The Way We Buy Bras is Flawed — Here's How Jenna Kerner from Harper Wilde is Fixing It

If you've ever gone bra-shopping in your lifetime, you know how overwhelming and downright awful this experience can be. Whether it's choosing from hundreds of different shapes and styles, or desperately trying to figure out what your actual bra size is, it seems like bra shopping has fallen behind in the midst of the online shopping culture we live in. Jenna Kerner, co-founder of Harper Wilde, spotted this problem and wondered why it was this way. Why can't bras get delivered to our door like everything else we buy today?

Jenna and her partner, Jane Fisher, did just that, finding success in focusing on real problems that real women experience every day. We chatted with Jenna — one of our inspiring Her Conference panelists — about the inspo behind the badass brand, essential skills to have as a young entrepreneur, and advice any 20-something should know when building a brand. 

Her Campus (HC): What first inspired you to create Harper Wilde and how this dream kind of came about? 

Jenna Kerner (JK): At the most basic level, I was a user of bras. I sat down with my co-founder in business school and it kind of occurred to us that we are in a world where we can get everything that we need delivered to our door easily, like mattresses and eyeglasses and runway dresses. And yet, we’re sitting there wearing 5-year-old, torn, ripped, bras. My background is in consumer behavior, and I realized I hadn’t gone bra shopping in somewhere between five and ten years, and that was just a really strange consumer behavior. I started to reflect on how much I hated the experience, and how I didn’t know where to go. It made me realize that if I’m behaving so strangely for such an important product, there might be something there. That’s kind of what sparked the question of “why are bras so expensive? Why is the process of shopping for them so awful?” And we went down the path of starting to talk to women to see if other women felt similar to us.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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HC: How did your business administration education influence the way you moved forward with the creation of Harper Wilde?

JK: I think I would actually take it back to my undergrad experience a little bit more. I was always passionate in figuring out why people do the things they do and understanding consumer behavior. I studied neurobiology in undergrad, and I always wondered what I was going to do with that. I knew I didn’t want to be a scientist or a doctor, but I continued to follow that passion of what I was interested in. This ultimately brought me to product management at a wearable technology startup, where I was really close to consumer behavior and understanding how to build technology solutions that meet consumer’s real needs and figure out what those needs are. A lot of that training and a lot of that thinking ultimately allowed me to look at this problem and say, “ok, it’s not just that we need different bras, are the bras the problem or is it more the process of buying the bras that’s the problem,” and we really dug deep to figure out what was the true consumer need that we were solving. A lot of that training is what allowed me to think in that way.

HC: Why was it important for you to create a business with such a strong branding that resonates with women?

JK: We looked at the market and we asked what the real problem was. One of the problems was that women felt uncomfortable and were waiting ten years to replace a product that should be replaced every 6-9 months. It's because they didn’t feel comfortable going into the stores that are out there now. We really wanted to create a brand that was relatable and broke down the barriers of talking about bras. For us, it’s like a men’s under t-shirt (or it should be). We just found it so ridiculous that it had such a stigma around it and we wanted to make a brand that made it cool to talk about bras and bra fitting. We wanted to normalize something that many women wear almost every day.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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HC: Do you have any words of wisdom from a mentor that you found to be valuable along the way?

JK: I would say the most important thing in my life has been to surround yourself with interesting people. I never thought I would start a company. If anything, starting a company was the one thing I didn’t want to do. But in my undergrad, I joined a business fraternity, and that was the first thing that opened my mind to the field of consulting, which I ended up working in. I met a lot of different people through that. That’s what got me into learning about solution design and product management, and ultimately inspired me to go to business school. Surround yourself with people who are different and who have had different experiences than you — that's the best way to get exposure and learn more about the things you might want to do.

HC: What do you think is one essential skill you think someone should have in order to start up their own brand or their own venture?

JK: I think you have to have conviction. There has to be something that you are so passionate about and that you have so much conviction that there is a true need to solve it, and then just go after it. I think starting a company is incredibly difficult and incredibly rewarding. If you have that conviction, especially in times that are more challenging, it’s a lot easier to push through and know it’s all for good reason.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Home is where the packages are.

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HC: Any advice for a twenty-something that has aspirations to become an entrepreneur or create their own brand?

JK: Stay close to the customer and really make sure you’re solving a real problem. If you’re continuing to talk to your customer and learn what he or she really needs, at all times, then you can ensure that you’re creating something that makes their lives easier or better.