25 Years Strong in the Mastectomy Bra Fitting Business!
By Ramona Hertzell, CFm Owner of Second to Nature Boutique, LLC
500 – A State St., Greensboro, NC 27405 www.stnboutique.com
When I started fitting bras for women who had mastectomies back in 1997 there were very few choices available. I would get dressed in my white uniform and white shoes and go to the homes of these women who had made an appointment with me to have a good bra and breast prosthetic in hopes that they would feel like themselves again. I would ring the bell and they would invite me in with my bag full of bras and prosthetics. I would get to know about them in their family room and do intake with them and find out about their health insurance. A friendship would blossom with many of these women. Then we would usually go into their bedroom so I could measure and try on the samples I had in my bag. Back then I only had two bra styles that really worked well for a good fit and the basic white, beige and black to choose from. I usually would fit them in a teardrop shape silicone prosthetic which was so heavy they could hardly believe it, but I would tell them in a good fitting bra, once they had it on, they would not feel the weight of the prosthesis and it would stay down better than if the prosthesis was lighter weight, which was true. This was my routine for a good 5 years in the beginning. Of course, in the back of my mind, I would be thinking, there has got to be a better way! These women need to come to me at a shop and they should have a great shopping experience after all they have been through with the surgery and this new normal they would somehow be living now.
So, this soon became my reality and I opened a beautiful boutique on State St in Greensboro, NC. It was bright and airy and cheery and some pink but not too much pink, but enough to make them feel good. I had the accessories, the nightgowns, the camisoles, bras in all the colors, many prosthetic choices and skin tones and different shapes depending on the type of surgery. There were very, very few shops like mine in the country. Most women had to order from a catalog or go to a medical supply store where there was a male there to take their order or hand them something to try on. I took as much educational training and classes that were offered as I could. I wanted to offer the best possible service. I wanted the ladies to have the best possible fit and listen to their needs and give them what I could that the insurance would allow them to have. It was very intensive but very helpful and insightful to the medical community and the patients. I put a lot of effort into educating the public about what we do and what was available and about insurance benefits.
I had a vision for this shop and what it could possibly do for the many, many survivors and how it would fulfill a need for them. It could be a real shopping experience and they could realize “Hey, I can still get pretty, colorful bras, even though I have been through something somewhat traumatic”. It has fulfilled a need in myself that I didn’t realize, but to help these women really did make me feel like it was all worthwhile.
As, the business and industry grew, I just went with it and grew my service by doing everything I needed to do to make the business compliant and honest and kept building my customer base. From what started out as a customer base of about 100 has now grown into serving thousands and thousands of women with this service from all areas around. I can truly say I really enjoy getting up every morning and going into the shop to see what the day will hold for me. Most do not know what to expect when they come into my shop, Second to Nature, but by the time they leave, its usually with a very thankful attitude and a big smile on their faces! There is no better feeling than having accomplished that result for your customer, patient and client base!
After 25 years, it has been a joy, to be a part of the industry in its growing up years and to have had a part in making it better and better! The friends and business associates I have made have all been truly interested in what we all do together and how we can network and stay in touch with each other. We love brainstorming our ideas, even if we have shops not that far from one another we are like family. The unselfish giving of ourselves to each other in the same industry really sets us apart and it’s a good feeling to know we have that kind of relationship with each other in the industry.
So, here’s to 25 years in the industry and it is only getting better and better!