Many people have something in their lives that never fits quite right and is a constant annoyance. Most people do not find a solution to that problem and start an entire company dedicated to solving that problem for others. However, Pepper founder Jaclyn Fu did that exact thing for women with small bra cup sizes.
Fu realized the impact of designing bras for women constantly being told they are not beautiful enough on their own by major retailers selling push-up bras only in lower cup sizes.
“Pepper was very much inspired by my personal experience growing up as a small chested woman,” Fu said, “During puberty, there’s already this pressure to look bigger, to get boobs, to look a certain way, and we learn at a very young age, what is beautiful and what is not beautiful.”
Tired of getting marketed bras to make her look two sizes larger at Victoria’s Secret, Fu and her co-founder Lia Winograd began looking for solutions. Together, as two young women with no experience starting a company, they made a Kickstarter campaign to ensure there would be a market for Pepper’s products. Within ten hours of launching the campaign, Pepper was 100% funded.
Empowered by the need for bras designed to embrace the natural bodies of small-chested women, Fu quit her full-time job to begin her company.
“My passion really is solving that problem and making sure that anytime one of our customers puts on a Pepper bra, she looks in the mirror and thinks, ‘Wow, I look good in this,’” Fu explained.
When asked about the importance of providing bras for small chested women who may often be expected to go braless, Fu said Pepper is all about empowering women with choice. Having a bra that fits you and makes you feel great is something all women deserve, according to Fu.
Along with fighting the misconception that bras in small cup sizes are not necessary, Fu also combats the misconception that only petite women are small chested. Pepper provides their smaller cup sizes in a variety of band sizes and plans on continuing to expand their available sizing.
While working to create more inclusive bra sizes and fits, Fu faced obstacles herself when pitching to predominantly male investors.
“If you can imagine explaining why there’s a market for bras for small boobs to an older white man, it definitely presented its challenges,” Fu said.
As both a young woman and a member of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community, Fu did not see many similar faces in pitch meetings.
“I noticed a lot of male investors would say things like, ‘let me ask my sister or my wife about this,’” Fu said, “But if it was any other product or any other industry, would you have to ask as well?”
Fu also frequently faced skeptical investors who claimed they didn’t know anything about the market since they weren’t bra wearers themselves. She was able to combat the frequent skepticism with a proven business model.
“I think it just takes us a little bit to realize and find the confidence in our business and what we’ve built so far.” Fu said, “How we’ve approached it, is finding investors that really understand our mission and our story and our business, and believe in what we’re doing. So we just started excluding all that noise that we’ve been hearing.”
After working to create a product for a niche market since 2017, Fu has realized the existing need for more companies like Pepper.
“Our belief is that there should be more brands catering to all these different niche audiences so that everyone can get something that they need and want.” Fu said, “We’re contributing by offering a better solution for this specific audience.”
Pepper also gives back through its production. The company manufactures out of Columbia close to where they source their material to reduce their carbon footprint. They also hire 85% of women and prioritize hiring single mother heads of households.
Before Pepper took off, Fu knew her company would benefit many women, but did not realize how great of an impact it would have on some lives.
“If you imagine going your whole life, feeling self-conscious about this body part, having a painful experience buying bras every time you go to the department store, and just feeling like you’re not enough,” Fu said, “And you put on this garment for the first time, and it just makes you feel at your best. That’s a life-changing moment.”