Your first act is school, your second act is work, but have you thought about what you’re going to do in your third act? Join host Liz Tinkham, a former Accenture Senior Managing Director, as she talks to guests who are happily “pretired” – enjoying their time, treasure, and talent to pursue their purpose and passion in the third act of their life.
Inspire others to get more and to do more later in life.
Athena helps women achieve executive-level leadership expertise, polish their boardroom and executive knowledge, get closer to board seats, and make leaps in their careers.
Chantal grew up in Champagne, France as one of 10 kids. After marrying a musician, Chantal moved to the United States and learned English by wrapping gifts at the local Mervyn’s store in California. Chantal was a quick learner, finding her way to corporate jobs and eventually discovering a passion for sales, becoming Sprint’s west region Sales Operations Manager. Chantal navigates challenges in stride, having overcome a breast cancer diagnosis and divorce simultaneously. Her experience led her to work with the Susan Komen Foundation in San Diego, dedicating herself to working and raising money to boost revenue streams for the organization. Listen to discover how Chantal’s positive energy and drive helped her overcome all obstacles life threw her way. (02:14) 10 kids and the expectations of GPA (02:39) Survivor skill training (03:59) Marriage and a big move (04:26) Smiling through the language barrier (06:07) Operations at Price Club (Costco) (07:40) Sales will write my own paycheck (09:57) Cancer, sales, and a single mother (13:08) Navigating with Susan G. Komen (15:12) Dine Out for The Cure (16:54) Team Energizer Bunny (18:24) The value of education and prevention (20:34) When life gives you lemons… Find Chantal on Facebook or Instagram by searching Chantal Breyfogle, follow her on Twitter @MissChantalfr, or send her an email at [email protected].
Liz Tinkham (00:18):
Hi, this is Liz Tinkham and welcome to Third Act, a podcast about people embracing the third act of their lives with a new sense of purpose and direction. The third act begins when your script ends, but your show’s just not finished.
Liz Tinkham (00:34):
On today’s episode of Third Act I’m so happy to bring you my friend, Chantal Breyfogle, fondly referred to as the Energizer Bunny. Chantal is French. She grew up in Champagne, France as one of 10 kids. She married a musician, moved to the United States and learned to speak English by watching a combination of game shows and soap operas and wrapping gifts at the local Mervyn’s store in Southern California, for those who don’t know. She was a quick learner, finding her way to corporate jobs and eventually discovering a passion for sales, eventually going on to run Sprint’s West region as their Operations Manager.
Liz Tinkham (01:10):
But life also took a toll, as she both developed breast cancer and got divorced. Not wanting to be defined as a cancer patient, she got treatment and got right back to work. But when cancer came back, she found a home in working with and helping the Susan Komen Foundation in greater San Diego. She’s dedicated her third act to working and raising money for Komen, developing innovative new revenue streams and raising $450,000 for the cause.
Liz Tinkham (01:43):
Chantal, welcome to Third Act [in French].
Chantal Breyfogle (01:44):
Oh, thank you Liz [in French]. It’s my pleasure to talk to you today.
Liz Tinkham (01:48):
Well, I’m so fortunate that I just got to see you in San Diego, where I enjoyed perhaps, no, I know, the most spectacular lunch in my life on your patio, of course, socially distanced. So thank you for that again.
Chantal Breyfogle (01:59):
Oh, you’re so welcome. And I’m looking forward to the day where we don’t have to socially distance. I have served so many meals in my backyard and my front patio. I want to be able to entertain people in true style in my dining room.
Liz Tinkham (02:14):
So 10 kids. That’s a lot of kids. Mom leaves. Mom comes back. Your first act does not resemble any of the rest of my guests. Who kept you moving forward throughout the turbulence of your childhood?
Chantal Breyfogle (02:25):
So my father had very high expectations when it came to grades. He was a very smart man. And each child in the family had a different set of expectations when it came to average GPA at school.
Liz Tinkham (02:38):
Chantal Breyfogle (02:39):
Mine being A. Uh-huh (affirmative). And it was kind of an interesting way to raise kids because we tried to be fair to our kids. And I thought that was completely unfair. But he felt like I had the ability to get A’s. So I was expected to get A’s. And when I did that, it came a lot of freedom. I could do anything I wanted to do as long as I had good grades. So that was pretty good. I was also blessed with friends whose parents really took an interest in guiding me as one of their own children. They took me to visit colleges, helped me fill out financial aid applications. I had the opportunity to thank them. Actually, about three years ago, I met with a couple of my friend’s parents from childhood and told them what an impact they had in my life without really knowing it.
