Monday, December 28, 2009

Athena's Cup in the News - Cranston, RI

Cranston 'goddess' looks to raise the bar with bra fundraiser
by Meg Fraser
Dec 23, 2009 53 views 1 2

ONE BRA AT A TIME: Cranston resident Lori Gonsalves-Casale holds up a bra she collected as part of the Athena’s Cup fundraiser to benefit both breast cancer research and area women’s shelters.slideshow
Five years ago, Lori Gonsalves-Casale was in a rut. She wanted to stay home to raise her two children but didn’t feel challenged by her part-time job as a Pampered Chef hostess. But when she was invited to a party featuring Athena’s home novelties, a Rhode Island-based adult novelty company, Casale had no idea she was about to go from stay-at-home mom to goddess overnight. “The more I thought about it, I said ‘I could do what she did’,” Casale said of her first Athena’s experience. “The next day I resigned from Pampered Chef.” That same day, she signed up to become an Athena’s Goddess, the title given to all of the representatives. After training on hosting home parties and on the product line that features more than 300 items, she was ready to strike out on her own. Since then, Casale has made a name for herself in the industry. A former “Goddess of the Year” and “Most Inspired Leader” honoree, she is able to support herself through her new career and now is giving back with the Athena’s Cup fundraiser. The idea for the Cup came from Athena’s founder Jennifer Jolicoeur and serves two purposes. First, participants donate $5 or more toward breast cancer research. Second, women are asked to donate bras in pursuit of breaking the world record of hooking together 169,000 bras. By October of 2010, Athena’s hopes to up that record to 179,000. “I want to help because of the money for research, and not to mention I want to be a part of hooking together 179,000 bras. That’s kind of cool,” Casale said, laughing. To encourage her customers to participate, Casale gives $5 off orders, which in essence means she’s donating that sum to the campaign. She’s glad to do it, though, and said she is amazed at how willing women are to take it off for the cause. “I had one woman say, ‘This is my favorite bra, but I don’t have breast cancer’,” Casale recalls. “I have had people meet me at bank parking lots with bags of bras. This is just wonderful.” Once Athena’s Cup comes to a close, the bras in good condition will be donated to women’s shelters and the funds directed to the Susan. G. Komen for the Cure foundation. To date, the company has collected close to 7,000 bras. Athena’s was created in 1998 out of Woonsocket, and is now in 32 states. Still, there are fewer than 3,500 goddesses, which Casale says has given her a vested interest in the company. At Pampered Chef, her employee number was 625,000. At Athena’s, it is only 670. “Would I have sought out Athena’s? Probably not, but obviously, everything happens for a reason,” she said. Now, Casale loves what she does for a living, and is still able to be there for her 6- and 9-year-old children. “The economy has not affected this business. It’s a very, very thriving business,” she said. In fact, she hosts one to three parties every week, with sales going as high as $1,200 at a single event. The individual who invites the goddess gets merchandise credit worth 10 percent of the party’s sales. For her part, Casale also collects a percentage of the profits of the goddesses in her “downline.” By recruiting salespeople, she expands that team. When her team members recruit salespeople, she then gets a smaller piece of those profits. She would like to expand Athena’s to the Seattle area within the next couple of years but said she is more concerned with recruiting the right people than the most people. “I don’t really care what your personality is, I care that you want to do this,” she said. Casale is no stranger to sales. She was a longtime manager at Filene’s when she lived in California. A Providence native, she moved to Cranston upon her return to the Ocean State and knew she wanted to continue working with people in some capacity. Even she is somewhat surprised by the path she found, but she wouldn’t change it for the world. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a paycheck, but there’s something so much more fulfilling to see a crowd laughing,” she said. “This is where I’m staying.” Sitting at her dining room table, Casale encourages other women to seek out a career that makes them happy. She looks the part of stay-at-home super-mom, but has the presence of a stand-up comedian. “If everybody laughs, I know I did a good show. If no one laughs, I know they don’t have a good sense of humor.” Going forward, Casale wants to grow her team and expand Athena’s, but her priority now is doing some good with the company that she credits with changing her life. She sees Athena’s Cup as a way to unify the goddesses and clients that have been a part of that change. “This breast cancer might as well be in the water it’s traveling so fast and furious, so we’re throwing it out there to make it huge,” she said, adding, “So far, so good.” For more information about Athena by Lori or the Athena's Cup fundraiser, contact Lori Gonsalves-Casale at 263-1563 or by e-mail at To make a direct donation of $5 and any bras, send your items to Athena's Home Novelties, 640 Winter Street, Woonsocket, RI 02895. Checks can be made payable to Athena's Cup.

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