From Chronic Illness to Inspiration

  • Photos by:
    Keisha Greaves
  • Published on:
    January 28, 2019
  • Reading time by:
    7 minutes

Keisha Greaves

Keisha Greaves started her clothing business Girls Chronically Rock because back in 2010 she was diagnosed with a muscle disease called Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. While Greaves was graduate school while receiving her Master’s Degree, she started to get really weird symptoms. Greaves would start to walk and her leg would give out on her causing her to lose her balance and she would fall to the floor without unable to get herself backup. Greaves noticed somethings were just off, she couldn’t raise her right arm all the way when she tried to exercise and she knew something was not right.

Greaves received her undergraduate degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising and knew she always wanted to be a business owner. Fast forward a few years later, after being in total denial of being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, Greaves started to embrace her chronic illness and knew she could not let this stop and will pursue her dreams no matter what.

I honestly feel everything does happen for a reason and me being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy all came into place which is inspired me to start my clothing business Girls Chronically Rock and able to use my platform to tell my story and my journey living my everyday like with Muscular Dystrophy.

Girls Chronically Rock is not just a clothing business, but a movement and bringing awareness to others like Greaves who may be battling a chronic illness on a regular basis. Greaves wants to inspire and motivate others that everyone can do anything you put your mind to no matter what.

I want Girls Chronically to build into an Empire!

Where does the entrepreneurial mindset come from?

Yes, I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset because I always lived in my own little world and wanted to do what I want. I always felt free and flexible and worked on my schedule with still getting my work done at the end of the day. I never liked someone telling me what to do, a give me a schedule, it was just not me. I was always a hustler and worked multiple jobs at once but knew I had to do what I had to, to get where I wanted to be with my business. I always had the mindset to just do it with no questions and see what happens. I defiantly knew I wanted to be a business owner from the time I was small and wanted to be a Fashion Designer and run my own business and be as successful as Fashion Designers I looked up to like Betsey Johnson and Kimora Lee Simmons.

Tell us about your collection at the moment, how do you design your line?

My collections right now consist of both women and men’s clothes and accessories such as: jewelry. My collection consists of many different logo designs on the website with different meanings behind them, such as “Trust your Dopeness” was created to believe and trust and believe in your dreams at anything you wan to accomplish. Another popular one is “Hello, my name is Chronically Ill Badass” everyone seems to love that one because although we may have a chronic illness, we are fierce and powerful while ding it and won’t let anything or anyone stop us. I also have plenty more on the website and have a lot more designs I plan to add for 2019. I honestly just either sit down or lie down and think of random thoughts or saying I may say to myself or friends and family and I’m like, “that would be good on a shirt” and I have my graphic designer create a logo on colors and fonts I would like and we go from there. I have new designs a thought in my head every day, and I would either text them, or email them to myself and would put that into a new design idea for my next collection. 

What investment did you need to start Girls Chronically Rock?

I would need a good amount of money to cover marketing expenses, promotion and money to pay my t-shirt company to print the t-shirts, traveling expenses to go to and from different shows in my town and out of town. Everyday I learn something new about my business and realize more expenses that maybe needed to pursue my dreams and make sure Girls Chronically Rock gets to where it needs to be. 

You are saying ‘’Through my education and work experience, I have gained the knowledge and skills necessary to excel as a Fashion Designer and Visual Merchandiser.’’ How did you gain the knowledge and skills? 

I always had a passion for fashion and through out the years I worked in many retail stores such as: Vera Bradley, Aldo’s, BCBG, Macy’s and more. Over the years I also worked for several companies merchandising in the departments stores for Tommy John, Tommy Hilfiger, Bloomingdale’s, Warner Bra’s and plenty more. I learn my office experience and business from receiving a scholarship for college from Cambridge Savings Bank and they offered me a summer job where gained experience in the customer service department, Administrative assistant for the Facilities Department, Human Resources Department and Accounting, which I will forever be grateful for. While at Cambridge College receiving my Master’s degree, I did a work study job in admissions and student services department where I did a lot of work with students, phone calls and entry date and more.  I learn how to communicate with different customers, having patience, being a manager and just everyday tasks, I learned and experienced every day. 

What was it like when you had your first customer? How did that go? 

When I got my first customer for Girls Chronically Rock, I felt excited, motivated and inspired. Although it was my first customers, it inspired me to continue to advertise and promote my business on social media and continue to share my story because I never know who I will inspire and can relate to. I love when I receive an order, because I love putting the clothing merchandise into the pretty pink packages that I have with the pretty tissue paper and attach my business cards in with the package and shipping it out makes me feel great and accomplish and looking forward to more orders to come in. I love when people reach out to me a say “I love your brand and what you’re doing, it’s so inspiring” that makes me feel good, because I never know who is paying attention or if people know what I’m doing, and if they like it, so when I receive great messages online or from people out in my town, it makes me feel great and more motivated to continue to push my business and spread the word about Girls Chronically Rock.

Any great stories from working with a customer?

