Jaclyn Fu is a proud member of the itty bitty titty committee—and wants you to be too. But she didn’t always feel that way, especially when shopping for bras. “Every bra gave me cup gaps, and I also felt the pressure to wear a push-up padded bra to look bigger,” recalls Fu. “There was always this sense of, ‘I wish I was bigger.’ And I started thinking about why I felt that way and having bras not fit was one part of it, but also, it starts at a very young age. There’s so much association with femininity when it comes to your bust size.” So, Fu decided to make a change by launching Pepper bras, a revolutionary brand, specifically designed for A, AA and B cups.
While working at an enterprise software company, Fu met Lia Winograd, Pepper’s co-founder and chief operating officer. “We were just always grabbing lunch together, dreaming together,” says Fu. And one day, they were chatting about the struggles of finding a bra that actually fits. “Maybe that’s an interesting problem to solve?” they asked each other. Shortly after, the duo launched their Kickstarter campaign in 2017—and it was 100% funded in the first 10 hours with a goal of $10,000. After the 13-day campaign ended, they had 950 backers. “There was this outpour of women,” says Fu. “Where were you when I was 13?” and “I’ve been waiting for a brand like yours” were just some of the responses she got. Fu remembered thinking, “I don’t want anyone else to feel that way ever again because I want to solve this.”
Pepper’s mission is to not only create bras that fit and flatter small chests, but to also help people realize that small is beautiful. “It’s something that you should love just like any other part of your body,” says Fu, who made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in 2020. Pepper isn’t just a brand, it’s changing the way women think about their bodies. “We have to unlearn some of these harmful body standards we’ve been taught.”
“We have to unlearn some of these harmful body standards we’ve been taught.”
Fu is changing the bra game for the better in more ways than one. “One of the most awesome things about starting your own business is that you can have it reflect your own values,” she says. All of Pepper’s bras are manufactured ethically in Columbia. The socially responsible factory prioritizes employing single mothers (who are the most vulnerable to poverty) and makes sure all workers get fair wages and benefits. The bras are also sustainably made. “As an apparel company, it’s very hard to be 100% sustainable because you’re creating products and you’re putting them out there in the world, so we never want to misconstrue the customer about what sustainability means to us,” says Fu. “It’s about being intentional. We have a responsibility and duty to try and minimize [environmental] impact.”
Pepper recently launched their first strapless bra, something they had been developing for over 2 years. “That’s been the most requested product ever in the history of our business,” says Fu. “Getting a strapless bra and engineering it to stay on a small-chested body was very, very difficult because we wanted to make sure that it lifted and provided nice shape and cleavage while not sliding down—all without straps.” And this is just the beginning for Fu. She plans to launch even more styles in the future, so a small-chested person has a bra for every occasion—and feels confident in her own skin. “For us, building a community is a really big part of our brand and our business, making sure that we’re driving these conversations forward.”
Who are you inspired by?
“I’m truly inspired by my team. I can’t believe I was able to convince all of these people to take a risk and come on this journey together. We’re a relatively small team. We’re 20 people. And the results they’re able to produce, it always makes us look a lot bigger. It’s just very inspiring.”
How do you unwind?
“I have a puppy! He’s a pitbull named Trooper. He’s 1. I’m going to start gushing about him. He’s the cutest boy ever, but he takes up so much time. It’s great because he demands time. ‘You have to stop working and come walk me or else I’m going to poop everywhere in the house.’”
How many unread emails do you have right now?
“In my personal, it’s 8, and then in my business one, it’s 24. By the end of the day, I’m usually closer to 5 or 10.”
What do you look for in an employee?
“I look for persuasiveness ‘cause it probably means you’re a great communicator, you know how to understand people and frame things in a way that addresses that. And I think that’s a really important skill.”
Best piece of advice you ever got?
“I always try to take advice with a grain of salt because no one is going to know you or your business like you. No one is inside my head, they don’t understand all of the things I understand. Advice is always an additional data point to help me make my decision.”
Worst piece of advice you ever got?
“There’s a long list. People love to give advice that has zero context about what you’re doing, who you are, your experience—people just love giving advice.”
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