Jaclyn Fu of Pepper on empowering women to love their bodies as they are

Website Header Template (7)

Describe your business in a few words?

Pepper is an unapologetic bra brand for small-chested women, on a mission to empower everyone to love their bodies as they are. We design bras specifically for AA, A, B cups, in band sizes from 30 to 40. We’re bringing back the IBTC to encourage women with small boobs to join together to combat ridiculous body standards once and for all.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

Growing up, I always felt like my body wasn’t enough because no bras on the market were designed specifically for smaller cup sizes, and my gut was telling me I wasn’t alone. As I got older I finally started to realize that I wasn’t the problem—societal norms were. I wanted to see other women overcome the same issues that I wanted to overcome. As I started talking to other women about their own experiences, it became clear that there was an opportunity to drive real change here. Validating my ideas early on within my peer groups pushed me to take the leap.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

My background was in marketing for software technology products. I graduated UC Berkeley with a degree in history, and started my career in the Silicon Valley doing product marketing for Firefox at Mozilla. Then I moved to NYC and joined Etsy when they were pre-IPO working on their mobile app. Eventually I made my way to Conversocial, an enterprise software company that enables companies to use social media as a customer service channel where I met my co-founder Lia Winograd. 

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I did not grow up thinking I would be an entrepreneur and I knew nothing about this industry, but I was really passionate about wanting to help other women overcome the same issues that I wanted to overcome. I didn’t want other women to feel alone in their struggles, thinking that they are the only ones who feel that way about their body. Seeing that there was a complete gap in the market for this that no one else was willing to solve for myself and others like me, I really fell into becoming an entrepreneur by necessity.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

Community is at the center of everything we do. In a strange way, we’re lucky because the historically harmful standards and stereotypes went unaddressed for so long that as soon as we started to promote our mission, so many women immediately raised their hands to say they had felt the exact same way. This has always been a community, but we’ve been able to really tap into it and help it grow. Early on, we started a dedicated Facebook group for those in the IBTC (or supporters of the IBTC) so women can contribute to how we evolve our business, share their challenges and wins, provide advice, and just generally support others. Social media in general as well as engaging influencers and ambassadors has been a key piece of our brand growth because the experience is so relatable and shareable. The ability to utilize platforms in which sharing is native has been a game changer for us.  

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

There’s so many! We’ve experienced everything from big shipping mistakes, to hiring missteps, to wasting money on big campaigns. The biggest learning for all of these are that it’s part of the process and to learn from it but then move on (because there will be many more in the future). 

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Building a team and workplace that I can be proud of, and hopefully our employees are proud of as well! 

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

I like to do all our own hiring in house rather than outsourcing to a recruiter. Especially at an early stage, you know your culture and values the best. My tip is to have a really clear job description and idea of who the perfect candidate is, and then going after them on Linkedin so you get your dream hire. 

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

I think for women in particular, the isolation of the pandemic drove a lot of deep self reflection that led to questioning the norms that the outside world places on us. We’ve seen more people shift to feeling like they can be who they are, as they are, and that’s been reflected in our growth. We encourage women to be unapologetically themselves, and they are showing up for it now more than ever. I know we were very lucky to see strong growth throughout the pandemic, and it speaks volumes for the manner in which we grow our business—we listen to our customers wants and needs and evolve and iterate based on that.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We’re staying focused on the same things we have been since we started: designing products and building a community that allows all women to feel that they are enough, just the way they are. Every day we hear another story about someone who has struggled or is still struggling because of a superficial box into which they felt they had to fit. Now more than ever, building and fostering a supportive community is incredibly important to us, and the voices and feedback from our community are invaluable. It helps to inform iterations on our current styles, identify other gaps in the market that we can solve for (like additional bra styles and new product lines), and gives women who have spent many years (sometimes decades) feeling excluded or frustrated finally find a place where they can be themselves, unapologetically. As we look ahead, we’ll continue to introduce products that meet women where they are, within the bra vertical and expanding into other areas of intimates.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

That things don’t always go as planned, but that’s ok! We were working on being a 7 figure business in 2020, and bought all our inventory and hired our team based on that level of scale. We ended up exploding into an 8 figure business in 2020 and were flying by the seat of our pants trying to keep up! 

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

I wish someone had told me that you will absolutely make mistakes, and that’s ok. Everyone is learning along the way, even if it seems like others know exactly what they’re doing. Challenges and setbacks are the best way to learn, and it’s important to give yourself the space to learn and grow, mistakes included. Also, be honest with yourself about when you need to ask for help—there are lots of people who care about your success and will be willing to lend a hand.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

I got a puppy! He requires me to keep a schedule which I appreciate. I can’t sit all day at my work station anymore because now I have a reason to go out and stop to smell the roses. 

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I have a very fluid relationship with work. We’ve built a remote-first team since day 1 that enables a flexible lifestyle (even before COVID). I encourage our team to take full advantage of this. What “balance” means to me is that I get to work the way I want to work, whatever that means to me in that moment. Freedom and flexibility is very important to me. My best tip is to have a clear understanding of the environment you thrive in and giving yourself what you need. 

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

When I first moved to Denver, I taught yoga for a few years. I also don’t know how to swim, which a lot of people are surprised by because I grew up in LA and love the water. 

