Countdown to Launch: Product Design, Fundraising, Marketing and Team Building with Danielle Rushton and Ellery Linder of Wherewithal

As a startup, there’s always that moment in time right before the product launches or the website goes up, when you have worked, and stressed and tested, and re-worked and talked to potential customers and re-worked some more, but you are ready to let your baby out into the world. It’s exciting.  It’s scary. And this conversation is that moment in time for Wherewithal co-CEOs Danielle Rushton and Ellery Linder.

GIVEAWAY: A few episodes back, Robbie Hardy shared the unbelievable story about how she used a magic 8-ball to help her decide whether or not to sell her company. All signs pointed to yes for her, and she had a successful exit. Well, we all have major decisions to make every day, so Hutchison thought it would be fun to give away one magic 8-ball each month in a drawing. And to enter the drawing, all you need to do is write a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen – and let us know by sending an email to podcast@hutchlaw.com.

Transcript

Voiceover: Hey everyone, this is Jason Gillikin, CEO of Earfluence, which produces this show. I wanted to hop on real quick to tell you about a special giveaway that Hutchison PLLC is putting on for listeners of this podcast. A few episodes back, Robbie Hardy shared the unbelievable story about how she used a magic 8-ball to help her decide whether or not to sell her company. All signs pointed to yes for her, and she had a successful exit. Well, we all have major decisions to make every day, so Hutchison thought it would be fun to give away one magic 8-ball each month in a drawing. And to enter the drawing, all you need to do is write a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen – and let us know by sending an email to podcast@hutchlaw.com

Trevor Schmidt:Hello, and welcome to the Founder Shares Podcast. We’re so happy that you’ve chosen to spend some time with us. I’m your host, Trevor Schmidt. I’m an attorney at Hutchison law firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. We work with founders and entrepreneurs as they fight, grind, stress and push to bring their visions to reality. We are inspired by their incredible stories of success, failure, reworking and trying again.

We at Hutchison get to see this every day through our work, helping technology and life science companies start up, operate, get funded and exit, but we want to share some of these stories with you. So whether you already are an entrepreneur, have an idea that someday you want to start a business or are just fascinated by the stories of how a business goes from idea to success — or not such a success — this podcast is for you. 

On the Founder Shares Podcast, we hear from founders and investors about the journeys, keys to their success, lessons they learned and their advice to others.

Today’s guests are Danielle Rushton and Ellery LInder, co-founders and co-CEOS of Wherewithal, a new bra company with ingenious technology that gives women the power to create their own bra size, for a better fit and greater confidence.  Wherewithal’s products are launching this month, April 2021.  Now, as a startup, there’s always that moment in time right before the product launches or the website goes up, when you have worked, and stressed and tested, and re-worked and talked to potential customers and re-worked some more, but you are ready to let you’re baby out into the world. It’s exciting.  Its scary, and as much as you’ve planned and work, you’re never quite sure what to expect. Well, this conversation is that moment in time for Wherewithal.

For both Danielle and Ellery, they were working at HSN, Danielle specifically in the fashion space.

 

Danielle Rushton:  I was on the social media marketing team there and the e-commerce fashion division specifically in the intimates category. So, you know, I wasn’t in that role thinking anything about the intimates category, we would honestly laugh a little bit of how that was the driving force for the fashion category week over week.

And it really boils down to a bra being an essential item that women, if you need that support, then you really need to keep buying that bra. And what was interesting during my time is any blouse or dress or any item with an unusual neckline, we can never sell through those larger sizes. And I kind of just, my theory is that because they don’t have the supportive bra to wear underneath it.

Trevor Schmidt: So Danielle saw a problem, and she started working on a solution. She and Ellery knew each other, but worked on different teams, and then they had a meeting that would forever change the course of their careers.

 And one day she, we just wanted to go to lunch. I think Ellery had wanted to just catch up, get lunch at the hub at HSN, which was our little cafeteria.

