June 13, 2023
Jean Criss’s recovery from a difficult breast cancer journey inspired her in many ways, including leading her to a whole new entrepreneurial venture, CRISSCROSS Intimates, a fashionable and comfortable line of post-surgical and adaptive intimate wear. Jean’s desire to pay it forward to cancer survivors has been vision and the line was welcomed in the adaptive and active wear marketplaces since it is so versatile, and the undergarments are beautiful. Read on to learn more about Jean’s story launching her business and advice for other entrepreneurs.
It has also been important to manage my own destiny and business, paying it forward with a fashion line dedicated to breast cancer and beyond.
Why did you start your business? What motivated or inspired you?
My journey with breast cancer, the recovery process, and after the loss of my aunt who also had breast cancer, inspired me to create and innovate a contemporary line of post-surgical and adaptive intimate wear, CRISSCROSS Intimates. I am self-taught and was motivated to learn the fashion industry from the ground up. It has been a fulfilling and therapeutic process throughout my recovery.
It has been important to manage my own destiny and business, paying it forward with a fashion line dedicated to breast cancer and beyond. My belated aunt, who died tragically of malignant breast cancer, was the inspiration for my very first bra, the Nina Bra. In her memory, I will continue to design this fashion-forward, contemporary collection of post-surgical undergarments, also worn as adaptive and active wear for people with disabilities and for active women on the go. We also have a men’s line of compression undergarments. I desired to offer a full ensemble of bras, panties, leggings, accessories, prosthesis, etc. so that when you come out of the operating room, CRISSCROSS Intimates offers one-stop shopping. Physicians really don’t direct or guide you where to shop post-recovery. I wanted to fill that void in the marketplace.
Can you identify a moment in your business that was pivotal in your success? Have you had an “AHA!” moment(s)?
Yes. I was in the hospital for ten days recovering from breast cancer infections, including MRSA, and I was frustrated with the very uncomfortable and ugly bras I had to wear. I was in so much pain that I put pen to paper to document my journey. This resulted in my first book, 'My Pain Woke Me Up - BLISS!' a story about love, life, survivorship and the pursuit of happiness. The next step was to design an entire collection of post-surgical undergarments that I envisioned future breast cancer survivors wearing, along with garments for healthcare professionals. Bras, panties, hospital gowns, medical scrubs, camisoles, men's vests, etc. My "AHA" moment brought me joy during this dark time, knowing I could die from a bacterial infection rather than the cancer itself. I got creative and innovative and learned how to pay it forward and I am still doing so today!
How long have you been in business and has your business changed since you started it?
The utility and design patents for my line of garments were created in 2013 - 2014. In 2016, we had a NYC soft-launch fashion show, then tweaked the undergarments to launch over 300 SKUs in April 2017 with an e-commerce site selling the final products and styles at CRISSCROSSIntimates.com. The site has been live for six years with partners like WMarketplace.com, most recently, being added to our affiliates. (Editor’s note: we are so glad you joined us!).
You need to dedicate serious time and commitment, financially and mentally, to launch a product and/or service from scratch. They say it takes a village, and sometimes it takes more.
Do you have a mentor, formal or informal? What role have they played for you?
My pre-launch involved around a dozen professionals, which were hand-selected to form my Advisory Board. They were from various industries and provided a wealth of knowledge to my startup.
Do you have any advice for other women who are getting started in business?
Make sure you have money in the bank, and don't give up too soon. You need to dedicate serious time and commitment, financially and mentally, to launch a product and/or service from scratch. They say it takes a village, and sometimes it takes more.
If a journalist were to write a headline about you/your business, what would it be?
A breast cancer survivor who self-taught, designed and innovated a fashion-forward intimate apparel line and raised awareness nationwide and in Hollywood, put her mark on an industry typically known for family legacy-owned businesses (all while recovering from breast cancer herself). A remarkable, woman in tech, woman-owned business story.
Is there a non-profit or other social/mission-oriented business that your business supports? Can you tell us about this?
I have self-funded the entire collection to-date, and we do offer a half dozen key breast cancer charities that shoppers can donate to through purchasing our products. I served on the Board of Trustee at Susan G. Komen while researching my line and once diagnosed with breast cancer. I have supported Komen and various philanthropic cancer organizations since then and continue to give back yearly.
Thank you, Jean, for sharing your advice and journey with the WMarketplace!
SHOP cRISSCROSS INTIMATES
Launched in 2020, TheWMarketplace is a nationwide e-commerce marketplace for women-owned businesses to sell their products and professional and personal services. Offering favorable terms to its sellers, it also is a supportive community of women entrepreneurs that have access to learning opportunities through the trademarked HER-Commerce™ programs. With over 500 women-owned businesses selling 4000+ products and services ranging from home goods to coaching, in over 35 states, TheWMarketplace empowers shoppers with a new way to find the communities they want to support, including Black-woman owned, Latina-owned, AAPI-owned, Veteran woman-owned, and more. The Her Story Q&A is one benefit TheWMarketplace provides to sellers.