Image Source: https://www.stltoday.com/
Heal Like Me Brown Bandages began with a conversation between Joy Barbre and her son Joe Weinstein. She’s a registered nurse who recently retired from St. Louis County Department of Health. He’s a computer-savvy data analyst whose past work experiences included working for a company that imported and sold party goods.
She lives in St. Louis. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska. Although they’re far apart, the two share familial values of kindness, optimism and compassion. Joe witnessed his mother’s goal-oriented get-it-done attitude when, as a single mom with three young children, she returned to school to become a nurse.
Inspiration and Joy • Her zeal for helping people through a career in nursing stemmed from a personal health crisis that required numerous delicate surgeries and numerous hospital stays. “When I watched and interacted with the nurses who cared for me, I realized I could do this. I would like to do this,” she says.
During her years as a public health nurse Barbre ministered to children and adults of all racial backgrounds. “Sometimes an adult or a child would just need a bandage, all of which matched my skin,” says Barbre, who is white. “For people of color, there were few choices beyond the light colors.
“I remember one day, I treated a young man, a junior in high school. He had very dark skin, and I put a light bandage on his cheek. He went into the restroom and looked in the mirror and I heard him say ‘This looks awful!’ and it did.
“Another time, when I gave a little one her options — red, blue, dinosaurs or princesses, and she said ‘I want one like me,’” Barbre says.
Soon after, Barbre spoke with her son about the incidents. “That’s when I came up with the idea to do something. My goal wasn’t to retire from my day job and start a business, but to acknowledge the importance of doing something to address this.”
More than just conversation • When mom talked, son Joe listened. “So I had contacts from the party supply house and sent an email to a former coworker. I knew he spent a lot of time sourcing all over the world. A couple weeks later I got an email back from somebody who could do it. We got a quote, a little back and forth, and we had a starting point to look into the possibility of making brown bandages,” Weinstein says.
Shades of difference • While Joe searched for manufacturers, Joy began market research. “I spoke with several coworkers who gave me input into which shades would be most appropriate. We currently offer two colors: medium dark and dark. Both seem to be good options,” Barbre says.
Affordable inclusivity • “One of the things is there was one company already doing this when we started last year, but their bandages are nearly three times as much as ours. We’re priced at about 7 cents per bandage; theirs are 20 cents a piece. A simple bandage is a commodity. It shouldn’t be a premium product. If you’re Caucasian it’s not an issue, but if you have any variation of darker or Asian skin tones anywhere around the world, you’re limited as to what’s available,” Weinstein says.
The lure of a bandage for kids • Getting a bandage can be a thrill, a palliative for anxiety, and proof of a parent’s love as well as a balm for hurt. “Children use bandages for all sorts of things in addition to ow-ies,” Barbre says. “I once found a shelf in my children’s room decorated with a border of bandages.”
Weinstein concurs. “Our 2-year-old uses one every day,” Weinstein says. “He comes into my office and hands me the box. He asks for brown bandages. All of the neighbor kids and friends use them now and only two of them have darker skin. They love them.”
Representation and awareness • For Barbre, expanding representation in toys, dolls, books and products of all kinds is critically important. “When I talk to my friends who are persons of color about the bandages, there’s a little bit of awkwardness for me, but when I reach out, it furthers the conversation about racial equity,” Barbre says.
Her son, who handles the logistics, keeping track of finances and order fulfillment, agrees. “Awareness is big,” Weinstein says. “There was a Black man working on our neighbor’s house a few weeks ago. I gave him a few boxes. He said ‘I’ve never seen anything like this — thank you.’ People are learning our bandages are priced right, and available. It starts with awareness.”
It’s a family affair • This mother and son duo each put their money as well as their hearts into bringing Heal Like Me Brown Bandages to market with the full support of their families.
We heard about them when Joy’s husband, Rich, emailed the Post-Dispatch to tell us about both of their nearly year old venture. His appreciation for his wife’s perspicacity shone through in his words. Daughter Jessica wanted readers to understand her mother’s decision to make and sell Brown Bandages wasn’t an opportunistic ploy to make money, but a compassionate response from a principled woman to address a need in the community she’d served for many years.
Fairness in all things • Although Brown Bandages have sold well throughout the country to individuals, schools, community agencies, and even to street medics, anticipated sales didn’t drive mother and son to pursue the business. “My goal was to emphasize the importance of meeting this need. We need more equality in health care. As a nurse, I think everyone deserves fairness in health care. This business seemed to be a natural progression. We’re just a small part; a little change, but if we all do the little things, bigger changes will happen,” Barbre says.
Heal Like Me Inc.
Makers and distributors • The mother-and-son team of Joy Barbre and Joe Weinstein create and market Heal Like Me products.
Ages • Joy is 63; Joe is 37.
Families • Joy has been married to Rich Barbre for 28 years. She has three children, sons Joe and Jordan, one daughter, Jessica, and 6 grandsons who “add energy and love to our lives,” Joy says. Joe and his wife, Kristin, have three sons, Brayden, Teddy and Everett.
Homes • Joy lives in Ballwin; Joe lives in Omaha, Nebraska
What they make • Joy and Joe design, produce, and sell Brown Bandages, a line of skin tone bandages for brown skin.
Where to buy • Heal Like Me Brown Bandages are currently available for sale on Amazon.com.
How much • Brown Bandages are available in two colors, medium brown and dark brown. All orders ship free. 100 bandages are $7; 200 bandages are $13; 500 bandages are $32.
Story Source: https://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/made-in-st-louis-mom-son-create-bandages-for-darker-skin-tones/article_443828da-bab3-545b-aa49-2d156744b116.html?fbclid=IwAR1JckgMuzUTpLEC2MogoWsCKr1qvHNvZQzx53-jLS4z0tBF9qAFN7WZF04