I have a few good stories working with customers who can relate to me living everyday life living with a chronic illness. I have reached out to few Instagram inspiring bloggers on social media who may have Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, and plenty others. I reach out them sharing my story asking them if they would love to collaborate and promote my clothing brand on their page, and once they hear my story, they agree and have me send them some shirts and that makes feel super excited. I love that would love to promote and can relate to my story a once they post themselves wearing my GCR brand, that makes me feel excited. It’s even more excited, when their followers love my brand and sales start to come through, so that has defiantly been exciting for me to share that with others. 

How do you run a business with Muscular Dystrophy every day?

My life has been a roller-coaster ride at times much like yours, I’m sure. Expectations, responsibilities, and everyday pressures can take a toll on anyone. Imagine dealing with the normal everyday stress of life while trying to build a business and balance having a chronic illness like Muscular Dystrophy (MD).

When someone without a chronic illness wakes up to the buzz of their second (or maybe third) alarm in the morning, a lot of thoughts may be running through their head. Is it 7:00AM already? Do I really need to go to work today? Can’t I just lay here for another 10 minutes and still make it to work on time? My thoughts look at a little different: Will I be able to get out the bed without falling today? Will I have the energy to attempt to tackle my to-do list? How long can I actually work today before I start to experience pain? That’s what it’s like to wake up with MD. It’s a never-ending round of questions that can alter the flow, productivity and course of my day. Not only does it make everyday life a challenge, it also affects my business. Will I have the energy to send this email today? What physical challenge will I face today?

All these questions and more are constantly flowing through my mind, and can seem a little deflating at times, but what good story is absent of any struggles? My villain just happens to be MD, and the hero happens to be me. If you are living with a chronic illness of any type, I want to encourage you to keep pushing forward, especially if you have dreams or are in the process of creating your own business or brand.

Having this passion project gives me the motivation and purpose I need to get up every morning and find a way to get things done. Even if only one or two things get done from my list, I make sure I put what energy I am able to muster into getting those things completed. When I have the strength and opportunity to go out and share my Girls Chronically Rock brand with the world, it gives me a sense of fulfillment and purpose that I wouldn’t be able to achieve if I didn’t fight to get out of the bed every morning.

I won’t let MD stop me from reaching my goals and pursuing my purpose and neither should you.

Here are a few tips I want to share as a business owner with a chronic illness that I hope will encourage those who may be battling the same:

1. Have something that keeps you sane

When I can’t find the strength to do work or when I just need to get my mind off of everyday life, I watch my favorite shows. DVR is the BEST thing to ever happen to me (any Love & Hip Hop or Jane the Virgin fans out there). I get excited to catch up on my favorite series and having this outlet helps me remain balanced and upbeat when not working on my business. Find that one thing you love to watch, play or enjoy that helps you unwind and relax.

2. Have goals for your business that you follow

I have dreams for bigger and better for my business. One day, I d’ love to see the GCR brand in Target and bigger department stores, but that dream isn’t going to happen overnight. I have to continue to plan, evaluate, network and put myself and my brand out there in order to reach the right people and make the right connections. Battling a chronic illness is not knowing what happens next. I am always hoping for the best and having goals to keep my focused on the future are key to growing and developing a business. Make a vision board for your business and look at it every day to inspire you to dream bigger, work harder and aim for the moon (you’ll fall among the stars).

3. Have a Plan for Your Slower Days

I am queen of the to-do list. I’ve been super organized since being a little girl (just ask my mom), and I take pride in having a strategy for what’s next. You have to have a plan A and plan B for the days when you literally can’t make it out of the bed, or if you’re like me, you have leg or back pain that prevents you from sitting up or being in a comfortable working position. Make a plan that can be done in any state you may be in. Your future self will thank you.

4. Know When You Need to Just Rest (and be ok with it)

Sometimes, the activities from the day prior can influence the degree of energy I have for the following day. I can’t control what my body wants to do – like anybody, but with a chronic illness it can be even more of a challenge. So, don’t fret about taking an hour, day or two in order to get your strength back. Sometimes, one productive day can get the same results of having a few hours here and there throughout the week. Work a few rest times and even days into your schedule to make it feel less like a day wasted. A day rested is another day of strength gained.
No matter where you stand when it comes to chronic illness or starting a business, you have the ability to pursue your dreams and live your best life. Take these notes, make them your own and remember that chronic illness is just a chapter of your life. There is still so much more left inside of you and so much more to your story. Dream big!

After being in denial after so many years, I am also now the Massachusetts State Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and I absolutely love it. With being the Ambassador the Muscular Dystrophy Association I get to speak at different speaking engagements, share my story of how I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy and give a special thank you to all of the local fire fighters who raise money for the MDA, sponsors and medical researchers. I have been able to connect with other Muscular Dystrophy families and other great individuals along this journey with being ambassador and I hope to continue along this wonderful journey and meet some great people along the way with sharing my story and business. Also, being so involved with the MDA association, a percentage of proceeds of my sales from Girls Chronically Rock go towards the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Every Year I do a fundraising event in collaborating with local Fashion Designer Sara Campbell and my own fundraising event to raise money for the annual Muscle Walk in Boston at Boston Commons. 

