Nicole Cuervo misses her grandma. Rose Barck passed away in 2016, leaving Nicole with lessons about life, and also with an inspiration to start a business.

Grandma Rose suffered from arthritis. Cuervo says what should have been a simple, quick, and painless task, putting on a bra, was difficult and extremely uncomfortable.

Now that the 26-year-old Cuervo is a graduate student at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of management, she has founded a company which will manufacture bras designed for women who have medical issues such as arthritis, mastectomies and strokes.

“The greatest need is for those with limited mobility and dexterity,” Cuervo says.

The product is also aimed at women over age 50 in general, a “highly under-served” demographic, Cuervo adds.

“Society is pretty ageist towards women 50-plus,” Cuervo says.

So Cuervo named her company Springrose, combining the pleasant images of spring with the name of her late grandmother.

Cuervo actually came up with the business idea while a junior at Brown University in Rhode Island, in 2015.

She researched it with a Grandma Rose-centered audience. “I had a focus group of 20 of her friends at a workout class,” Cuervo says. “They were pretty honest and blunt” about the need for a better bra.

The business idea remained just an idea, however, until Cuervo came to Northwestern last fall. Since then she has started the business, assisted by a team of fellow students. Other students at Columbia College Chicago are helping with marketing.

Cuervo says the bras are “built with features women have asked for,” such as front closures, no underwires, and wider straps, all for greater ease and comfort.

“A bra shouldn’t be something you have to think about daily,” she says. “Putting one on should not be a struggle.”

Cuervo has already hired designers, and hopes begin sales this fall. Besides having a website, Cuervo also is working to market the bras through physical and occupational therapists, whose patients may be in the product demographic.

And if Grandma Rose was here now, what would she think about the business she inspired, and the granddaughter who is creating it? “She’d be so proud, so happy,” Cuervo says.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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