This founder spotlight is brought to you by Startup of the Year.
When Jasmine Jones was a sophomore in college, she watched her grandmother fight a losing battle with breast cancer. The two were close, and after her grandmother’s mastectomy, Jones would join her on shopping sprees and wonder why there weren’t better options for survivors in need of specialized bras and prosthetics.
“The options were always really bad, and always inside a medical supply store hidden behind aisles of BenGay and walking canes — and only came in one color,” Jones says.
The former Miss District of Columbia USA set out to fill that void with style. Partnering with breast surgeon Dr. Regina Hampton, Jones launched Cherry Blossom Intimates in October 2018. On one level, the shop specializes in bra fittings, fine lingerie, and hosiery. But customers can also take advantage of 3-D chest wall scanning technology to create customized prosthetics using medical-grade silicone that comes in an unprecedented 36 different skin tones. The whole experience is delivered in a boutique setting, where customers walk in and sip tea as they peruse the offerings or get fitted for a bra one-on-one with a stylist.
“There are currently about 3.5 million women who are living with a history of breast cancer, and we’re really excited to be able to serve them,” Jones says. “She can customize her skin-tone, nipple size, and even add freckles and veins. With her new prosthetic, she can wear any bra that she likes.”
Jones and Hampton, who’s also the founder of Breast Care for Washington and a Howard University alumna, attribute their success to the way they build relationships with customers. “Women really appreciate brands that they can connect to on an emotional level,” Jones says. “For us, that growth has been so organic; it came through in our brand, and it counted in a time that mattered the most.”
That personal touch might be the secret to preserving a customer-base during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cherry Blossom’s first course of action was to go back to the drawing board and figure out how they could connect with clients. Fitting experiences are very hands-on, so although the boutique was initially closed when the pandemic started, Jones implemented virtual fittings, which helped carry the business from a financial standpoint.
She also hosted a separate virtual “pajama party” with customers, which helped them stay connected with the brand from an emotional perspective. “Our customers are our friends,” says Jones. “Being able to connect with them immediately was helpful for us.”
The shop was also featured on Good Morning America, which led to a feature from the My Black Receipt Initiative that encourages consumers to buy from Black-owned businesses. Jones has also been featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 and The Washington Post.
Cherry Blossom officially reopened to customers on an appointment-only basis on June 12, with amped up cleaning procedures, face covering requirements, and limited capacity in place. “We’ve even been seeing new patients and customers in our shop, open seven days a week,” says Jones. Word-of-mouth continues to be a powerful tool. “More often than not, women come in and say either their mom, sister, or friend is also a breast cancer survivor, and that’s been helpful for us in terms of building customer relationships.”
Jones has garnered the support of organizations such as Techstars, Female Founders, and the Tory Burch Foundation. Much of the business’ more robust funding has come from pitch competitions where Jones can flex her powerhouse public speaking skills to tell the brand’s unique story. Cherry Blossom Intimates secured $100,000 from SoGal Pitch Competition in February, and most recently, $25,000 at QuarantineCon.
“Mid-COVID the priority was to keep the doors open and pay the bills; now we’re focused on growth,” Jones says. “I see us being in every major city in every state across the nation, like the Warby Parker of post-mastectomy.”