SHERBURNE – It was a five-minute conversation with one of her clients, a breast cancer survivor who had undergone a mastectomy without reconstruction, that pushed Jill Nelson into the unexpected business of manufacturing breast forms.
A licensed massage therapist specializing in orthopedic injury work and oncology massage, Nelson was all too familiar with the pains of breast cancer recovery. But she was surprised to hear her client complain that there was no natural organic option in the prosthetic breast market. In fact, nearly everything available contained silicone and polyurethane materials — both substances that could cause adverse reactions to women. Not to mention, they simply weren’t comfortable.
“She fought so hard to make herself cancer-free and there she is, now having to put these breast forms and prosthetics up against her body, and she was just disgusted with it,” said Nelson.
Nelson started researching the market for lightweight breast prosthesis that favored organic materials, but came up empty handed. In fact, most products available were blamed for sweating, discomfort, and upper back pains. More importantly, she said, they were made with unnatural materials and chemicals, some of which she pointed out are deemed by the FDA to potentially cause cancer.
In response, Nelson launched a limited liability company, Natural Beauty Breast Prosthesis, in 2017. Today, after nearly six years of research and prototype development, Nelson has a natural organic product that she says addresses nearly all those concerning issues, and she holds the only pending patent for such a product on the east coast.
“We get to have this opportunity and honor to be able to serve millions of women from all over the world who have had mastectomies without reconstruction. We want to be able to provide them with an all natural organic product that will do no further harm to their bodies,” said Nelson. “We have a very unique product that serves a very unique and important need for these women.”
Nelson’s now working with a team of two to manufacture a tested product from a fitted site on Knapp Street in the Village of Sherburne. While still operating at a small scale, Nelson has a three-year plan to amp up production. Hopes are to hire four individuals by the fall and make as many as 1,000 units per month by year’s end. By the end of year three, Nelson’s aim is to hire as many as 50 individuals to manufacture up to 10,000 breast forms per month and then ship worldwide.
Of course Nelson is picking some help along the way, primarily by way of public-private funding. Three months ago, she landed a six-year, $10,000 economic loan from the Village of Sherburne to pay for manufacturing equipment. She was allotted an additional $25,000 business loan from the Development Chenango Corporation a few weeks later which will help modify her facility to meet manufacturing specifications, as well as hire and train new employees.
“It’s a fantastic business,” said Kerri Green, president and CEO of Commerce Chenango, the parent organization of the Development Chenagno Corporation. “They’re a new business, they’re a niche business, and it’s manufacturing. Those are all positives.”
“We were really happy to help with this project,” added Green. “It had a lot of levels for us in terms of what we’re looking for when we assist businesses.”
In the meantime, Nelson is pushing her product on her business’s website and plans to distribute it through breast form fitting boutiques and oncology centers. But she has her eye on something bigger. The goal, she said, is to sell through major medical device distributors further down the road. She’s even taking steps to have her product covered by insurance carriers with hopes of broadening her enterprise and reaching more women.
Efforts are also underway to expand the Natural Beauty Breast Prosthesis catalog, with colored straps to match different bras and skin tones likely to hit the production line in the near future.
“We want to be all inclusive,” said Nelson. “There’s over three million breast cancer survivors in the United States and over 300,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year. We’re trying to help as many of those as possible.”
More about Natural Beauty Breast Prosthesis can be found on its business website, organicbreastform.com, or by searching the business on Facebook.