For some reason at that lunch, I kind of just word vomited to Ellery that, you know, I have this idea for a bra, I’m going forward with patenting, it I’m about to go to New York to start prototyping. And she instantly was just so taken by the idea and it really resonated with her.  

 

Ellery Linder: And Danielle’s exactly right. We were having lunch and, you know, certainly we had never talked about our bras before and Danielle didn’t know this when she was telling me her story, but like, I literally will never forget.  I am starting to get goosebumps and I had a breast reduction after college. So I had always felt the pain points of bra shopping.

 And you know, it’s funny, like going through an experience like that, I think certainly I found that I had a lot more confidence in my body and how I perceived myself. But, I think I thought, you know, all my sizing problems would just be like magically solved and that was not the case. So I was shocked that while I had had gone through something like that, the problem of fit really still persisted.

And so, you know, everything Danielle started talking about in terms of the problem and what she was doing. And first of all, Daniel’s like, yeah, so I bought a sewing machine and I’ve been teaching myself how to sew when I was like, this is why I was so connected to her in her interview is she was such a self-starter and a go getter.

And she wasn’t waiting around for somebody else to like, make something better. She was just going to do it herself. And so I selfishly was like, can I be a product tester? Like, what do you need help with? And so, you know, one thing led to another and we started working together on nights and nights turned into weekends.

And I don’t know before you knew it,  it was a great time, I think in both of our careers where we were really looking to make a change. You know, our company at the time was going through an acquisition, and so,  we were very, I think, you know, lucky to be able to kind of leave on our own accord, I think the stars aligned in a way that I just never could have imagined and like never saw myself taking this kind of a path in a million billion years. So I’m grateful for Danielle. She is my she’s what caused me to, she was my leap of faith really. 

Danielle Rushton: Well, and that’s such a good point too. Like I was not ready to leave HSN. I wasn’t ready to start this company. We were so early and when we were going through that acquisition, they were sending out new contracts and non-compete compliance updates.

And luckily I had been working with a trademark attorney at the time, so I sent it over to her and I was like, should I sign this? Like, what do I do? I’m not ready to quit, we’re nowhere near being ready to launch a company. And they always say, don’t quit your day job. And I will argue, don’t quit it unless they are threatening, and if you’re working on something that competes with, you know, whatever industry you’re in.

Basically my trademark attorney asked me, do you want a HSN to be your future? Do you want this bra company to be your future? And I was like, not HSN, definitely this bra company. And I mean, I knew from the second that I asked other women, if this was their problem as well, the response was pretty overwhelming.

And so I knew that this was much bigger than  just a cute idea.  It definitely had legs and that was, that was the push that I think I needed to finally take the leap and then Ellery joined me shortly after, thankfully. 

Trevor Schmidt: That’s great. I want to back up a little bit, so Ellery said that you just got a sewing machine and started working on this product. So tell us a little bit about that and how you kind of went about to actually create what is the foundation for the company? 

Danielle Rushton: So I’ve always been enamored, I guess by the creative expression through clothing. But what I experienced,  throughout my life is that  you’re pretty limited by the size options and the support options.

And so really it took me ordering an extra large bathing suit top, being two sizes too small for me to think, you know, if this just had the appropriate amount of fabric, the style would be fine. It would fit perfectly fine. And that kind of planted the seed of, well, let me just make my own clothes that actually fit my body.

And so I started making swimsuits and when I went into dresses or blouses, 

Ellery Linder: Those dresses were amazing.

Danielle Rushton: They were pretty cute. I did wear a few of them and I made this gingham bathing suit that was, I made bottoms as well. So that was pretty impressive, honestly. But,  then I started just kind of running wild and I started trying to make shirts and blouses and dresses with a built-in bra like functionality.

When it really dawned on me, there was a multi-billion dollar industry anchored by this product that really might need a redesign. And it took me teaching myself how to sew, trying to create these different garments that had some type of supportive element that made me stop and pause and ask myself, how do we keep a strapless bra in place?

And why does it fall down in general? And it’s because you lose the shoulder strap, so you lose the support of your upper bust. And so in that moment, I was like, well, if we had something to anchor the top of the bust, that you could slide to adjust to keep it in place, and then reinforce that underneath. I think I could have something here.

And so I went home, I chopped up two of my bras, sewed .Them together. We call it the frankenbra. I still have it to this day. But then I put it on and I started like bouncing around and I called my sister and I was like, I think I might’ve made something pretty cool here. And then the next day, the universe like starts to give you little kisses to show you you’re on the right track or something.

Because the next day, every podcast, every social media meme and post was talking about, you know, what needs an update, a strapless bra. And I was like, wait a minute. This isn’t a me problem. This is a we situation that other people feel this way. And I think the reason why it was so shocking is because I’ve never talked to friends about bras.

We don’t talk about bras because there’s nothing much to say, it’s this garment that we wear that doesn’t really fit us that well, but we know that it’s a means to an end, just if you need the support you’re wearing a bra, whether it fits or not. And it’s such a frustrating item, especially going in, you have to get sized, you have to go to different stores and you’re told you’re a different size at all the stores.

And so I think for me, I just never really took it seriously as a garment. When I went home and I chopped up my strapless bra, it was about eight years old. So in that moment I asked a bunch of women in this Facebook group that I was in if they have issues with their bras, if they hate their strapless bras.

And the response was overwhelming, there was over 300 comments and likes about just women expressing their sentiments being exactly the same. So once I got that feedback, I started going forward with a provisional patent and then, January of 2018, I flew to New York and started prototyping. And that’s when the journey began.

Ellery Linder: It’s funny. I don’t think I were a strapless broad my whole entire life until I was 22 years old, which is so crazy to think. Danielle and I have talked about this a lot and because we talked to a lot of women who have had  breast reductions, breast augmentations, and we’re like, great, like more power to you,  but I always wonder if I had had more supportive garments that reflected who I felt like I was that weren’t, you know, for lack of a better word, like the old lady garment  like how come I can’t find a bra that has thinner straps. And, you know, I think I did feel really limited because of the cup size that I was wearing. I couldn’t wear certain outfits and couldn’t find the right bras.

Bras I did find the, they and reflect who I was. And so, you know, it felt really limiting for so, so long. And I remember like the first time I ever wore like a spaghetti strap top outside, I was like, I feel naked. Oh my God, this is so shocking. And I remember being like, everyone’s staring at, I mean, like literally no one was staring at me.

It was just, it was, I had never experienced that before and, I wish it wouldn’t have taken me so long to get there. And, I wonder like what, what if I had seen more women who I felt like looked like me or who, you know, there were more brands trying to like, do things differently in that space,  and had more inclusive sizing.

Who knows maybe, maybe my decision would have been different. I’m still glad, I don’t regret anything I did, but I think that just goes without saying that, like when size goes up, style tends to go down and we’re like, that shouldn’t be the case at all.

 That’s not a fair reflection of, I think, how so many women feel. And so, we just wanted to do something different in the space. So I just loved what Daniel was doing and building and it really, really resonated. 

Trevor Schmidt: So is it from kind of a product standpoint, is that a different design that is helping address the sizing issue? Or is it a technology fix to help people find their size? What’s the solution? 

Danielle Rushton: It’s the design. So we kind of joke and say 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra, but in any other industry if 80% of users were doing it wrong, that would be a product flaw, not a customer error. So we’re kind of given this burden of, we don’t understand how to find our bra size when really it’s just way too confusing. And it has been this whole time. 

So what we’ve done is we’ve taken this sliding functionality from a shoulder strap and put that on the back band of the bra. So now one of our bras is equivalent to three traditional sizes, but really the beauty of it is that one of our bras can adjust to 64 individual measurements.

