816 North Business

Lauren’s Hope finds a niche for fashionable alert tags

Tara Cohen of Kansas City, North, credits a pendant around her neck with saving her life a year ago.

No, the pendant didn’t stop a bullet. But it did stop an emergency room doctor from unknowingly administering a life-threatening, possibly fatal, drug to Cohen.

Cohen lived in Florida at the time and sought emergency treatment because she was disoriented, dehydrated and sick to her stomach with a severe case of flu.

“They asked me about drug allergies and I couldn’t remember what I was allergic to,” Cohen recalled.

Fortunately, a nurse saw Cohen’s medical alert identification tag that said she was allergic to a drug that controls nausea. Her pendant came from a Riverside at a business called Lauren’s Hope.

Lauren, a teenager with diabetes, was the inspiration for the business, said owner LeAnn Carlson.

Lauren’s mother asked Carlson, who ran a home-based crafts company with another stay-at-home mom, to create a medical alert bracelet for her daughter in 2001. Unlike the more common “dog tags,” Lauren’s bracelet was beaded and looked like a fashion accessory.

Lauren’s Hope now makes more than 400 medical identification products ranging in price from about $15 to $160 and serves some 400,000 customers internationally. Cohen was one of those customers in 2008 and was so impressed with the jewelry that she moved from Florida to Kansas City, North, last year to work for Carlson, who employs 23 people.

Functional yet fashionable, the jewelry has found a following.

“I feel a lot safer when my loved ones have these,” said Ethan Dillon, 21, of Kansas City, North.

Dillon is a pre-med student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He said his girlfriend wears Lauren’s Hope bracelets for food allergies; his mother, for penicillin allergy; and he wears a “dog tag” style with contact information when he goes hunting.

His grandmother also wears a Lauren’s Hope medical alert. She has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but refused to wear the traditional medical alert around her neck, Dillon said.

“Now she thinks she’s wearing a pretty bracelet with birds on it,” he said.

The bracelet provides reassurance in case his grandmother wanders away and become confused. The bracelet lists three contacts and her diagnosis.

Diabetes ranks at the top for the medical alert jewelry, Carlson said. Other alerts include seizures, heart conditions, gastric bypass, blood thinner and food allergies.

In 2005, the business outgrew Carlson’s basement and moved to the first floor of a Riverside building. Over the years, Lauren’s Hope continued to grow and eventually filled every corner of the building’s 7,000 square feet of space.

Now Carlson is ready to move again. She’s looking to move her headquarters and production facility to a site with 10,000 square feet this year.

“I love what I do,” Carlson said. “We are providing information that truly helps people. It’s safety with style.”