Liz Tinkham (03:23):
Oh, that’s so cool. So you go to college, but you weren’t able to finish. Is that correct?
Chantal Breyfogle (03:29):
Yeah, I did not, unfortunately. I had to go home and help my family. My mother left my father and I had four young siblings still at home. And my father was considering an orphanage.
Liz Tinkham (03:41):
Oh, you’re kidding?
Chantal Breyfogle (03:42):
Yeah. And it was not something that I could deal with. So it was my decision. I still believe it was the right thing to do. And looking back at my life today, this was probably the start of my survivor skill training.
Liz Tinkham (03:56):
Chantal Breyfogle (03:57):
Liz Tinkham (03:59):
So you marry a musician. Was he also French?
Chantal Breyfogle (04:02):
Yes. His father was American and his mother was French. So he grew up back and forth in between New York and the South of France.
Liz Tinkham (04:09):
Okay. And you both decide, or he decides, that you want to go to the United States?
Chantal Breyfogle (04:15):
Yeah, he was in the music industry and Los Angeles at the time was the place to be for his career. So we made the joint decision to move here. I was 19-years-old.
Liz Tinkham (04:26):
19. You’re not speaking much English at this point, I take it?
Chantal Breyfogle (04:30):
Zero. Zero. The only words I knew or yes and no and exit. Exit because it’s on the plane everywhere.
Liz Tinkham (04:35):
Yeah. Yeah. So how do you wrap presents when you can’t speak English?
Chantal Breyfogle (04:41):
Well, the truth is probably you smile a lot. But I was lucky. My father-in-law at the time knew the store manager at the Mervyn’s store. And so they agreed to give me an interview. Given that I didn’t speak any English, they took a map of the US and showed me where all the Mervyn’s stores were on the map. And they hired me one day a week for gift wrap. So they taught me just a couple basic words. This is the complimentary wrap. And if they don’t want complimentary, then you ask them to pick a number. And the number depicted the occasion for which the gift was to be for. And then I knew cash or charge. So some of the limitation probably led to a few stressful moments with customers. Because one customer one day wanted a courtesy wrap, not a complimentary. I didn’t know that word. And then when I said, “Cash or charge,” I could tell that I’d made a big mistake.
Liz Tinkham (05:36):
But while you’re not working, this is when you’re watching the soap operas?
Chantal Breyfogle (05:41):
I watched a lot of I Love Lucy and The Price is Right. Because The Price is Right, they show you a washing machine, a car. So they say all the names of all the things they show. So you can associate the picture with the word and then they write the number on the little podium thing. So now you can also learn numbers. And then Sesame Street, you learn pronunciations.
Liz Tinkham (06:07):
But eventually you figure out … You’re self-taught in some accounting and then get a job at the Price Club. How did you manage to get yourself with enough English and situated enough so that you could get to Price Club, which is now Costco?
Chantal Breyfogle (06:21):
So you’d be surprised how quick you learn when you have to. So I learned to speak English within six months, I would say, probably. I was pretty fluent. And I went to a technical school and got a certificate. And I took some junior college classes in accounting, basic skills. And I already had some accounting in high school. I started at Price Club in the marketing department. I got the job through a networking opportunity for a friend. And then after maybe a year in the marketing department, I transferred to the financial planning department, which was really my interest. Then I was fortunate to have really great mentors, which resulted after a few years in managing the financial planning for the entire US for Price Club.
Liz Tinkham (07:08):
That’s just incredible. I mean, just to think … And this was not that long after you’d been there, come to the US. Is that correct?
Chantal Breyfogle (07:14):
No, this was seven years after.
Liz Tinkham (07:18):
Well, that’s not that long.
Chantal Breyfogle (07:19):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Liz Tinkham (07:20):
I mean, 19, musician, no English and now you’re running a major operation for Price Club seven years later.
Chantal Breyfogle (07:28):
Liz Tinkham (07:33):
You get to Nextel, which eventually becomes Sprint. And what do you first start off doing there?
Chantal Breyfogle (07:40):
So at Nextel, I was hired to be the Finance Manager for the San Diego office. Because we were such small, I mean, this was the startup of Nextel. We had 17 sale sites, small, small operations. We were still raising capital to launch nationwide. And so they also asked me to do HR, to take a second hat and recruit salespeople, do payroll, that type of thing. So that’s how I started there. And then as we grew and I then become separated from my husband, I realized that I needed to provide for my family at a different level on my own. So I decided to transition into sales because I figured I could write my own paycheck.