And we will identify, we call them size sets because it’s a set of sizes. You’ll be able to identify your size set based on your true measurements. And so when you take those measurements, you’ll fall within one of our size set band ranges. Our goal is to make everything a bit more simplified, but really giving our customer the ability to personalize their bra size and adjust it at any time for the first time ever.

Ellery Linder: It’s kind of like when we were thinking about, like Daniel came up with this amazing design and then she was like, great, this is awesome. She’s like, this will probably be pretty easy to make. And then like, Hm, like how do I size this thing? And I remember like sitting down and both of us were like, well, how does bra sizing even work?

That’s like problem number one, the fact that we’ve worn bras for half our lives, and we didn’t even understand how it worked. So it’s funny, it’s like when we’ve been talking about, and the way that we frame this, when we talked to investors and,  you know, it’s sort of like, there’s all of these problems and a lot of it has to relate to size.

So there’s not enough sizes in the market. There are brands who are trying to offer more sizes, which seems like it’s better, but then it’s still so confusing. It’s like, I’m still having to do like weird math equations or people size and measure and grade things differently. And so,  we kind of like took a step back and like, there’s all these issues with size.

Where’s that problem stemming from, and it’s because it’s of the design of the bra that we’re still using today, design that was created almost a hundred years ago.  There hasn’t been a whole lot of innovation with the actual design of bras themselves, you know? Sure, you have a sports bra that came out in that kind of thing, but when it comes to like the bras with underwires that we’re wearing today, I mean that doesn’t really hasn’t changed a lot and we’re like, we need to overhaul the design itself so that we can get to the root of the problem that way. Then the sizing becomes much more simplified.

And I think if we were kind of like, if we can find a way to step out of this idea of like a perfect fit a one-to-one ratio, and we focus more on a preferred fit and like your preference is your perfect fit. We wanted to create something that had a lot more adjustability and personalization embedded into the actual design itself, which was one of the things I thought was so brilliant about Danielle’s design. I was like, this makes so much sense. Like why has no one done it before. Plot twist, it’s super hard, there’s a lot that went behind it. 

So like, now we know why no one has done it before.  But it’s interesting. I mean, it really is.  I think the bra is so cool. It, you know, you feel differently in the morning than the way that you do middle of the day after lunch, then the way that you do at the end of the day.

And I think the fact that this bra has a built-in adjustability to be able to adapt with you and to meet your needs. That’s a really unique thing that we haven’t seen in this industry yet. 

Danielle Rushton: Yeah, and personalization is just so huge for consumer products, consumer experiences. We embedded that personalization into our product design.

So  we’re excited to just give this tool to our customers, to let them control and be in control of their fit and their size. These generic sizes were never designed to fit one-to-one. They were supposed to fit, you know, generically and for the most part. And we’ve felt that for a little bit too long. So, that personal preferred fit really is what we’re hoping,  gets consumers to their perfect fit based on how they feel  and what they need. 

Trevor Schmidt: Well, I mean, it raises an interesting question because it seems like, you’re kind of entering this field where there are kind of established expectations. You have kind of a well-established industry. So how, kind of as a young startup, do you kind of carve into that and, you know, and address the problem and let people know that you’re there. How  have you faced that challenge?

Ellery Linder: If anything, like we look to, I think some of the competitors in our spaces, some great like models of how to do it well,  things that we would do differently, how do we iterate and make it our own?

I think, you know, you really saw an uptick about 10 years ago. With a lot of people starting to recognize that there was an opportunity with D to C. In conjunction with that in our industry, it was around the same time you started to see, or a few years later, you know, you really started to see this decline of Victoria Secret.

Now the decline of Victoria Secret, I feel like  was natural. And really, at first, driven by consumers. They wanted simplification. It’s part of the reason why bralettes have become such a popular design. Now, bralettes aren’t perfect. You know, a lot of women don’t feel like bralettes give you the same kind of support or the same kind of fit, but hey, it’s comfortable. So, and it was easier, you know, like small, medium, and large, got it, or extra large, extra, extra large, like, I can get it. I can pick my size a little bit more easily than this like weird letter number cup sizing system. So, you know, also I think consumers really want to see real. 