What are your goals currently? As in vision and mission? What problem are you trying to solve?

My goals currently are to continue to bring awareness and let people know about Girls Chronically Rock and how it was inspired. My goals are to speak at different speaking engagement in town and out of town sharing my story and how I overcame being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy in my early adult life and how that made me feel and so many emotions running through my head. Why Me? What does this mean? How long do I have to live?

I have a vision to sharing my story and business on talk shows like, Steve Harvey, hopefully chat with Oprah Ellen, The Talk, Dr. OZ, my favorite Wendy Williams and more. I have been writing different talk shows every day with keeping my fingers crossed that one day I will get a response and that will just make my day. I want people to know what Muscular Dystrophy is all about and that there is no cure at the moment, but I am hopeful one day their will be. My mission for the upcoming year to attend as many events as I can to connect and network with others and collaborating with so many others who can possibly relate and are in the same business as me. 

I would also like to showcase my clothing line Girls Chronically Rock in upcoming New York Fashion, LA Fashion Week, Atlanta Fashion Week and plenty more. I feel that would be a good experience for me to showcase my line and to share my story. I would also love for my line GCR to be sold in hospitals in the Boston area, such as Mass General Hospitals, Brigham and Women’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Centers and more, because that would be a great market and the customers who would be able to relate to my brand. 

I just filled out a form the others day to possibly become a speaker at Essence Festival for 2019, so I am keeping my fingers crossed to hear back good news and would be able to share my story and how my business got started and to experience Essence Festival since I never been. 

I am trying to figure out what customers exactly what, what’s their favorite color and what do my followers more gravitate towards when I post on social media. My followers/clients do like to for me to be honest and open and share my everyday life and struggles, my ups and downs because I realized I never know who I can relate to who is reading. 

My main focus is getting my message out there to everyone and I want everyone to soon know what Girls Chronically Rock is, and who the designer is and what it stands for. 

How do you make sure anyone can find Girls Chronically Rock

I make sure anyone can find Girls Chronically Rock, because I add it to my signature at the end of every email. I always advertise and promote my business on my social media handles such as: Instagram, Facebook, my website and on different business networks I am apart of on Facebook. I have come to a place where I feel more comfortable with sharing my story and I feel that by me being more honest and open, people can more connect with me and that may also draw them to my page and want to check out what Girls Chronically Rock is all about. I try to share my blog posts on a monthly basis, maybe more sharing my story and brand trying to get the word out there. 

Do you focus on a specific group of customers?

I don’t really focus on a specific group of customers, but I may target towards people with chronic illnesses/disabilities because I know they can relate to my brand/story. My clothing brand is really for everyone, I get customers who don’t even have a chronic illness, or someone who wants to purchase it for them family member or friend who may have a chronic illness of some sort and I love to hear messages like that. Over time I realize hash-tagging on social media can defiantly connects me with the customers I would like to. From experience just me hash-tagging, “chronic illness,” muscular dystrophy, “disability awareness,” and more I have found a lot of other people like myself and have made some great connections/friends along the way and they defiantly give me great feedback about my business website. 

How do you want to improve yourselves in the next year? 

I want to grow Girls Chronically Rock into bigger and better things and make it into a major Empire. I would love for my clothing line to be sold in Target, Macy’s, TJX Companies, local boutique stores and plenty more. I hope to showcase my line in future fashion shows in New York, LA, Miami and more. I plan to advance my website over time with new updates and changes and making sure the customers are happy when shopping on my website. I want to continue to stay focused and motivated and making my health and business my number#1 priority.

Another improvement I would like to accomplish is hopefully creating an adaptive clothing line under Girls Chronically Rock umbrella to create a line with people with disabilities. That would be a huge accomplishment.

Do you believe in destiny or do you think you can control your fate?

After being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy out of nowhere, I honestly don’t think I have control over my fate. Over the years I realize you never know what goes on in your body, and what could happen when you go to bed or wake up in the morning. I honestly take things day by day and try to stay positive and hope for the best and that defiantly helped me along the way with being positive. I can continue to work hard and stay focused but I can say I honestly don’t have control over what could possibly come whether its good or bad. 

Tell us about your proudest achievement? 

My proudest achievement was being featured in the “Today Style Heroes 2018” alongside Gabrielle Union and other great fantastic people. The Editor shared my story and I was so excited and thrilled about that. That honestly just made my day and I will be forever grateful being featured in Today.

You can read more about the article here at:

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is being my own boss and loving every minute of it. I love being my own boss, making my own schedule and running everything about it. Especially have a chronic illness while running a business can have it’s challenges, but that’s why I feel its important for me to continue to strive to make my business succeeds because I don’t’ what could happen years down the line with my Muscular Dystrophy but I am taking everything day by day and my business honestly motivates me every day. Being on my own schedule and terms, I have the flexibility if my body feels more tired one day and I may lie in bed and rest and do some work from my phone, it can honestly vary day by day, but running my own business feels amazing. 

You might also enjoy..

Join the discussion!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *