We take so many details in our lives for granted. Think of buttons. They serve a very basic, functional need in the garments we wear. But where do these buttons come from? Who’s responsible for making them? How are they made?
My grandfather, a Polish Jew, fled Europe as a child before the Holocaust. He didn’t speak a word of Spanish when he stepped off the boat in Colombia, but got by on the generosity of Jews who had migrated ahead of him. After dropping out of high school to support his younger brother, he spent decades working his way to the top of a button factory and—later, as its owner—transformed it into a successful business that provided for my family and generations to come. The company’s tagline became, “buttons, far more than a detail”.
My grandfather’s story inspired me to become an entrepreneur.
The idea of Pepper came together about a year ago when my coworker and I were talking about how badly our bras fit. Bra prototypes, we found out, are typically manufactured using a mold that’s based off of a woman with an “average” bust (36C), and then those designs are shrunk down to smaller sizes. However, since the initial designs are made with a different shape of breasts in mind, it creates numerous fit issues for women with less breast tissue, including falling straps, digging underwires, and, most significantly, a bra gap. So her and I began working after hours and weekends (we both had a full-time job) to create Pepper, not just to meet the needs of an underserved, $4B U.S. market, but to help marginalized women feel confident in their own skin. We’re on a mission to “close the gap” for small-chested women, both literally and figuratively.
One of my primary goals in entrepreneurship is to expand the possibilities available to emerging Hispanic business leaders in both the US and Latin America. Pepper, which more than quadrupled its Kickstarter fundraising target, could not have made it this far without the relationship I built with a female-owned, sustainable manufacturing firm in Medellin.
I always knew I would be a business owner. But I never expected to be known as the “bra lady” in my MBA program. What inspires me about Pepper is that beyond creating bras, it’s championing the conversation around body confidence for small chested women in a society where women hear insults like "boy body" while growing up.
And it’s these very details that make it all worth it.
Lia Winograd of Pepper