You know, I think that there was the era of the supermodel and you know, magazine editors were in charge of telling you how to look and feel and supermodels were strutting on the runway. So there was this emphasis of perfect body and perfect look, and that really started to shift, right. So I think there was some success in the space of brands trying to do things that felt a little more real and a little more natural.

And we have since seen some brands who have tried to tackle sizing, but I don’t think anyone in this space has really gotten it right yet in terms of the simplification aspect of it. And, you know, it’s a big industry and it’s an old industry. So in some ways it’s kind of right for disruption.

But it also means, I think seeing that kind of decline of Victoria secret, it shows that consumers are really looking for newness. They’re really looking for things that are differentiated, particularly when it comes to size. And, I think it’s still a fragmented market. , there’s a lot of room for opportunity here and disruption and,  you know, certainly I think that I’m excited to see what happens to some of the competitors in our space.

I think some of them are going to stick around for time to come, but I think that we’ve really carved out a, a place for Wherewithal and for ourselves, because what we’re doing is so incredibly different. And it’s because we try to address what we felt like was the root of the problem. That really is the design itself. And no one’s really doing anything differentiated or that level of personalized in our space at all. 

Danielle Rushton: Absolutely. And it kind of goes back to getting this out there. I always look back very fondly on HSN because that’s really where, we as people and as co-CEOs, kind of incubated in our own experience.

So going from e-commerce to social media marketing, to Ellery building brands, we have all of that experience. So knowing how to use social media, to market, to consumers, to get them to our e-commerce platform that works all the way through the funnel to get them to check out , it’s just very, maybe meant to be, you know, way of, you know, what our experiences led us to and how they prepared us for this moment.

But it’s never been easier to start a company, especially on e-commerce direct to consumer company and with the professional expertise that we were able to pick up at HSN,   we’re just very confident in what we’re building and how we can get this to the right people and the people who need this product.

Trevor Schmidt: Well, I’m glad you mentioned that. Cause I was going to say, looking at your background and, you know, for, for somebody looking to build brand recognition and a consumer product company, it seems like you’ve got tailor-made backgrounds to get out there and do it. 

Ellery Linder: It helps that we wear bras, you know? 

Danielle Rushton: Yeah. 

Trevor Schmidt: You know the product, you know what you want to build, you know who your market is.. So that’s fantastic. 

So how do you, I guess this is a challenge for any kind of e-commerce company, that’s selling a clothing item, how do you get over that need to kind of pick up the product and to, to see it and to feel it and to try it on and then be able to have the flexibility to kind of return that. Is that a concern or is that just a problem that’s already been solved? 

Danielle Rushton: So, as Ellery mentioned, these companies, these direct to consumer bra companies that have come before us, they kind of helped bridge that gap, I would say. And then, especially with the pandemic and with COVID kind of ceasing all in store sales for a period of time there, we’re confident that now people are more comfortable, but we’ve set it up so our returns process is very easy and so people feel comfortable trying this item because it’s new, it’s something completely different. But what we want to do is  give people the wherewithal and the tools and the instruction and the guidance to confirm that their measurements will put them in the right size set.

And that’s what our whole kind of platform is about. Like exactly who you are, we’ll guide you to what size is made to fit your body. And so our hope and what we’re testing is that we can really win on returns because this is a bra that adjusts to fit women.  But that’s our theory that we haven’t yet gotten to test yet. 

Ellery Linder: We’ll be pressure testing that, for sure. But I mean, that’s, part of it, right? , , we, as consumers have never had a garment quite like this that we could personalize. And so it’s interesting, you know, in intimate apparel, you really have one shot. It’s not like, okay, say you buy a t-shirt and you got a large, and you’re like, you know what?

