Mastectomy boutique pioneer branches out into regions

THE woman who pioneered the mastectomy boutique concept is now spreading her company’s reach.

Sadly, one in twelve women are likely to need a mastectomy.

Ros Worthington, who had a breast removed at 32 due to breast cancer, opened her first boutique in New Zealand 23 years ago.

Now she runs La Femme boutique in Queens Street, Perth and has franchises operating in Bunbury and Geraldton.

Running the boutique also earned Ms Worthington a finalist nomination in this year’s WA Business Woman of the Year awards.

She said her mother’s experience caused her to take her services to country areas.

“My mother walked around for ten years after her mastectomy wearing a bra stuffed with cotton wool in a sock,” Ms Worthington said. “She didn’t know who to talk to or where to go and because we lived in a country town it was harder to find help.”

The bulk of Ms Worthington’s clientele comes from hospital and surgeon referrals.

“I would see up to thirty women a week,” she said. “Not one woman that comes through the door acts the same. I can spend up to an hour and a half with a client. It’s very emotive.

“But as I say to some clients, I would rather lose a breast than an arm or my eyesight.”

Despite the popularity of the service, starting it up was not easy.

“I went to the bank in 1992 asking for $5,000. I was told they couldn’t help me,” Ms Worthington said. “I had a Visa card with a $1,000 limit so I used that to start the business.”

For the first five years, the business had little cashflow but in 1997 Ms Worthington added her friend Annette Spencer as a partner.

“Annette coming on board put a cash injection into the business,” she said. “We sat down and worked out a business plan and now we’re having our beginning.

“Yet even though we struggled through the first five years, turnover and profits continued to increase.”

To help raise money for cancer research, Ms Worthington is holding a mastectomy fashion parade.

Her clients, women aged from 27 to 77, will be acting as models for the event to be held at the Burswood Resort Casino in either October or November.

“In part, it’s an awareness campaign to prove there is life after cancer,” Ms Worthington said. “We also hope to raise up to $40,000 for the Cancer Wellness Association and Action on Breast Cancer.”

Along with her boutique, Ms Worthington also started the Variety Club in WA, earning the Order of Australia Medal for her efforts.

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