Liz Tinkham (08:25):
I think that’s a really good point for people, maybe for some of our younger listeners who look at sales and are afraid of quotas. You probably had a quota. I certainly had a quota. But I think we both saw the same thing. That’s where you make the most money. Is that what you found as well?
Chantal Breyfogle (08:44):
Yeah. Well, every year, we’d roll out new comp plans, which I put together as my part of my finance role. And then the salespeople would come in to see the HR person, which I also was, and complained about, “How am I going to get there?” And I always sat there and helped them figure out how they could do it. I said, “I’m never going to run out of phones for you to sell. So you can do this. Here’s what you need to do.” And breaking it down for them. And I learned a lot about sales, actually, recruiting salespeople, working with sales managers.
Chantal Breyfogle (09:17):
And then I just thought, “I think I can do this.” And I loved it. Yes. I started in the regular sales team, then I went to the major accounts sales team. Then I eventually created my own program where we had partnership with Chambers of Commerce and professional associations. So the BIA, the Building Industry Association, CAR, California Association of Realtors, where as a package for their members, they would offer discounts on Nextel phones. We would pay them a royalty. I managed the relationship. And it was a way to sell thousands of phones very quickly.
Liz Tinkham (09:54):
Cha-ching, cha-ching for you as well. Right?
Chantal Breyfogle (09:56):
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Liz Tinkham (09:57):
So your first cancer diagnosis comes in 2003. What’s happening with you in your life at that point?
Chantal Breyfogle (10:05):
So at that point I was a single mom. I had a five-year-old and a twelve-year-old. I was in sales at Nextel. I had moved to the indirect channel. I was managing most of So-Cal’s independent resellers. So just independent ones at this point. It was a very scary time. As you can imagine, when you hear the word cancer for the first time, the first thing that comes to your mind is, “What will happen to my kids if I don’t make it?” That was the only thing I thought about, the two of them. What will happen to them? I’m on my own. It was very, very scary. But I was very proactive with my health care. I had never missed a mammogram or a doctor’s appointment. So I was very lucky it was caught at a very early stage.
Liz Tinkham (10:52):
Okay. And at this point, when you’re going through your breast cancer treatment, are you using Komen services? Are you aware of what they’re doing?
Chantal Breyfogle (11:02):
No, not really. The first time I had one surgery and radiation. I would go to radiation treatment on my lunch hour. I would sit in the waiting room and look at all the people around me that looked so sick. And I wasn’t one of those people. So I didn’t think of myself sick. I didn’t think myself a cancer patient. I just moved on with my life and never looked back. That was a bump in the road. And that was it.
Liz Tinkham (11:30):
We have another guest, Anne Devereux-Mills, who also had a different kind of cancer. But she said the same thing. That she was working full time. She would go do it on her lunch hour or after work. I did the same thing when I was having radiation, before work. But I never wanted that moniker of cancer on me. And you didn’t either. And she didn’t either.
Chantal Breyfogle (11:51):
No. And the first time, I didn’t have chemo. So when you have chemo and you lose your hair, that makes it very public. But with radiation, nobody would have known.
Liz Tinkham (12:02):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s true. So you go onto to your second act. You do great at Sprint. You’re the West Region Sales Operations Lead. You’re managing all their dealers, like you mentioned. How did that come to a close? What ended the second act, so to speak?
Chantal Breyfogle (12:16):
Well, I really loved my career at Sprint, helping businesses grow and managing all the national retailer. But after I was diagnosed for the second time, in 2010, at the time, I was engaged to be remarried. And this time I had to have seven different surgeries and I had chemo for a year every three weeks. My company was reorganizing. Sprint was yet changing. And I was reassessing my career goals. I had one more son at home. I did not want to be an empty-nester and retire all at the same time. And so I decided to flip the order of things around and I retired, enjoyed my last two years with my son in high school and started my third act at the same time.
Liz Tinkham (13:05):
How is it that this time you find Komen?
Chantal Breyfogle (13:08):
The first time I went in for chemo, this woman came in and introduced herself to me. And she told me she would be in my breast cancer patient navigator. And I always remember thinking how odd that title was.
Liz Tinkham (13:21):
Okay. How come? Why did you think it was odd?
Chantal Breyfogle (13:24):
Navigator, that’s just not a medical term.
Liz Tinkham (13:29):
But you need it. I get it.
Chantal Breyfogle (13:30):
Yeah. Now that I’ve been through cancer twice, that’s the perfect title. Because it definitely requires navigation skills because there are so many surgeries and treatment options.