I really need an extra large, I just, I want the fit a little looser, or I just want it to be more comfortable. Great, so you exchange it or return it and repurchase and get the size you want. With bras, bras kind of make us feel badly about ourselves, like already, at least in a lot of the experiences with Lowman we’ve talked to.

And so like you already kind of have this garment that you’re, you it’s kinda like what Danielle said, it’s totally a necessary evil. You put a bra on and it doesn’t fit. I mean, it’s kind of like, I want it to go back in the box, and I never want to look at it again. You know, it’s like, ah, you know, you feel like something’s wrong with you versus there something wrong with the product.

And so I think by creating a design that allows us to create a personal unique fit is exactly like what Danielle said. You know, if we can kind of then take away that friction  of the returns now, of course we’ll offer returns. But it’s really about personalized sizing and we’re giving you a range in which you can create a size that feels best for you. And Hey, great. You know, what is probably going to change on a daily basis. It might change hourly,  and the garment can really adapt to wherever you are in the morning to wherever you’re going to be the next morning.

Trevor Schmidt:  You keep hitting on it, but it seems, it’s just an interesting dynamic about how the clothes that we wear, you know, affect confidence, affect how we feel comfortable, affect kind of our outlook on life, and I think no more so than an intimate apparel. And so it seems like such a, a key fix to be able to get people to feel comfortable in what they’re wearing, feel confident in what they’re wearing. It seems like that’s the way that you’re headed. 

Danielle Rushton: That’s our whole brand really like the, we say the least interesting thing about anybody is the bra that they’re wearing.  We want to be truly a tool that these women use to feel supported and comfortable throughout their day when they’re pursuing the things that make them who they are and following their dreams and on a podcast, sharing their passions and how they started this company.

Those are the moments that are most important and our perspective, or brand perspective isn’t, you know, women sitting on their chase lounge with bras and in their pearls. It’s like when we get home, we’re taken off the bra, but when we’re wearing the bra, it is in those pursuits of who we want to become.

And so that’s really what our whole identity as a brand is.  And just that support and encouragement to follow your dreams. And we’re supporting you with the bra, but also as just a community that we hope to build from here. 

Trevor Schmidt:  So what have been some of the early challenges for the company as you’ve gotten started and kind of gotten to this point, what have been the early challenges?

Ellery Linder: I would say in all honesty, like looking back to where we are now,  probably the manufacturing side of it and making sure that we found the right suppliers, the right manufacturer, This is our first time ever going out into the world and creating a product ourself.

So we knew enough to be dangerous on the supply chain side, based on our backgrounds and experience, but it’s a totally different world. And  it’s also very niche and kind of secretive. And I think we spend a lot of time trying to find the right partners, the right manufacturing. We are so thankful we did.

 We were able to bring somebody on to our team. We raised a small round of friends and family funding. And, we brought on Heather who has just  such  an incredible background in this space. She has spent her whole entire career in sourcing and manufacturing. And so between her and our technical designer and some of the contexts that we met and were able to connect with the right partners.

And I think we really viewed that they were totally an extension of our team. I mean, we work with them every single day, they’re incredible it took a long time, but we are so grateful to have found the people that we found. I mean, really, really, really lucky. And, but it took a long time.

It’s it’s secretive and, you know, it was funny when we closed that round. It was literally the last week of February 2020, and then the pandemic shut everything down. So it was the, our technical designer and Heather both have  20 plus years of experience in this industry, but it was the very first time that all of us had to do things completely remote.

So it was nice  on some level that we were kind of like all holding hands and figuring it out together, same with our suppliers and our manufacturer. But, we somehow persevered. It took a little longer than we thought, but we’re really grateful. But it took, it took some trial and error.

Danielle Rushton: And just kind of adding to that. So we’re taking this specialized industry and the way things have been done forever, and we’re just completely deciding to change everything about it. So, so even once we found our technical designer, you know, we’re still coaching her through what the Wherewithal sizing system is, what this means for this new design.

