With a deep desire to help others and make a difference in people's lives, Nanette Parsons, owner of Leesburg's Best Rack Around, feels her life has come full circle.
Parsons set her sights early on becoming a social worker and ended up working in the corporate technology world for many years. After 12 years at AOL, followed by a stint at Neustar, Parsons left that chapter of her life behind three years ago to open her own specialty lingerie store.
"I knew it would be a huge change for my family and I was scared to death to open my own shop," Parsons said.
But she took a leap of faith and opened Best Rack Around in 2013.
Now, three years later, Parsons is preparing to move her award-winning shop into a new building she purchased in Crescent Place in Leesburg. The new building has double the space at 840 square feet, double the number of dressing rooms and will hold double the inventory, she said.
The shop has been designed with a special area for shapewear and bridal fittings. There will be separate sections for bathing suits, pajamas, lingerie, training bras, slippers and even men's underwear. In addition to her current lines, Parsons also plans to sell a new line of bath products, including candles, soaps and lotions.
Her job requires a wide range of talents, training and even medical background. She receives referrals from chiropractors, nursing and pregnant women, and teens who are in need of their first fitting.
"We have recently increased our young audience here. I tell the girls it is OK their bodies are changing, and confidence comes from within. I tell them what to look for with regard to breast health, and they should understand things like one breast is usually larger than the other," Parsons said. "Sometimes they are so happy to hear this encouragement and boost of self-esteem. They cry."
Best Rack Around joined forces with the Rotary Club of Ashburn to support their annual Mardi Bras effort in 2015. The Rotary Club of Ashburn has been a longtime supporter of an international nonprofit called Free The Girls, whose sole purpose is to help provide women who have been rescued from the sex trafficking industry in developing countries employment selling bras in the second-hand clothing markets.
In 2016, troop leader and Rotarian Sharon Wright from Loudoun Clear Marketing approached Parsons with the idea to bring her daughter's high school troop into the mix. Beginning in October, the troop will be blanketing Loudoun County businesses with pink boxes and fliers and asking them to collect new and gently used bras for the Free The Girls effort. The group donates a portion of the new bras collected to the Loudoun Abused Women's Shelter.
Best Rack Around and The Rotary Club of Ashburn together are planning a celebration event for Tuesday, Feb. 28 and calling it "Mardi BRAS."
Parsons plans to start a new project to collect new and gently used sports bras to help girls in middle and high schools.
Parsons has received local recognition for her business and was recently nominated for and attended the Best of Intima Awards in New York City - an Oscar-level award ceremony.
"Making it to the finals was huge and an incredible honor," Parsons said.
Most of her lines come from Europe and are high-end products. However, she tries to carry a variety of lines and price ranges to fit different needs.
"I tell my customers to just buy one good bra, and then come back for another one later on," she said.
Her next big focus is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
"This past year has been difficult. My father's cancer came back and a best friend died of ovarian cancer. No matter what type of cancer it is, it is all the same type of emotional ride, chemo or radiation treatment," she said.
Parsons works closely with the Loudoun Breast Health Network to assist women with mastectomy fittings, a job where she has received extensive training.
"I have been affected by so many things, my mom beat breast cancer, my aunt has beaten it two times, for me, it does not stop or begin in October. It is something I do every day and am always on a mission to help people in the process," she said. "The best feeling is to give someone who does not have insurance a prosthesis. It immediately boosts their self-esteem."
Parsons will be working at the American Breast Cancer Survivor Retreat in Loudoun Oct. 22, providing free fittings all day.
"We have an incredible need for mastectomy fitters. If someone wants to get trained it requires 500 hours before they are certified. We will continue to grow that side here," she said.
As of Nov. 1, Best Rack Around can be found at Madison Trade Plaza SE, #454, Leesburg.