Thursday, November 17, 2011

Top Women in Finance 2011

Underneath it All

Cathy Rieckenberg and Lorraine Dressel went into the durable medical equipment business when bankers were still asking women if their parents would co-sign their loans.

A durable medical equipment conference they attended in 1988 was equally discouraging. "We were the only nurses and the only women, and the bankers told us that we'd probably give the business away," Rieckenberg said.

After 10 years, the business was bringing in about $550,000 a year, and they sold most of it to the Waconia Medical Center. They opted to continue fitting and selling prostheses and mastectomy bras to women who'd had breast surgery, and they renamed the company Underneath it All.

"People think of these prostheses as big, white, ugly bras with batting in them," said Marti Auringer, RN, BSN, the cancer care coordinator at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee. "They have beautiful lingerie. ... And it's very nicely decorated so you feel when you're going in there that you're going into a boutique. You're not going into a clinical setting."

Dressel and Rieckenberg also bring humor into their clients' lives, said Auringer; who has referred patients to them for 12 years. "They get patients to smile and laugh, and it's amazing how they can turn such a negative situation around into a positive situation," Auringer said.

Rieckenberg has passed that attitude to her son,Rob, who lost his right leg above the knee when he was run over by a train in Minneapolis in 2005. He now uses a prosthetic leg, does downhill skiing and volunteers for a foundation called Wiggle Your Toes, which helps amputees regain independence and mobility. He nominated his mother and her business partner for this award.

"It is amazing how life gives you zigzags, but everything works out. You don't know the reason why, but it does," Cathy Rieckenberg said.

The same goes for their clients, Dressel said. "Every woman is in a different point in her journey. It can be extremely emotional for them and for us, too," she said. "It's the best job I've ever had as a nurse because people are so appreciative, and you really feel like you've made a difference in their lives."

-- Nancy Crotti

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