to start on our journey. If Ellsworth-Beaumont had spent time considering every possible outcome of every decision she made instead of trusting in her instincts and using her ambition to fuel her, she wouldn't have made it to where she is today. 

Through the experiences and roles Ellsworth-Beaumont’s career has provided, leading a company was never a role she had planned on holding. More than anything else, she saw herself as a designer with the capacity to create and market. When it came down to managing HR, finances, and all the “businessy” roles required for starting and running a successful non-profit, Ellsworth-Beaumont didn't really see herself as a good fit. So she hired someone else to take on the so-called CEO position. However, that plan didn’t work out. She decided to rethink her mindset on leadership. She ended up taking the CEO role and has never looked back. Ellsworth-Beaumont says “there is no such thing as a ‘day one CEO;’ it is something you grow into through persistent learning and flexibility. I didn't have a “practice version” of my charity as a placeholder, allowing me to experiment and refine the actual charity. Instead, I learned as I went, overcame unforeseen changes, and made it work.” Through her courageous resilience, Ellsworth-Beaumont has developed into a strong leader and CEO for Know Your Lemons. 

Ellsworth-Beaumont’s parting advice was one for the books. We inquired about the idea of finding a solution for a prominent issue with something that’s seemingly unrelated. She advised us to develop our passions through an important cause. The obvious solution to address breast cancer prevention is through the medical field, yet Ellsworth-Beaumont is brilliantly doing it through design. Of course, this success story didn't happen overnight. Through determination, passion, and resilience, Corrine Ellsworth-Beaumont has accomplished great things and continues to accomplish the unthinkable. 

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