By Karl Ulrich, Wharton Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship & Innovation —
All right, men: imagine that every time you wanted to buy a pair of boxers, you had to spend three hours searching through hundreds of options and pay $50 or even $70?
This is the hook that finally got investors—93% of whom are men—to pay attention to Harper Wilde, a company which, as founder Jane Fisher says, “takes the BS out of bra shopping.” She explains that she and her cofounder, Jenna Kerner, “decided to build a company that would make it easier to buy more fairly priced bras, everyday bras, online, without the hassle.” They offer home try-on of three bras, and they sell just a few great options, all priced at $35, “which is about half of what you would find at a similar quality product at other retailers.” Listen to Jane give the elevator pitch for Harper Wilde.
“Why aren’t these men listening?”
It turned out that Jane and Jenna needed to find a way to show the full absurdity of how expensive and overwhelming bra shopping is—and do so in a way that men couldn’t fail to understand.
Women entrepreneurs founding companies for women often run into this problem—investors who don’t seem to be paying full attention, or who don’t seem to believe that the market exists.
Jane and her cofounder, Jenna Kerner, had this experience. Jane describes the initial pitches: “Being the good Wharton MBA students that we were, we showed up with all of the data and the research and statistics on how this was a $16 billion industry with enormous margins and one dominant player, and how many bras a woman buys on average every year, how much she spends, and our pitch just kept falling flat.” She couldn’t help wondering: “Why aren’t these men listening?”
Jane and Jenna solved their problem using a classic technique: humor. They found a way to make the problem that they were solving relatable for men, and they did this with a deft touch and a big dollop of humor. This also turned out to be the idea for their first video, which is very funny:
Guys, Start Paying Attention
I love a lot of things about Harper Wilde. I admire the way that Jenna and Jane field tested their home try-on model without any tech at all, using 400 bras from existing retailers and 50 volunteers, and essentially without spending any money, either (listen to our conversation to hear how they pulled this off). I think they did a great job of pinpointing and then innovating at the actual pain points of bra shopping, which turned out to be the price and the shopping experience, rather than the product itself.
My point is that Jane and Jenna are terrific entrepreneurs, and Harper Wilde is a terrific company. I could have given you seven different reasons for writing about them this month. But I want to just keep hammering away at this message, because it clearly still needs to be said: guys, start paying attention.
Jenna and Jane found a way to be funny as well as smart, and their message got through. They got the funding they needed. Their company is thriving.
But to the male investors out there, all 93% of you, I cannot say this enough: even if the woman standing in front of you pitching her company isn’t funny, she may be smart, and she may be an amazing entrepreneur. Don’t miss the opportunity to invest in a great company.
Posted: December 18, 2017