The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) has recently welcomed Vanilla Blush as a new member. Vanilla Blush specialises in intimate healthcare apparel and devices for individuals who have undergone abdominal wall surgery.
The BHTA recently caught up with Nicola Dames, CEO of Vanilla Blush, to hear more about how the firm began, its unique products that combine fashion and healthcare while improving the lives of patients, and the tangible benefits of BHTA membership.
The inspiring story behind Vanilla Blush
Nicola Dames, originally from Dublin, embarked on her journey toward nursing by leaving Ireland in 1998 to pursue a nursing course at Kingston University and St. George’s Hospital in Tooting, London. Before venturing into nursing, Nicola gained experience working in pharmacies across Dublin, where she served notable figures such as Fr. Ted and Lisa Stansfield.
Her career path took her to Brown Thomas, a prestigious department store, where she further honed her skills in customer service and retail. After qualifying as a nurse, Nicola discovered her passion for neurology, particularly within the realm of neuro-intensive care units (ITU).
However, her journey took an unexpected turn when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Despite this challenge, she found unwavering support in her now-husband, who accepted her illness without hesitation and proposed to her.
Following their marriage, Nicola and her husband, a secondary school teacher and fellow ITU nurse, made the bold decision to leave their jobs and embark on a new adventure in Spain.
Nicola commented: “After our time in Spain, my illness started to resurface, and despite medication, it became increasingly difficult to manage. Following two hospitalisations, the realisation dawned that I needed to be closer to home for better medical support. With my husband being Scottish, we made the decision to settle in Glasgow.
“In 2006, just one year into our marriage, I received the joyous news that I was pregnant. However, this happiness was short-lived as I was soon admitted to the hospital due to complications. Within a few weeks, I experienced the heart-breaking loss of both the baby and my large bowel. It was during this tumultuous time that I underwent surgery, resulting in the creation of a stoma (Ileostomy).”
Vanilla Blush was born out of this journey.
A fusion between fashion and healthcare
Vanilla Blush unfolds a compelling narrative rooted in Nicola’s transformative journey from nursing to fashion, coupled with her personal battle with ulcerative colitis. This distinctive fusion of healthcare and design expertise propels the creation of intimate health apparel and medical devices for individuals with stoma/ostomy or hernias post-surgery.
Noteworthy milestones, such as winning awards, launching medical devices, and delving into university-led research, underscore the company’s commitment to innovation and enhancing the lives of those who’ve undergone major surgeries.
The global reach, team expansion, and recent initiatives, like the launch of a new website, signify continued growth and impact. Furthermore, the emphasis on working collaboratively with all partners in the industry, making Vanilla Blush data-rich, adds a layer of sophistication to its narrative—highlighting a commitment to comprehensive industry engagement and knowledge.
Overall, it’s a story of resilience, purpose, and ongoing dedication to advancing healthcare solutions.
Prioritising the patient experience and clinical need
Discussing some of the challenges Vanilla Blush faces, Nicola commented: “As a small business deeply rooted in patient care, we understand the critical balance between clinical necessity and patient experience. In the dynamic landscape of cost-saving initiatives within the NHS, where decisions often hinge on distinguishing between luxury and clinical need, we proudly stand as innovators who prioritise both.
“Our garments, born out of empathy and expertise, are more than just products; they are solutions meticulously crafted to enhance patient well-being.
“While larger competitors may have the resources to reach decision-makers first, we advocate for a fair and inclusive evaluation of innovative solutions from small businesses. Our commitment to excellence isn’t measured by the size of our team, but by the impact of our patient-centric approach.
“We invite policy and regulation decisionmakers to recognise the unique value that smaller, innovative businesses bring to the healthcare landscape – a value that extends beyond the balance sheets to the very lives we aim to improve.”
The importance of becoming a BHTA member for access to invaluable resources, expertise, and networking opportunities
Vanilla Blush decided to become a BHTA member for several compelling reasons, as Nicola explained: “First and foremost, our commitment to providing high-quality products and services aligned closely with the BHTA’s mission to promote excellence within the healthcare industry. We first heard about the BHTA through industry networks and recognised it as a reputable and influential organisation within the healthcare sector.”
Nicola added that by joining the association, Vanilla Blush gains access to a wealth of resources, expertise, and networking opportunities.
“This includes access to training and educational programs, regulatory guidance, and industry updates, all of which are invaluable for staying abreast of the latest developments and best practices in our field,” continued Nicola.
“Furthermore, being a member of the BHTA provides us with a platform to engage with other industry professionals, exchange ideas, and collaborate on initiatives that benefit the wider healthcare community. This not only enhances our visibility and credibility within the industry but also fosters partnerships and opportunities for growth.
“Specifically for our business, the BHTA can support us in various ways. This includes advocacy and representation on regulatory matters, ensuring that our interests are effectively represented at the policy level. Additionally, the association offers support with compliance and quality assurance, helping us to uphold the highest standards of product safety and efficacy.
“Moreover, being part of a larger association like the BHTA provides us with a sense of belonging to a community of like-minded professionals who share our commitment to excellence in healthcare. This collective strength enables us to amplify our voice, influence positive change, and drive innovation within the industry.
“In summary, our decision to become a BHTA member was driven by our shared values, the tangible benefits of membership, and the opportunities for collaboration and growth that it affords. We are confident that our partnership with the BHTA will not only support our business goals but also contribute to advancing healthcare standards and improving patient outcomes.”
To find out more about how the BHTA can support your business and how to become a BHTA member, visit this page.