As the new year rang in 2020, Jasmine Jones envisioned pop-up shops for Cherry Blossom Intimates — an accredited medical facility housed within a lingerie boutique that provides breast cancer survivors with customizable prosthesis.
Eleven months into the unpredictable year, however, Jones innovated the startup into a virtual brand.
“I had to ask myself, ‘What would I do if I could never touch a patient again?’” shared Jones, who co-founded Cherry Blossom Intimates in Glenarden, Maryland, with Dr. Regina Hampton.
“We tested virtual fittings during COVID, and that proved to work,” Jones noted. “That grew us to a national — and soon international — reach.”
Click here to learn more about Cherry Blossom Intimates.
Cherry Blossom Intimates made its mark in Kansas City this summer when the startup was accepted into the virtual Techstars Kansas City 2020 accelerator class. The biggest takeaway from the accelerator for Jones was the “Mentor Madness” program, she said.
“It’s where you connect with around 90 different mentors for 20 minutes apiece over the course of three weeks,” she explained. “So imagine telling 90 CEOs, chief marketing officers or chief technology officers about your business back-to-back, and then having them ask drilling questions, as well as offer advice or critiques. After that, I knew I could survive anything.”
Techstars also introduced Jones to Tammy Ham, the president of BioNovus Innovations — a Kansas City venture capital and private equity firm that specializes in healthcare innovations.
Click here for a list of the other nine startups in the Techstars Kansas City 2020 accelerator.
BioNovus — along with Anna Mason (a partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund); Lesa Mitchell, managing director for Techstars Kansas City; SoGal Ventures; Davyeon Ross and Bread & Butter Ventures — contributed $2 million to fund the virtual version of Cherry Blossom Intimates.
Watch Jasmine Jones’ pitch during Techstars Kansas City’s 2020 demo day, then keep reading.
The COVID-friendly adaptation of the startup is planned as a smartphone app that will scan a user’s body for measurements, and then provide breast prosthesis through a prescription. It also is expected to include educational and community resources surrounding breast cancer, Jones noted.
“We will be able to fit our patients from the comfort of their home, which is really exciting,” Jones shared. “And then we have some other rollouts that will help us to bring community to women with breast cancer who are experiencing this challenging time in their lives, or who have experienced it, or who are looking for preventative methods and education about breast cancer.”
Ham noted Cherry Blossom Intimates’ ability to pivot and innovate during the pandemic impressed BioNovus.
“We believe it’s important to invest in innovative organizations — that’s part of the reason that [BioNovus] invested in Cherry Blossom Intimates,” Ham said. “They have this novel approach to breast prosthesis for an underserved population.”
Along with BioNovus-as-a-company’s interest in Cherry Blossom Intimates, Ham — who is a breast cancer survivor — said her personal connection to breast cancer gives her an understanding of the great need for such a venture.
“Cancer in general is an absolutely devastating disease,” Ham shared. “Breast cancer in particular can be devastating — not only physically but it can have an impact emotionally on women who look in the mirror after going through a mastectomy.”
Under the Cherry Blossoms
Jones’ passion for Cherry Blossom Intimates comes from her grandmother, who passed from breast cancer when Jones was in college.
“When she was still alive, I remember her shopping with her for post-mastectomy bras and prosthetics — it was always really crummy,” Jones recalled. “She had to shop inside of a medical supply store behind aisles of adult diapers, laxatives and bedpans. She was also a pretty brown woman, and the prosthetics were this beige-pink color that didn’t match her skin.
“It made no sense to me that my grandma had to shop there, but my sister and I could shop inside of Victoria’s Secret and these beautiful shops,” she continued. “I remember wondering why it is that women who have survived breast cancer and moved on with their life, still had to go to these medical places for the experience of being fit for a bra.”
Even as a young child, Jones knew something had to be done, she said. Years after her grandmother died, Jones met Dr. Hampton underneath the cherry blossom trees at the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C.
In October 2018, the two women launched Cherry Blossom Intimates — soon to be rebranded as “Myya.”
“That’s really inspired by Maya Angelou’s quote that says, ‘The goal is mainly not to survive but thrive,’” Jones noted. “That is my main ethos. I don’t want women to solely think about survivorship, I want them to think about completely thriving after cancer.”
Unlike Jones’ grandmother’s experience, Cherry Blossom Intimates provides its customers with the ability to fully customize their breast prosthetics including: skin tone, nipple size, freckles and veins.
Shop Cherry Blossom Intimates’ products here.