by Elizabeth Coady
In the fall of 2017, when doctors found a tumor on her bladder seven years after breast cancer forced her to undergo a double mastectomy, Shelly Fisher summoned her inner “bitch” to steel herself for the ordeal.
The 60-year-old mom and entrepreneur mentally prepared for the onslaught of medical tests and procedures and the mental ambivalence of battling cancer a second time around.
“It was really kind of shocking and upsetting,’’ said Fisher from her offices in Conshohocken. “I was feeling a little bit down. And I thought, ‘OK, you just have to keep moving. You know what, Shelly, you did this before, and you can do it again. You’re one tough bitch.’’’
While the ‘B’ word was not one she’s accustomed to uttering, the phrase became her personal affirmation, and she says she bought a gold pendant, engraved the phrase on it and wore it as a talisman to empower her.
“I just did it for me,’’ she said. “It’s a reminder that I can do it. It’s just like anything. Some people hold rocks, some people have a good luck coin. It’s just a touchtone. Okay, I’m going to be okay. I can do this, whatever it is.’’
Then two things happened that propelled her to launch “One Tough Bitch’’ as a jewelry and accessory line.
“People started saying, ‘I want one of those,’’’ said Fisher, who had previous experience selling jewelry as she founded the Hope Paige Medical ID Marketplace in 2003 before selling the company last year. “Everybody had a different story about how life had kicked a stool from underneath them.’’
It wasn’t until May, however, when Fisher mentioned the “bitch’’ necklace during a video interview with her daughter Julia Fisher Farbman, who produces the Facebook series Modern Hero, that the idea of launching a brand ballooned.
Julia, who called her mom her hero during the interview, asked her mom to sit for the interview for Mother’s Day. “That’s when so many people kind of came out and said, ‘You’ve got to do something with this.’’’
By Labor Day, Fisher launched OneToughBitch.com, where she sells the “bitch” necklace and bracelets with inspirational messages, as well as a limited clothing and accessory line targeted to women who need affirmation that they can withstand challenge. Her jean jackets are adorned with the ‘’One Tough Bitch’’ logo printed inside with a triangle on the back, symbolizing, according to the website, “We’re impossible to break.’’
The jewelry is already being sold at Sulimay’s Hair Design in Manayunk & Fairmount, Lotus Apparel & Home in Doylestown, Renee James Boutique in Havertown and OMG in Gladwyne.
“Sometimes your struggles really inspire other people, and this particular time, for whatever reason, what I went through seems to resonate with other people,’’ said Fisher, who in addition to her daughter has two grown sons aged 25 and 27. “The brand is taking off, whether I want it to or not.’’
But Fisher is not just content to sell jewelry. She is seeking to build through social media an online community of women who want to tap their inner strengths to steer them through life’s challenges. Since launching, she has led meetings with small groups of women at least five times, and she is “testing” material for future workshops which will be “secondary to the community we’re trying to build.’’ She is developing literature to use in the workshop and has gotten feedback on it from a professional therapist.
“I’ve been told over and over again that in order for this brand to resonate it needs to have a foundation for this story,’’ said Fisher, who has an undergraduate degree in communications and psychology from Syracuse University and has a master’s in adult education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This is not Fisher’s first foray into community building. After her beloved father Herb Lotman died in 2014, she founded the Herb It Forward Foundation, a scholarship program providing financial aid to students from challenging backgrounds.
A philanthropist in his own right, Lotman was the founder of the $5 billion-in-annual-sales behemoth Keystone Foods, which supplied beef, chicken and fish to McDonalds restaurants, and he cofounded the LPGA tournament McDonald’s Championship to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities. So far, Herb It Forward has awarded $364,000 to 119 students.
Like her father, Fisher has executed many projects successfully. She authored “Breaking Sad,’’ a book inspired by the sudden death of a friend’s daughter while she was in medical school. The book was cowritten by Jennifer Jones, a former intern at the Chestnut Hill Local and graduate of Chestnut Hill College who works for Fisher.
She’s also founder of Positivities.com, a website providing “uplifting, inspiring, educational and empowering content at your fingertips.’’
Just barely three months old, Fisher “pulled favors’’ and enlisted 30 designers, including renown muralist Philadelphia muralist Meg Saligman, to design jean jackets to auction off for the benefit of Give Her Camp, a nonprofit organization providing scholarships to women to “experience the magic of a weekend-long, life-enhancing retreat.’’
Fisher is still in treatment for her bladder tumor and will take immunotherapy treatments for another year. But she isn’t dwelling on any potential outcome.
“Sometimes you don’t realize how strong you are until you have to be,’’ she said.
For more information, visit onetoughbitch.com