Freshman Leah Wyrick learned to overcome adversity at a young age. After watching her mother struggle with the pain of breast cancer surgery in 2016, Wyrick wanted to find a way to improve post-mastectomy experiences for other women.
Her goal: invent a better post-operative bra tailor-made for mastectomy patients. Wyrick is calling it the Resilience Bra. Her solution: create a company to develop, patent, produce and market the Resilience Bra. Wyrick named it the Three Strands Corporation after a Bible verse she feels encompasses the strength that breast cancer patients have when fighting their battle: “A cord with three strands is not easily broken.” Wake Forest’s StartUp Lab is helping her do just that.
“We want to give these women something so that they don’t have to go through the same complications as my mom,” Wyrick said. “If she’d have had The Resilience Bra, she wouldn’t have had such an uncomfortable experience.”
Wyrick got her inspiration for the Resilience Bra from her mother’s surgeon and longtime friend, Dr. Samuel Roy. The morning Wyrick’s mother went into surgery, Roy shared his idea for a bra that he wished existed — a bra that would take pressure off of his patients immediately following mastectomies.
“It was then that I realized I had to make this product,” Wyrick said.
It was critical that the bras contain the functional aspects needed to prevent infection and at the same time adapt to the unique shape and size of each patient’s body. Despite the consistent complaints that Roy received from his patients, he had not been able to find a bra on the market that could fill this need. It was no surprise to him when Wyrick jumped at the opportunity to make a difference.
“She cares about what’s going on with her family and at the same time has the drive to fix something and make it right,” Roy said. “You can’t teach that. It’s innate. You’re born with it.”
With the combination of Roy’s experience with the current problematic bras and Wyrick’s newly developed sewing skills, the team created a bra that contains features unique to the needs of patients and reduced the risks of complications after surgery. Although the bra’s specific features must be kept confidential while their patent is pending, Wyrick said the Resilience Bra addresses the maintenance of the surgical drain to prevent infection in patients while still accommodating differences in body type.
After actually producing her first prototypes in high school, Wyrick sought to take her company to the next level. Within weeks after arriving at Wake Forest, she brought her product to the Center for Entrepreneurship’s “Pitch Over Pizza” event where she was encouraged to apply to Wake Forest’s StartUp Lab. The lab has given her goals each week to get her company off the ground and provided her with tools to network. As a result, Wyrick has found contacts to help her develop additional prototypes for the bra and received grants to obtain a temporary patent.
“They have really good speakers who come in and are always willing to work with us,” Wyrick said.
Although she sometimes feels uninformed as the only freshman in the lab, Wyrick believes her work will be more than worth it once her product is able to help women in the same situation as her mom. Wyrick and her mother maintain a close relationship that has only grown stronger since their experience with cancer. While witnessing how hard the disease can hit a family, Wyrick admires her mother for her strength and grace throughout the process.
“She has inspired me by how strong she was, and she’s my best friend,” Wyrick said.
When Wyrick saw her mother lose a part of herself through the mastectomy, the mental process was tough — for her mother and herself. But Wyrick’s mother was always making sure that her family was okay. She maintained a positive outlook, with her focus on the bigger picture.
“If I had to go through what I did in order to help millions of women, it will all be worth it,” Wyrick’s mother said.
Currently, Wyrick is working to develop additional prototypes and, with advice from Wake Forest’s lab, is seeking investors to help her file for a permanent patent, develop a marketing plan and raise sufficient capital to launch full-scale production. After gaining as much business knowledge from her education at Wake Forest as possible, Wyrick plans to distribute the bra to private practices and eventually sell it in bulk to hospitals to give patients after surgery. For more information on the Resilience Bra and Three Strands Corporation you can visit ThreeStrandsCorp.com or email Wyrick at email@example.com.
“We can’t make a mastectomy any better,” Wyrick said. “It’s going to be tough, regardless, but we can try to help as many people as possible by making it a more comfortable situation. If we can help even one woman through this product, it will be worth it.”