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Barbara Hensley, Founder

Losing both of her sisters to breast cancer devastated Barbara Hensley. During their combined six-year battle, she became painfully aware of the challenges faced by under-served women. Seeing women who are already struggling just to afford rent and food and then then faced with fighting breast cancer, disturbed and angered her. So she did something! In 2001, Barbara resigned her corporate executive position and founded the Hope Chest for Breast Cancer, where she chairs the Foundation and is CEO of both Hope Chest Franchising and LeeRyan Corporation.

The Hope Chest raises critical resources through the sale of upscale furniture, accessories and designer women’s clothing donated by individuals, wholesalers and retail businesses. These items are then sold through a chain of company-owned and franchised/licensed retail stores. The Foundation uses funds from the stores and other fundraising opportunities to support breast cancer causes such as early detection education and screening, emergency funds programs and nutritional meals. Barbara brings extensive experience to her role as creator of Hope Chest for Breast Cancer. Prior to founding the organization, she was the vice president of product management for Ceridian Corporation. Before Ceridian, Hensley was responsible for marketing at Datakey. She also spent 13 years with Honeywell in various upper level management positions. Hensley was a business instructor at the Wooster campus of Ohio State University. She has also owned and operated a successful retail business.

Hensley is a 2003 recipient of Women Venture’s “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained” award, Minnesota Women’s Press Change Makers Award and Minnesota Oncology and Hematology Foundation’s Star Award. In 2004, she was honored by Volvo US with the Minnesota Volvo for Life Award, by the National Association of Women Business Owners Luminary Award, and by the Business Journal as one of the 25 Women Change-Makers. Hensley was a semi-finalist in the Yale Graduate School of Management Partnership on Nonprofit Ventures’ National Business Plan Competition in 2005, and took second place in the Claremont Graduate School Peter Drucker Award of Innovation. In 2006, Hensley was selected as one of the General Mills Yoplait Champions recognizing individuals from across the nation for their contribution to breast cancer causes. The St. Paul Chamber of Commerce presented Hensley with a 2006 Celebrate Business Success Award. In 2007, Upsize Magazine honored her with their Life Line Award. In 2008, the Minnesota Cancer Alliance presented the Leader in Collaboration Award to Hensley. Also in 2008, the National Association of Women Business Owners honored her with the Benefactor Award. In 2009, she was honored by Austin College with a Distinguished Alumni Award. Wells Fargo and the National Association of Women Business Owners honored Hensley as one of three women across the nation to receive their 2009 National Trailblazer Award.

Hensley has a Bachelor of Art degree from Austin College; a Master’s Degree in Business Information Management from the University of Missouri; and a Master’s Degree in Urban Affairs from Webster University. She is a member of the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable and a past member of the Board of Directors for the Breast Cancer Awareness Association. Hensley is a member of the Twin West, St. Paul and Wayzata Chambers of Commerce. She also is a member of the International Franchise Association, the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis and the International Fashion Group.

Hensley resides in Shakopee, Minn., with her husband, Jay. In her spare time, she treasures spending time with Jay, her two sons, Will and Jason, Jason’s wife Melissa, and her grandsons, Dawson, Noah and Manny. She also enjoys being on the lake, gardening and reading.


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