Chantal Breyfogle (13:40):
So on my last chemo, I asked her who her manager was. Because I wanted to send a letter to let them know what a great asset she was to them. And she told me that she was not a hospital employee, but she was funded by a Komen grant. And I had walked the Susan G Komen 5k in San Diego, many times with my coworker. But like most people, I really had no idea what exactly the organization did except for breast cancer research as a whole.
Chantal Breyfogle (14:10):
So that got me thinking about Komen. And on my last chemo, my chemo buddy gave me a pink notebook and she told me, “You go do something with this.” So I go meet with Komen and I have this idea that maybe we could build a network of hairdressers that could go to people’s home when it’s time to shave their heads. Because that’s just such a horrible moment in your breast cancer journey. But unfortunately that didn’t come to fruition because of liability issues. But I started talking with them and said, “Instead of reinventing the wheel. I want to contribute and serve in your organization. What can I do?” And so I started reviewing grants. And that led to chairing the Grants Committee, to revamping all the audit process for the grants, a seat on the board for six years and many opportunities. Speakers, Bureau, lots of things with Komen this time.
Liz Tinkham (15:12):
I know a lot of people who’ve had cancer. I know a lot of people who’ve walked in a Komen walk or ran a race. But you’re the only person I know who’s dove in and invented new revenue sources. Talk about Dine Out for The Cure and how did you come up with that?
Chantal Breyfogle (15:27):
Okay. So I’m French. I’m passionate about food and cooking. I wanted to find a way to combine my passions for food and helping Komen. So Dine Out was born. I went and talked to the CEO of Komen and pitched the idea. In San Diego, there’s only one of those for AIDS. It’s Dine Out for Life. And I said, “Why don’t we do something where we talk to restaurants or we partner with restaurants in October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, only one day. And in exchange for marketing materials and media opportunity, restaurants donate a percentage of their revenue.”
Chantal Breyfogle (16:06):
And we started really small and we eventually grew to close to a hundred restaurants last year. This year, we had to put it on hold because of the pandemic. I found sponsors for the marketing materials. So it didn’t cost us anything to put the program together. That also put limits on us on how many restaurants we could accept, because we could only give so much. I didn’t want to spend money. I wanted to make money.
Liz Tinkham (16:30):
It just kept growing. It’s still going. It will come back after the pandemic, I assume, as well.
Chantal Breyfogle (16:34):
We’ll see how restaurants are open to donating. I think they have been hit so hard, it’s going to be complicated.
Liz Tinkham (16:41):
But you generated a brand new revenue source significant for Komen.
Chantal Breyfogle (16:46):
Yes. In between that and my team, Energizer Bunny, I’ve raised close to $500,000.
Liz Tinkham (16:54):
Who is your team, Energizer Bunny?
Chantal Breyfogle (16:57):
So my team are good people that we walk with. The Busbys are part of it. So a network of people. I probably have 40 people. I have an annual poker night. That’s a fundraiser for Komen at my house where I usually have 60 to 100 people. Everybody pays to play poker. And at the end of the night, the winner gets a dinner for 10 cooked by me and hosted. And then all the money goes-
Liz Tinkham (17:21):
I’m coming next year just to win that.
Chantal Breyfogle (17:23):
And all the money goes to Komen. So that’s part of my fundraising as Team Energizer Bunny. And then I actually have a lot of my salespeople that I have managed that, to this day, still fundraise for me.
Liz Tinkham (17:37):
So with all of that and all the money that’s gone out, what progress have you seen since 2003, in terms of both the breast cancer treatment, as well as help for women, their families, and their caregivers?
Chantal Breyfogle (17:50):
Over the last decade, we’ve increased survival rates for early stage breast cancer, and I’m going to say early stage, to 99%. Between stage zero and one, if you’re caught early, 99% chance of survival. We have decreased mortality rates by 34% since 1990. And we are the largest group of cancer survivors of any types of cancer. We have over 3 million survivors in the US.
Liz Tinkham (18:24):
What more needs to be done? In addition to finding a cure, just based on your work, what else needs to be done?
Chantal Breyfogle (18:30):
So I’m going to say education and prevention. We need women to be aware of their normal, to know their body, not skip their mammogram and do a monthly breast self-exam. If we added no additional funds today to research or new drugs or new procedures, we would still decrease mortality and increase survival rates just with those two things. Do your monthly breast exam. Do not skip your mammograms. And it’s so important for younger women because a lot of younger women don’t feel they’re a breast cancer candidate. And fortunately, the trends are showing that women are being diagnosed earlier and earlier. They don’t have mammograms till they’re 40. So if they don’t do a monthly breast exam, they have no chance of catching it early.
Liz Tinkham (19:21):
How old were you in when you first got it?
