Embracing You!

Wendy Klein
Bella Ragazza LLC
Burlington, IA
Bella Ragazza is a full service lingerie and foundation garment boutique, catering to all women of every age and size. Encouraging women to embrace what they have: their curves, size and inner and outer beauty.
My dream is to be a destination lingerie store focusing on the hard to fit women. Full busted, full figured women and women who have gone through breast cancer treatment do not have the variety of options as much as other women. My dream is to provide them with not only well fitting, supportive and fashionable undergarments and lingerie, but to also give them the boutique shopping experience they may not otherwise have. Bella Ragazza provides a one on one personal fitting with a trained fit specialist. We have created a beautiful boutique setting that is relaxing and welcoming. We strive to bring a personal and comfortable environment to every woman’s shopping experience.
Bella Ragazza (Beautiful Girl) opened in October of 2014 in Downtown Burlington, Iowa. Since then I have taken the time to listen to the concerns of these women and what they are looking for. Solutions are the common motivator for these women. Whether it is the full figured women, the full-busted women, mastectomy patient or elderly women with mobility issues, they all are looking for a solution to their foundation garment needs. My dream, of owning a lingerie boutique, changed when I started working with these women. Their frustration in finding lingerie became my focus and I was determined to find a solution.
The lingerie industry has made great gains in the design and construction of today’s foundation garments. Providing expanded sizing in cup and band has enabled the industry to connect with the full figured/full busted women. The industry has created superb fit, maximum support, and fashion forward designs enabling women of all sizes to have more choices.
Bella Ragazza is the only lingerie boutique in our surrounding area and has a reach of at least 30-50 miles. Women come from all over to shop in the boutique and get personally fitted. Word of mouth has been a primary driver in spreading the word about Bella Ragazza. One of my goals is to create a website and utilize social media to spread the word about Bella Ragazza and the unique service we provide. By utilizing these sources I will be able to reach even more women and spread the word that Bella Ragazza has the answer for the hard to fit women.
My dream was to own my own boutique. Today my dream is so much more than that. I want women to know that there is a place for them. I want them to know that they don’t have to travel hours or shop online only. I want women to throw away their frustrations because department stores don’t carry their size. I want women to feel empowered and beautiful. I want to build friendships with the women I work with. I want them to walk in and know that this is their store. I want them to have lingerie that fits, supports, empowers and makes them feel sexy and beautiful. I want them all to feel like a Bella Ragazza.
I have been around small business owners my whole life and always had a dream of owning my own business someday. It took several years and a life change that actually put me in the position to really go after my dream. I personally have always loved lingerie and foundation garments. My mother always told me growing up, "Wendy, every girl needs a good bra that fits". So when the moment came, I knew I wanted to own a lingerie store. At first it was more directed at lingerie, sleepwear, shape wear, lounge wear and foundation garments. When I began working with these women a repeated scenario kept coming up. The full figured/full busted woman had become frustrated and defeated thinking that there was nothing available for them that would really fit them. My heart went out to these women who walked in my door with a defeated look on their face because they were sure I wouldn't have anything that would fit. As I began to fit these full figured beautiful women and saw the happiness and smiles they had on their faces when I was able to put them into a well fitting supportive garment, I knew I had found my calling. Or when I did my first mastectomy fitting and we both cried because she said she finally felt like a whole women again. These are the experiences that make me love what I do. These are the reasons I know I am fulfilling a need. For these women it is not just a piece of clothing but life and attitude changing.
When I began this journey I used my personal savings to open the boutique. I felt that being personally vested was important to my success. I have operated on my initial investment and revolve any profit back into the boutique. I have not borrowed any capital for this venture and would rather grow slow than owe. At the beginning I had equal stock in various lines. As I move forward I am transitioning my efforts to build the lingerie and foundation garment lines. I have slowly added to my foundation garments one bra at a time. There are at least 210 bra sizes with 140 of them being the most frequently fitted. Because every woman is shaped different and every foundation garment fits different it can be a challenge to find the right fit when you don't have a full run in a particular bra. To achieve a proper fit, it is important to be able to move up or down in band and cup sizes when doing a fitting.
Because of my limited operating capital I do not always have the available sizes to work with. When this happens special orders are required. In most cases I will order several options to try and make sure we get the right fit. These special orders, with special orders being over 50% of current sales, can take up to 8 weeks leaving the customer disappointed and waiting.
The Dream Big Grow Here program would allow me to expand my cup and band sizes as well as increase the mastectomy and soft cup lines. By increasing my inventory I have the tools that I need to provide women a positive and proper fitting experience. I would also be able to expand my demographic reach by creating a website, increasing social media utilization and spreading the word to even more women.

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