For Emily Austin, what started out as a college project, has turned not only into a successful startup business - but a labor of love. Her business, Elemental, LLC - manufactures and sells thermal bras designed with the needs of breast cancer survivors in mind.
While studying entrepreneurship at Central Michigan University, Emily partnered with two students for a class project; Sue, who is the fashion merchandise design engineer, and Haley, who also studied entrepreneurship. As they were thinking about different project ideas and inventions, they met a woman named Jodie, who recently had a double mastectomy and reconstructive breast surgery. She explained that she was cold all the time and always uncomfortable because her reconstructed breasts were always extremely cold – causing her body to be cold. She said that she could not even go swimming because the cold water was too painful for her to take. She explained that her two daughters also had reconstructive breast surgery and they experienced the same symptoms.
After researching the phenomenon, Emily and her partner discovered that Jodie and her daughters were not alone and that many women experienced the same problem. They discovered that women who have prosthetic reconstruction lose most of their breast tissue and because the nerve endings and blood circulation in their chest regulates their body temperature, if their implants are even a degree or two colder, the entire body becomes cold and extremely painful.
From Jodie’s dilemma, an idea was born, and Emily and her partner founded Elemental LLC, a successful business that designs and manufactures thermal bras for women who have had a mastectomy. Their main focus was to design this bra to be functional and fashionable. They researched and developed the product for over two years, creating prototypes, performing trials and recording data and feedback. As a result, they designed a thermal bra that was specifically created to support sensitive, reconstructed breasts and be both comfortable and effective at keeping breast tissue warm.
Emily explains, “Women who have went through this do not want a medical apparatus, they want to feel normal again – and have a regular bra that does not constantly remind them of everything they just went through.” While Emily has founded an impressive and lucrative business, she adds that she and her business partners are merely, “supporting survivors, one bra at a time.”