Meet Our Fit Specialist of the Month
Get to know your fitter! Amoena highlights a certified mastectomy fitter each month.
Angie Bullington and Danine Harden -- Women's Health Boutique
Houston, TX -- June-July, 2014
Without a doubt, women in Houston are blessed to have the Women’s Health Boutiques available for their mastectomy needs. The success of this venture is due to the diligent determination of two women, Angie Bullington and Danine Harden. In the past 11 and a half years, these two business partners and friends have been a driving force, turning their vision into a thriving and much needed reality.
Danine was born in San Antonio, and grew up in Houston and Albuquerque, NM. Angie started life in the small town of Findley, Ohio but is quick to point out that she feels like a Texan since she’s called Houston home for 37 years.
Both women recognize how fortunate they were not only to meet, but also to be fearless enough to take a leap of faith together and create a successful enterprise. Both of them agree that while it hasn’t always been easy, they can’t imagine doing anything else.
Amoena: How did you become a fitter?
Danine: I could be wrong, but I don't believe anyone goes to college with the intent of becoming a mastectomy fitter. At least I didn’t. I wanted to teach and write. However, I ended up working as an IT Recruiter in the oil and gas industry. I was really good at it until I had my first son in 2001. He totally changed my perspective on the world and the grueling nature of the corporate life. I wanted more time with him, and still wanted to work, just not as hard.
It all changed in 2003. Angie called me at work in January of that year and asked if I was interested in co-owning the Women's Health Boutique, with her. I knew NOTHING about the business whatsoever. So, naturally I said "yes!"
After several weeks of mastectomy training, we were business owners AND I found out that I was pregnant with my second child. The first year was exciting and tough. We not only had to learn what it meant to fit women for their mastectomy products, but we also had to learn how to run our own business.
Angie: I graduated from the University of Houston in the inaugural Entrepreneurship and Innovation program in their business school. My mom and I opened a franchised bakery in 1995, which we sold in 2001. It was a great experience, not to mention where I met my future business partner. I knew at that point I wasn't cut out for a "corporate" life and wanted to do something that made a difference to women. In 2003, Danine and I had the opportunity to purchase our first Women's Health Boutique. The rest is history!
Amoena: Tell us a little about Women's Health Boutique.
Angie and Danine: The Women’s Health Boutiques in Houston are pretty spectacular. Our goal is to ensure that each person that walks into one of our stores will come away looking amazing underneath her clothes. We believe that our stores are more than just a mastectomy boutique. They are a place where solid, trusted relationships are established, for the long haul.
Amoena: What products does Women’s Health Boutique carry? How many locations do you have?
Angie: We have two Women's Health Boutique locations and two Second Silhouette locations.
Danine: Each of our locations carries prostheses, bras, compression garments, wigs, turbans and custom breast prostheses. We also carry pajamas, swimsuits and shapewear.
Amoena: What do you think makes Women's Health Boutique unique?
Angie: Our comfortable boutiques are completely different from your standard "DMEs." We try and change things around to keep the stores looking fresh and not so medical. Customer service is our priory.
Danine: Our detail to customer service.
Amoena: What is your favorite Amoena bra and why?
Angie: I love the Lara bra. It's not a universal fit, but when it works it is a great "modern" bra. We do really well with the Rita for fit and comfort and not much beats the Michelle camisole for post-surgery.
Amoena: What is your favorite Amoena breast form and why?
Angie: I think Amoena universally makes great forms. Different fits for different needs. Their Aqua Wave is a definite standout for a swim form and can also be used in some lumpectomy/reconstruction cases.
Danine: The Essential Light. It’s a simple, basic breast form that works for most people.
Amoena: What is your favorite part of being a fitter?
Angie: When a customer looks in the mirror and says, "Wow!" And when a customer hugs me, I know I've done my job.
Danine: When a customer bares her soul to you.
Amoena: What are some of the challenges of being a fitter?
Angie: There are some challenging surgeries out there which make fitting difficult. It's hard when you've given them the best possible fit and it's just not quite as perfect as you want it. I guess my biggest challenges, though, are the women that you can tell had previous body confidence before mastectomy that they can’t replicate - and now they are just so unhappy with their bodies. You just want to tell them that everyone is flawed and that it doesn't mean they aren't perfect!
Danine: When a new customer says, “I simply want my breast back.” I have heard this a number of times over the years. Logically, she knows it is impossible, but her sadness, at that moment, makes it difficult to fit her and understandably so. She’s just not ready to be fit, yet. So, I won’t. She will not be happy and I won’t leave her with a bad experience when I know that she might have an amazing experience at a later date, when she is ready.
Amoena: What's the most important thing you've learned over the years?
Angie: Self-employment can be very challenging but so rewarding. As cliché as it sounds, I've really learned that life is too short, and you sure as hell better make the best of it. I've also learned that life is too short not to be kind.
Danine: When you love what you do, people love you. The confidence in your fitting shines through and makes for a wonderfully secure experience.
Amoena: What do you think makes a good fitter?
Angie:Kindness and confidence are at the top of my list.
Amoena: When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Angie: Aside from my business babies, I have two daughters who are the true loves of my life. We love to laugh!
Danine: Vacationing with my husband and two boys!
Our families are very close and have been extremely key in helping us remain balanced and helping with our children, over the years. We have both been lucky to have mothers that made our working and growing businesses, easy. We owe them a lot of credit and could not have grown to five stores without them!
Amoena: If there was no breast cancer and you weren’t a fitter, what would you want to be?
Angie: I can imagine myself as either a food writer or a critic.
Danine: A writer for SNL.