“It’s been a journey for sure, but definitely inspired by my grandmother,” says Jones.
When Jasmine Jones saw her grandmother experience how difficult it was to shop for post-mastectomy bras and breast forms that fit her skin tone and new body after undergoing breast cancer, she knew it was time for change.
“Most survivors have to shop in medical supply stores for these items,” Jones explained to Nurse.org. “So they’re shopping behind aisles of laxatives and adult diapers and Bengay for bras and breast forms for the rest of their life. And when I watched my grandmother go through that, I started thinking that there should have been a better way. My sisters and I could shop in lovely lingerie stores but my grandmother had to go into this corner pharmacy-looking store.”
So Jones got to work and founded Myaa, the first direct-to-consumer insurance-billable, inclusive, intimate and prosthetics brand for anyone post-mastectomy. Now, Jones is a Forbes 30 under 30 list maker and one of the few black women in the world to close over 1 million in venture funding. Nurse Alice had the honor of speaking with Jones on a recent episode of the Ask Nurse Alice podcast and here’s more on their conversation.
“The Mastectomy Intimate Wear All Nurses Should Know About”
A New Shopping Experience for a Journey with Breast Cancer
Jones told Nurse Alice that in watching her grandmother be forced to shop for what she needed in a drugstore, she realized that those breast cancer needed a shopping experience that could more closely mirror their previous shopping experiences. So in October 2018, she opened the doors to Cherry Blossom Intimates, a brick and mortar lingerie store right outside of Washington, DC that also serves a fully accredited medical facility.
Cherry Blossom Intimates, Jones explained, looks like a lingerie store, but it has everything a doctor’s office has, so certified mastectomy fitter team members can fit breast cancer survivors for post-mastectomy bras and breast forms (which are prosthetic breast pieces).
“It’s a really lovely place,” Jones commented. “It’s a place you can come in and shop if you’ve experienced breast cancer or if you’re the bestie of someone who’s had breast cancer. You can both walk in and you can both find beautiful bras and you can both walk out and no one’s the wiser to who has what.”
The best part about her company, Jones added, is that as a medical facility, they can work directly with insurance companies to get the cost of post-mastectomy bras and breast forms covered. Jones explained that insurance covers the costs of post-mastectomy bras and breast forms, but unfortunately, not all people going through breast cancer realize that. But her boutique can bill most insurance providers for these costs so that patients don’t have to worry about the headache of doing the paperwork on their own. Her boutique accepts almost every major health insurance plan including Medicare and Medicaid.
“That’s what we’ve built,” she said. “It’s been a journey for sure, but definitely inspired by my grandmother.”
A Beautiful Vision
Jones explained that with a background in entrepreneurship, she always knew she would someday open a boutique and had a vision that one day she’d own a store that “made women feel really beautiful.”
She actually started her entrepreneurial journey with a vintage boutique clothes business, when she would buy vintage clothes from thrift shops then sell them to boutiques in Georgetown. It wasn’t until she was walking in a Susan G. Komen 5K for breast cancer, when she just so happened to walk next to breast surgeon Dr. Regina Hamton (now Myaa co-founder), however, that her vision is really solidified.
“We were walking and talking and she me about how her patients were told the same thing my grandmother experienced in her life of having an undignified shopping experience,” Jones remembered. The two ended up exchanging ideas for a store and business that could serve women who suffered the same issues.
“We spent the whole 5K walking and talking about this idea,” Jones laughed. “We didn’t run okay!”
Dr. Hampton ended up tracking Jones down after the race and the two explored working together to create a business that could combine Jones’ vision for beauty with Dr. Hampton’s medical expertise. And things “exploded” from there, Jones said.
“What began as a boutique concept became like a boutique with a tech component,” she explained. The boutique now uses 3D printing that can create customized breasts that look like the breasts that were removed by the surgeon. They are so detailed, in fact, that they can be created in any color and add personalization touches like freckles and veins. “We knew we wanted a space that made people feel good,” Jones said.
A Brand Expansion
From their initial offerings of bras and breast forms, Jones’ responded to her customers’ needs by expanding to offer even more products with “amazing styles” and inclusive sizes. For instance, they offer post-mastectomy bras that run-up to a G cup and a 5052 band, with plans to expand even further. They also have bras in over 200 sizes and intimates in XS-5X, with panty sizes going up through 10X.
Additionally, it was a priority for Jones to ensure that her company offered multiple skin tones for prosthetics. She shared that she had once attended a conference for durable medical equipment when someone there mentioned that it shouldn’t matter what color the prosthetic was because it would be in their bra anyway,
“I just remember thinking, ‘This is a reason why the industry is this way and I’m going to change it because there are a lot of women who are seeking their skin tone and who compromise like my grandmother,” said Jones. Jones believes that you should be able to choose your prosthetic skin tone, like you can choose your makeup foundation, so that’s exactly what her boutique offers, with 36 different custom skin tones.
The pandemic also prompts Jones to expand her business even more. After realizing that she could offer virtual fittings and services, Jones decided to launch Myaa, which blends the beauty of her brick-and-mortar store with virtual convenience. “What began as a boutique with a tech component became a tech company with a boutique feel,” she explained. “So you can have the same beautiful products and services that we offer in our brick and mortar store. From the comfort of home, you can be fit with a certified mastectomy fitter on a private secure video line. You can have all your questions answered. We’ll send you a fit kit so you can try everything on at home and you only pay for what to keep. And the best part is they can accept insurance that way too. So we’ll bill insurance for you, you only pay your copay, and then every time your insurance is eligible for more items, we’ll send more to your door.”
As nurses, Nurse Alice pointed out that it’s a great idea to be aware of the types of services that companies like Myya offer so we can educate our patients about them. With 40 medical facilities that already partner with her brick-and-mortar store, she’s encouraging medical professionals who work with breast cancer patients to take advantage of their new virtual offerings.
And while you don’t have to know the ins and outs of breast cancer care and insurance coverage, Jones assures us all that her team of medical billers has the knowledge–so point patients in her direction and she’ll take care of the rest . “We make it very, very simple,” she said.
For people undergoing breast cancer treatment and learning to navigate life through and after surgery, services and products like the ones Jones offers are life-changing. “Our patients, when I meet them, sometimes they cry because they’ve never had this before,” she shared. “Sometimes they ask if they’re standing in the right place. Our national customers with Myaa say, ‘I just love that this is so easy. I don’t have to go out and do anything. You all can just come to me and that makes my heart feel really good.”
Now about to become a mother herself, Jones ended her interview with Nurse Alice by sharing that she feels hope for the ways she has been able to renew a world where her own daughter may not have to experience what her grandmother went through. She feels proud of what she has been able to accomplish and hopes her daughter will grow up in a world that honors all of the different journeys women can travel.
“It’s a dream come true to be able to have a business that honors your family in such a way and that is creating a difference for so many women,” she said.