The Art of Esteem Building

Bra La La owner moves from biochemistry, to entrepreneurship, to philanthropy

Article by A. Kenyatta Greer

Photography by Edison Manalo Poemtography

Originally published in Columbia Lifestyle

For 15 years, Mary Jordan sold lab equipment and supplies to the biotech industry, drawing upon her years prior as a pre-veterinary student. And a pre-medical student. And a lab worker helping to research cancer at Georgetown University. So, her current position as owner of Bra-la-la in Fulton begs the question: How does a promising scientist break into – and dominate – the undergarment business?

As a salesperson, Jordan watched her territory get bigger and bigger while the needs of her young daughters at home did, too. Weighing their priorities, she and her husband decided that it was time to do something new. They first looked into opening an organic market, but when Jordan’s friend told her about a great bra fitting experience she had in Virginia Beach’s Full Cup boutique, Jordan ventured south to check it out. The whole idea of a service-oriented business intrigued her, and she began investigating the concept.

Jordan looked into the demographics of Bethesda, MD, an area that immediately appealed to her, until her husband suggested she look closer to home: Howard County. She took revved up her scientific engine to research the viability of a new store. She created a one-page survey and took to the road – the coffee shops, actually. From Gaithersburg to Elliott City, she approached women in coffee shops and persuaded them to take the survey. The response to the concept of an undergarments shop in Howard County was overwhelming.

She took her idea – and her research – to banks who began wrestling over her business. Today, Jordan celebrates 13 years as the owner of Bra-La-La, where she employs eight others who help her in her mission to enhance every woman’s well-being and esteem by finding her perfect fit.

A “serial philanthropist” is what Jordan is called these days, she says: “I volunteer a lot where I feel like I can help the most.” For her, that’s the Young Women’s Giving Circle; Success with Style, a domestic violence and homelessness shelter that helps get women back into the workforce and to which her company donates 500 bras per year; Better Bedrest, where she was on the board for years; and a local high school and community college, where she talks about the interviewing process, leadership, and entrepreneurship. She says, “You need to see where you can get in there and help at least one person have a better day every day.”

While she’s leading with her heart, Jordan is not lacking on the skills. When she decided to take this business on 13 years ago, she got information on how to fit and what to order straight from the source: the manufacturers. However, until she procured a brick-and-mortar location, they were hesitant to work with her. Understandably, they were protective of their brands. So, she found other ways. “I went to a trade show, and it was like being dropped onto another planet. But, I knew if I could sell biotech, I could sell anything. In biotech, I felt like a partner to my clients – like I provided a service. I got to know people individually and learned their needs. I wanted to do this in my new business, too.”

Owners of a shop called Top Drawer in New Hampshire took Jordan under their wings. They brought her out for a week and mentored her on the basics. First, she learned that the art of bra fitting is not scientific. There is no standard unit of measurement for bras among manufacturers. Once she’d signed her lease, she contacted the manufacturers that her New Hampshire friends used. They came to work with her, sharing details about their individual brands and helping her learn what makes a good fit.

Now, Bra la la has more than 5,000 bras in their store with more than 200 sizes to choose from. “We have as close to a custom fit as you can get. If we don’t have it, we’ll make it,” Jordan adds, explaining that they’ve altered larger cups onto bras for nursing mothers and custom fitted bras for clients with scoliosis. They’ve worked with post-mastectomy patients and older women whose lifestyles are changing. What they offer is an experience, and that’s what Jordan hopes will keep people coming into the store in a time when online is easier. “Eight out of ten times, we can put someone into a better fitting bra. We feel like fairy godmothers.”

While the store also sells bridal trousseaus, fun and flirty robes and – now – men’s underwear, the idea behind it all is the same. She says, “A good fit helps you present yourself better to the world. When you’re feeling better about yourself, if you don’t feel uncomfortable, everything comes together better.”

Visit them at

Businesses Featured in this Article

Related Businesses

Park Place

Department Stores

Park Place

Leawood, KS

With the charm of mainstreet, Park Place offers the best in local, regional and national venues. One-of-a-kind boutiques line...

Bespoke Apparel

Mens Clothing

Bespoke Apparel

Clayton, MO

At Bespoke Apparel we take a holistic approach to maintaining our clients' wardrobes. We work with you to build a cohesive...

See More

Related Articles

See More