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  1. Get the amount of sleep that you need to be productive each day 
  2. Know what time of day you’re most productive and plan your schedule around that 
  3. I like being in quiet settings but for some people white noise helps with productivity!

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

It means caring deeply about surfacing the stories of other women, connecting women and lifting women up both emotionally and within society at large. We all win when women are elevated, and that starts with fostering communities where women can thrive. I want to pass along what I’ve learned and support others on their own journeys.

Share it!

Posted in

Leave a Comment

Brand Photographer Brittney Jean Guy-Atakpo on helping women show up confidently on camera

Describe your business in a few words? I’m Brittney with Brittney Jean Photography & Company. I help women show up confidently in photos and on social media to grow their brand and business. I’m a Brand Photographer and Strategist. I have over 5 years working for Fortune 100 companies in sales and marketing and over…

Lorena Tapiero of Conscious Consulting on the power of networking

Describe your business in a few words? Conscious Consulting is a Latina-owned, bilingual marketing and public relations agency with 20 years of experience in the hospitality, sports and wellness sectors. Our thoughtful, comprehensive approach helps brands establish clear communication priorities and a long-range vision for meaningful press coverage, value-added partnerships and sustainable influencer relationships. As…

Lindsay Applebaum Stuart of Mamalux on the beginning stage of business

Describe your business in a few words? Mamalux is a first-of-its-kind leakproof sleep solution for breastfeeding moms. Our Kickstarter launches on 10/19! What was your background prior to starting your own business? I spent the first 10 years of my career as a sports journalist for the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated! So this has…

Jessica Bargenquast of Lady ChangeMakers on organic marketing strategies that work

Describe your business in a few words? Lady ChangeMakers is an exclusive e-commerce platform for women-owned businesses to gain valuable exposure and sales. Most of my life I’ve been encouraged to be seen and not heard. Growing up extremely introverted and shy I felt invisible. I wanted to create a platform so women-owned businesses could…

Jennifer Gligoric of EntrePods on the importance of mindset

Describe EntrePods in a few words? Cutting-edge entrepreneur and investor network answering the question “So Now What?” for business owners powered by fractional consultants and coaches with decades worth of experience. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I had no choice.  My mother owned a staffing company for 54 years…

Certified Financial Planner Maggie Gomez on investing and building wealth

Describe your business in a few words? An accessible place where anyone can learn to invest and build wealth, regardless of their net worth. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I realized that it was only those who were already wealthy that had access to quality financial guidance. I got…

Claire Jones of Cushy Couture on shifting paradigms in the fashion industry

Describe your business in a few words? Cushy Couture is a customer-driven clothing brand that creates high quality sweatpants in a wide range of colors and patterns that come in three different inseam lengths because we believe that you don’t have to settle for less. We create functional sweatpants that will last you for multiple…

Writer, Speaker, Podcaster, and Life Coach Chelsea Austin on taking care of yourself first

Describe your business in a few words? I advocate for others to find their own self-worth and acceptance through self-care, love, respect, and storytelling. What made you take the leap to start your own business? When I started writing my book and my blog, I don’t think I ever realized it would become a business.…

Maria Indenbosch of Humanity Wine Co. on creating the company you want to work for

Describe Humanity Wine Co. in a few words? We deliver high valued, family owned wines to your doorstep while changing the lives of abandoned youth by donating 50% of our profits to capacity building programs.  Humanity Wine Co. yearns to change the landscape of business as we know it. Leading abandoned youth to rise to…

Lesha Wincher of E L L E É on believing in your vision and never giving up

Describe your business in a few words? E L L E É is the perfect atmosphere to relax and unwind for mind, body, and soul. Our business is different from the rest as each one of our services are specifically tailored to each one of our guests. What made you take the leap to start…

Meg Murray Jones of Postpartum Plan on the best decisions she made in launching her online resource

Describe your business in a few words? Postpartum Plan is an online resource for new parents from 35 weeks pregnant to 6 weeks postpartum. It brings together a support team of experts that all new parents should have access to; women’s health physio, yoga and breath-work instructor, nutritionist, postpartum doula, GP and more. We also…

Amelia Pavlik of FRESHJUICE + bubbly on wellness and work/life balance

Describe FRESHJUICE + bubbly in a few words? A boutique business focused on connecting clients to wellness splurges to suit budgets big and small. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I love all things wellness, and for years, I’d searched for a resource that could provide me with the latest…

Ari Krzyzek of Chykalophia on converting your network into your net worth

Describe your business in a few words? Chykalophia (read: see-ka-lo-fia) is a creative and technology agency helping women-led brands in FemTech & DTC fast-forward their business through strategies, design and all things website. What made you take the leap to start your own business? My fiancé at the time (now my husband and business partner)…

Monique Little of You Go Natural on the importance of planning for growth

Describe You Go Natural in a few words? YGN creates beautiful and innovative products that make natural haircare easier. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I started my business because there was a need in the market that needed to be filled. I did not want to let the opportunity…

Alice Kim of Hanalei Company on collaborative processes that inspire great work

Describe your business in a few words? At Hanalei Company, we create gentle, restorative skincare products, inspired by Hawaii’s lush, tropical landscape and native botanicals, infusing everything we do with the spirit of Aloha. What made you take the leap to start your own business? While working in New York, my husband, Vira, and I…