It happened unintentionally.
Dana Wilson was on lunch break from her job in a prosecutor’s office, paging through a magazine, when she came across a story about a woman in Chicago who started a mobile bra-fitting company. Intrigued, Wilson, an Upper Township resident, did some research to see if there were any bra fitters locally, as she had difficulty finding the right fit herself.
Dismayed when she couldn’t find any, she promptly called her husband Jeff to tell him she was quitting her job to start her own mobile bra-fitting business. Jeff didn’t blink an eye.
“He said, ‘OK. I know you can do it’,” Wilson remembers.
It was that unconditional support from her family that encouraged her to make her dream a reality. Today, after traveling to over 6,000 clients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for seven years, Wilson, 33, has settled down, opening the brick-and-mortar swimwear, athletic apparel and undergarment store called Yes She Can! in Marmora in September.
Building confidence, one bra at a time
“What I enjoy is how excited women get with a bra that fits — how confident they become,” Wilson says of her customers.
Building confidence for women and girls is what this business is all about for Wilson.
“From doing it mobile, the thing that made a difference for me was helping young girls or nursing mothers or those who’ve had mastectomies and reconstructive surgeries,” she says. “Going to their homes … I had so many women cry on my shoulders … They were so thrilled (with the outcome). It’s just really exciting for me to help people boost their confidence.
Megan Cavanagh has gone back to where she came from. In more ways than one.
“The right bra can make a woman feel more confident. It doesn’t sound like a big deal for some women, but others have struggled,” says Wilson of clients who are nursing, have had breasts removed or are wearing prosthetics. “It’s emotional for them.”
One customer that Wilson helped uplift is Ramona Sanabria of Avalon, who met Wilson when she was a guest speaker at a breast cancer support group at Cape Regional Medical Center five years ago, speaking on the topic of bras and getting fitted after mastectomies or other aspects relating to breast cancer.
“Just knowing you have breast cancer … that knocks you off your feet and rocks your life. Then the aftermath, after you survive ... there are so many other things to deal with in survivorship. I was lucky I didn’t have to go through surgery. But I was still dealing with other issues from radiation,” Sanabria admits. “You lose your hair and know it will grow back. But your breast ... you go through this and deal with it for a long time.
“So I advocate all the time. I’m not an actress who can reach millions of people, but I am out there, among others, advocating and spreading the word about checking breasts and mammography. It’s important to find those in your community that can help you, even if it’s as simple as finding that person to fit you with the right bra.”
Yes, they can
Wilson admits she thought long and hard for a name for her store. Known as “Dana the Bra Lady” to longtime clients, she chose not to use that moniker for her store, thinking it would put her in a “bubble” and dissuade those shopping for swimwear and athleisure attire.
“I started thinking of the confidence-building part of what I do,” Wilson recalls. “I’ve always been a ‘can-do’ type of person. So I thought … ‘Yes, she can beat breast cancer. Yes, she can lose the weight. Yes, she can nurse her children.’
“I’ve been told I’m a bit of a dreamer. But, I push to make things a reality. I like to do things that make me happy. I do what I have to do to make it happen. And I want other women to feel that way, too.”
I don’t know about you, but every time I go to the zoo, I’m a little jealous of the marmoset…
That can-do attitude most likely stems from having to overcome her own struggles. A bad car accident at 19 put Wilson in a medically induced coma for more than a week, and in 2011, she had her own breast-health scare which, she admits, was the impetus for her career change just a few short months after that.
“I had to work with a breast cancer doctor. It wasn’t cancer, but it was still scary,” Wilson admits. “But going to the office and getting to know the women there — that was meaningful to me.
“I’m one of those people who have had things happen and I overcame them. I feel like I can give other women the power to overcome.”
Being relatable is a great fit
Wilson believes that being an everyday person who has had her own health issues helps other women feel comfortable with her, which she hopes translates into being comfortable in their bra, whether a customer is a cancer survivor, a stroke victim, a young girl getting a training bra or someone simply looking to update their lingerie wardrobe.
“My customers know that I’m a regular person who’s been through everyday stuff. I feel that I can relate to women who have been through struggles but still manage to get up every day and take care of a household and kids and everything else. And you don’t give up.”
Though Sanabria did not require a mastectomy, months and months of radiation distorted her right breast, making it hard and asymmetrical, causing her emotional distress on top of what she had gone through physically.
“I was having trouble getting fitted for bras. One of the things she (Wilson) did was help me a lot in getting a proper fitting — and be able to purchase bras that were attractive, trendy and supportive,” Sanabria says. “I was finally able to support the breast that had been radiated and have it look symmetrical. I could look good again wearing clothes. It was nicely corrected with the bras that she fit me with.”
Fit isn’t just important for cancer survivors, but for any woman.
“There are so many factors that go into bras and bra fittings,” she continues. “What if you went around every day wearing the wrong size shoe? Can you imagine being a size 8 and wearing a 6? It’s going to affect your health, your mood — most women can’t wait to get home and rip their bra off.
“I just want them to be as comfortable as they can be,” she says of her customers’ mental and emotional well-being.
Being supportive — and supported
Sunday evenings are “special” to Wilson. That’s when she opens her store to various organizations, whether cancer support groups, nursing groups or women who wish to have private bra parties.
“I just want them to have a no-pressure space. That’s hard for a lot of groups to have a female-friendly space with no men. Many women who have gone through a lot with their breasts prefer to come to me when we’re closed. They feel more comfortable, they want to feel safe and not worry that someone (another customer) might come in. So those Sunday nights are really special.”
Ceasing her mobile business to open her store was by no means an easy task for Wilson. But her upbeat and positive attitude has carried her through, and she’s truly enjoying being around such strong women like Sanabria.
“I have a husband, two sons and a male dog. I need some women in my life,” Wilson laughs. “This is my girl time! It doesn’t even feel like work. It feels great. It’s been such an uplifting experience.”
No pun intended, of course.