Carla Emanuel

Owner & CEO
Red Garden Designs

At three different social events in different states, Carla Emanuel, the wife of a cancer physician, was approached by a man who asked, “When are you people going to make a pin for men to wear when they have survived cancer?”

She didn’t have a clue what he was talking about the first time he asked at an event in Birmingham, Ala., and she said she would consider it. The next time, at another event in Alabama, she fibbed and said she was working on it. When the man showed up at an event in Arkansas and asked the same question, she told him the pin was in development.

“It was the same guy, tall with curly hair, each time,” Emanuel said. “But he wouldn’t have followed us from Alabama to Arkansas. I believe he must have been an angel who was trying to inspire and direct me.”

In response, she launched Red Garden Designs and worked with an artist whom she grew up with in Wisconsin to create a lapel pin based on an eagle’s feather emblazoned with the phrase “cancer survivor.” Soon, she added additional merchandise, including hats, shirts and pop-up cell phone stands.

Hometown: Born in Alexandria, Va.; grew up in Stoughton, Wisc.; moved to Little Rock in 2007.

First job: Babysitting when I was 10.

What was your first big break? Meeting my husband, Peter, the love of my life. We have been married for 33 years and have three grown children. I consider getting him through medical school, residency, fellowship and beyond, while raising a family pretty much as a single mom a full-time job. I wish more women would realize how important their role as a full-time mom and wife is. It truly is a career and a very rewarding one, I might add.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? My children and how they have turned out. They all love the Lord, work hard and help in the community.

What’s something others would be surprised to know? Although I am always happy, I have had a lot of hard things happen in my life. I had two nephews who were murdered; my dad, an abusive, schizophrenic alcoholic, was killed by a drunk driver; and I’ve had a brain tumor, a stroke and several other health issues, but life is wonderful and God is good.

What do you love most about what you do? This feather represents survivorship and emphasizes hope. It is something different than the pink ribbon, and it is for both men and women.

What quality do you most admire in other women? We are strong and fearless, yet compassionate at the same time. We’re willing to help at a moment’s notice. I love it when we help each other succeed.

Women that I admire include: My mom, Sharon Bale, Corrie Ten Boom and Irena Sendler.

Personal motto: It’s a quote by Winston Churchill, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something in your life.”

What talent do you wish you had? I wish I could sing like Celine Dion, play the drums like Phil Collins and play piano like my dad.