Harper Wilde takes the B.S. out of Bra Shopping. We offer a novel Free Home Try-On program for our three ethically-made, high-quality, styles. From day one of building this company, the mission has been to empower women, lifting up ladies everywhere in every step of their lives.
From our manufacturing partner that empowers the women who make up 75% of its workforce, to the bra donations we make locally and our partnership with Glamour Magazine’s The Girl Project, we aim to #LiftUpTheLadies.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur? Is having your own business something you always wanted?
Jenna Kerner: Solving a real problem that I acutely felt. I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. In fact, it was the one career path I thought I would never pursue. But starting this business never felt like setting off to “be an entrepreneur.” Instead, it felt like solving a puzzle - and I love puzzles. First, I was confused why bras were so expensive. Jane and I dug into that to get to the bottom of that question. Then once we realized they didn’t need to be so expensive, it went from being a puzzle to being a calling. I felt it was such an injustice that I was being overcharged for my basic commodity and that all of the brilliant women around me were too. I was frustrated learning that many bra companies were run by men and frustrated about the marketing and positioning of a product for women that’s marketed to men. It felt like while every other industry was innovating and moving forward, intimates was stuck in the 50s. As soon as I learned all of this, starting this business was something that I couldn’t turn away from.
How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?
Jenna Kerner: The idea came about very organically. We asked a simple question: “Why are bras so expensive?”
We did a ton of research to figure out why the industry was the way it was, but we just ran into more questions. We didn’t understand why brands were hyper-sexualized, or why typical models did not resemble the everyday woman. We didn’t understand why bras came with embellishments that almost no woman we spoke with enjoyed, let alone purchased. And we certainly didn’t understand why bras needed to cost $60-$80 (or more!).
One thing became clear to us quickly - women HATED buying bras. One woman even told us “buying bras is like a tax on being female.” Needless to say, comments like this further drove our passion to make an overdue change in this industry. We decided we would create the simplest, most hassle-free experience possible. And so, we build Harper Wilde to take the B.S. out of Bra Shopping.
Was it difficult get capital/investors? Has anyone underestimated you as a female entrepreneur? If yes, how did you handle it?
Jane Fisher: Yes. It was very difficult to fundraise. It’s one of the toughest aspects of building a start up for every founder - regardless of gender. We ran into particularly interesting challenges because we had to pitch a product, bras, for which the majority of investors have never shopped or worn. We overcame these challenges in a few ways, the most effective of which was bringing humor into the conversation. It was very apparent from the early days of pitching that many men were uncomfortable talking about bras and, rightfully so, did not fully understand the pains of bra shopping. So rather than try to explain it to them - we made them internalize the struggles by creating a parallel scenario in which shopping for boxers was just as treacherous as shopping for bras. We didn’t just talk them through it, we showed it through a humourous video we created that depicted a man going into “Dick’s Drawers,” where he gets his crotch measured, is then offered an onslaught of options included the padded briefs and the family jewel collection, and finally he checks out paying an enormous amount for just 1 pair of boxers. Needless to say, the point was made, and the ice was broken for us to have more productive fundraising conversations.
What do you think about company culture? What are some of your tips on being a good leader?
Jenna Kerner: We have thought about culture from day one. We created brand values that align with internal company values so that what we put into the market is reflective of how we live our day-to-day and how we operate as a company. We find this to be the key to a successful company culture and a successful brand. As leaders, we also try to understand what energizes people and what de-energizes them, and we craft roles that strike a balance to keep teams motivated and excited about the work they’re doing.
What is one thing you find to be true that most people would disagree with?
Jane Fisher: Having Co-CEOs is not objectively a bad thing. The vast majority of investors think that co-founders who are also Co-CEOs must be structured that way because they couldn’t make a decision about who would be CEO and there is thereby tension in the relationship which could lead to problems in the business. Being Co-Founders and starting a company together is one of the most intense relationships you can be in - it’s like a marriage. Within marriages, we don’t walk around saying there’s one right way for a couple to be structured in order for them to be happy together - “For all couples everywhere, there must be one person who makes all decisions for the family, while the other follows what she/he says without question.” That would be crazy - because each couple has different types of people who function differently. Co-Founder relationships are the same - how they work together best depends on the individuals, their values, what motivates them, their relationship with one another and so much more.
While many believe Co-CEO partnerships arise from indecision or from a fear of conflict. ours is the exact opposite. We had difficult conversations up front to determine that Co-CEO structure would work best and to clearly define our decision making process and responsibilities such that we could operate efficiently and effectively. We see it as an advantage that we have over other companies, and we’re more energized than ever to prove that through our successes with Harper Wilde.