It was intended to be a gag gift; fake nipples designed to make women look cold but feel hot, But, what started out as a fun fashion statement evolved into something much more meaningful.
At first, Birmingham resident Molly Borman made Just Nips using drug-store and Amazon-purchased pasties, a glue gun, and Mardi Gras beads. It grew into a business after she started wearing the stick-on fake nipples, and women began asking how to get a pair.
When the product launched in 2016, national media outlets like Glamour, The New York Post, and Allure hailed Just Nips as a hot new accessory.
"The more press we got, the more people would email saying 'Hey, I'm a breast cancer survivor, or I'm going through treatment, can I use your product? Is it safe to use over an incision?' I was getting hundreds of these emails," said Borman, who was living in New York at the time but has since moved back to her hometown of Birmingham with her husband, Larry Heymont, and their two-year-old son Henry.
When Borman first developed Just Nips, she worked as a copywriter for Ralph Lauren's website. She didn't have experience starting a business, and had no idea whether her product could be used by women who had undergone breast surgery.
"I remember calling my dad and saying I don't know what to do," she said.
Her dad's advice, "If you think this is something you really want to pursue and could be a real business, you have to do it right, and doing it right means bringing in a medical engineer."
Borman followed her father's suggestion. She developed a latex-free product using non-sensitizing materials, making Just Nips safe to wear and painless to remove. It became the fastest-growing breast cancer nipple accessory.
At the time, the only other product on the market was a $300 prosthetic. Borman's one-time use fake nipple sells for $9.99. A reusable pair that can generally be worn up to 10 times sells for $24.99.
Today, 70 percent of her customers have been impacted by breast cancer.
"From the start, I always knew Just Nips Fake Nipples would be involved with breast cancer awareness and care in some way, but I wasn't sure how," Borman wrote on her website. "As our product gained publicity, women from all over the world reached out to share their stories about post-mastectomy life without nipples.”
The company also donates thousands of fake nipples to breast-cancer-related charity events, hospitals, and plastic surgeons.
"This allows them to say, 'here's an alternative,'" said Borman. "We obviously want to be sensitive because it's such an emotional topic. A lot of the doctors that we work with say that when people get our products, it makes them smile.”
In addition to product donations, the company likes to make financial contributions to various charities. One of their favorites is Cap & Conquer, an organization that raises money for local women using cold cap therapy, a treatment designed to reduce chemotherapy-related hair loss.
Borman brought her sister, Hannah Crane, a Bloomfield Hills artist, on board when she needed help with her rapidly expanding company.
Borman, like her sister, has a talented creative side. In addition to running Just Nips, she takes whimsical photos of Barbie dolls. The dolls are styled with custom-made jewelry and clothing. The prints, a fun mix of glamour and nostalgia, start at $600, with a portion of all sales going to charity.
Borman and Crane have further capitalized on their creative talents with Housewife Essentials, an online site that highlights Borman's art and beautifully patterned, high-end Coco Chanel-inspired wallpaper they've designed.
Borman's products can be found on justnipsforall.com and housewifeessentials.com.
Story: Jennifer Lovy
Photo: Laurie Tennent