Chantal Breyfogle (19:24):
The first time I was 42.
Liz Tinkham (19:26):
And see, I was 38. So both young.
Chantal Breyfogle (19:30):
Right. I cannot tell you how many 25, 28, 29-year-old women I have met since I’ve been serving on the Komen board. I speak to a lot of people and I’ve met a lot of women with breast cancer, so many young. And they’re metastatic and they don’t make it because they just didn’t do that step. So that’s the one thing. And also another thing that’s important is understanding that 80% of women who get diagnosed, it doesn’t run in their family or they don’t have the gene. So that is also important.
Liz Tinkham (20:05):
So I think many members of the audience, who listen to this podcast, are considering philanthropic work as part of their third act. And many of them are already doing that. But you’ve gone into it in a very big way. You’ve made a big impact. So talk about what of your corporate skills, when you think back on your career at Sprint, what’s been most important in working with Komen and enabled you to do your best for Komen?
Chantal Breyfogle (20:34):
I think like in anything in life, relationship building, the ability to build relationships with people, to build trust, respect, build a network, being able to communicate, and have this can-do attitude. I think I was groomed and raised to be a survivor. One of my things in life, I always … The Team Energizer Bunny is because I’ll remove any obstacle in front of me. But I also use that motto that, “When life hands you lemons, you have the option to live with a sour taste in your mouth, or you can make sweet lemonade. Which one are you going to do?”
Liz Tinkham (21:11):
Anything that you want to highlight that has been challenging in being as involved as you are in philanthropy and in a philanthropic organization?
Chantal Breyfogle (21:21):
I think the most challenging thing for me is it was very difficult for me to ask people for money.
Liz Tinkham (21:29):
You’re a sales person. How could it be hard to ask anybody for money?
Chantal Breyfogle (21:33):
Because I was asking my friends. I was asking people I knew.
Liz Tinkham (21:37):
Chantal Breyfogle (21:40):
When you’re in sales, you’re giving a service or product in exchange. So there, I felt there was no exchange and everybody has the cause that they’re supportive of. But what I’ve learned is that I’m not asking for myself. I’m asking for other people. And I feel because I have been given this new lease on life twice, that I have a responsibility and an opportunity to give other women the same opportunity I had to see my children grow.
Liz Tinkham (22:12):
That’s wonderful. Now I know you are thinking about phasing out of your involvement with Komen. So what do you see with the rest of your third act or your fourth act or fifth act or wherever you go to next?
Chantal Breyfogle (22:25):
I have not made a total decision on that. So I’m still looking at options. I am not done contributing, giving. And I would like to see where gaps are in the community and where I can contribute and serve.
Liz Tinkham (22:41):
So more philanthropic work though is in your future?
Chantal Breyfogle (22:44):
Absolutely. I start volunteering on Monday at a COVID-19 vaccine station.
Liz Tinkham (22:51):
What are you going to do?
Chantal Breyfogle (22:52):
Well, whatever needs to be done, pushing paperwork, guiding people through the process. I’m not working. I can help. They need volunteers.
Liz Tinkham (23:02):
That’s a great idea. That is a great idea. So Chantal, I thought about naming this podcast, I’m Not Done Yet, because I feel like I’m not done. Good grief, you’re not done, Energizer Bunny that you are. In addition to giving back, what else aren’t you done with yet in your life?
Chantal Breyfogle (23:18):
I’m not done making lemonade. That’s the first thing. You know I’m the Energizer Bunny, so I will keep going and going. And I’m not done living, loving, cooking, contributing.
Liz Tinkham (23:29):
So it’s been so wonderful. Thank you so much for joining Third Act. Where can we find you online?
Chantal Breyfogle (23:35):
So I’m on Facebook and my name is Chantal Breyfogle. I’m on Twitter @MissChantalfr, for France. And on Instagram, Chantal Breyfogle. And my email is [email protected].
Liz Tinkham (23:49):
We will put that in the show notes. But thank you very much and we look forward to hearing more about your adventures.
Chantal Breyfogle (23:55):
Thank you so much for having me.
Liz Tinkham (24:00):
Thanks for joining me today to listen to the Third Act podcast. You can find show notes, guest bios and more at thirdactpodcast.com. If you enjoyed our show today, please subscribe and write a review on your favorite podcast platform. I’m your host, Liz Tinkham. I’ll be back next week with another guest who’s found new meaning and fulfillment in the third act of their life.
Want to share the story of your own Third Act on our podcast? We welcome stories from executives who pivoted their careers to find their passion and purpose later in their lives. Tell us more about yourself to be considered as a guest.