And there were some, you know, speed bumps there just because she’s lived in breathed this traditional sizing, this traditional design for her entire career. And  she doesn’t take on projects unless there’s something new and interesting and different about them. So she was ready for the challenge, but still it’s even, you know, those moments of, Oh, wait, You know, this is, this is different.

This isn’t supposed to be how things have always been done. So that’s just an added little bonus  of technical difficulty once we finally got into such a specialized and secretive industry, but it’s been so fun. And the challenges, I think there’s never been a time where we’ve ever felt defeated. And the conviction that we have as founders with this pandemic  with taking two years to even find the right people, to help us bring it to the next level, we knew that nothing was going to stop us. And I think now the challenges  they’re expected, but we always find a way to work through them. 

Trevor Schmidt: Now, speak to it a little bit about the pandemic. Did the pandemic kind of slow your process down a bit or was this kind of the natural part of the development process that would have taken place, whether there had been a pandemic or not?

Ellery Linder: It definitely slowed down our process. I wouldn’t say it like a catastrophic effect, but you know, you have to think we typically, we would go on sourcing trips and we would get to meet face to face and we would get to like touch and feel and sample things like in a crazy amount of time, like, you know, in a week or two week long period, And like all of that had to be done remotely.

And so between that, and I think this kind of global disruption with supply chain, certainly we felt the effects of that.  And part of our team is based in New York. Part of our team is based in Tampa. So it was like, things are coming from our suppliers to New York, then to Tampa then back.

And so, you know, there was definitely a ripple effect, but sure. It definitely pushed us back a few months.  You know, and we, we just got scrappy and figured it out, but I. It’s funny, like Daniel, you totally mentioned that there was never really a moment where we were like, Oh, you know, this is not, we’re going to stop.

Okay. How do we figure it out this next thing? And it’s funny at every stage we’re like, we just need to get from this, giant lily pad milestone to this one over here, but then that one always has its own set of challenges and problems too. And it’s exciting in a way. I think we both kind of thrive in an environment where  every new  milestone leads to also a new set of challenges.

And as part of the reason why I wanted to do this on a personal level, I was looking for more of a challenge  when Danielle and I first started working together. And, you know, if I had known what I knew then, and probably like taking a beat and been like, get some sleep while you can. But in all honesty, it’s been you know, we ran into delays, but once we got started, you know, we were in the pandemic and we had the stay at home orders.

I think we all kind of realized that, we were kind of like in a like a waiting kind of period, or we knew things were going to take a little bit longer, but yeah. We’re in it now and there’s no backing out. 

Danielle Rushton: It gave us kind of the time we needed to breathe. Now that we, we spent two years just chasing, we went to Miami, New York, LA trying to find… Columbia. We were trying to find the right people. And once we finally had those people on our team, I think it allowed us to really sit with the product and sit with the fabrics and the materials and take our time. And nobody was purchasing bras during the pandemic. They were purchasing underwear and maybe sports bras and lounge wear.

But I think it gave us, you know, that sigh of relief in a way where it’s like, okay, now we can be very thoughtful and we’re not up against this when are you going to launch clock? And I think that’s another, one of the bigger challenges is we’ll be two years in and maybe trying to fundraise, and the question will be, well, why haven’t you launched yet?

And I, I would like to challenge that with all good things take time. And if you launch a company in less than two years, it’s questionable. And, and are you really building something that’s differentiated, and that will last? Far beyond the two of us is really what we’re building this for.

So. It was another fun fact is they use bra cup mold machines to make the KN95 masks or the N95 masks. So that was something we learned.

Trevor Schmidt: Now, I understand that you both are co-CEOs of the company. Is that right? So T talk about that a little bit. Cause you guys, just from our short time here talking, you guys have a great, you know, rapport,  you seem to work well together, but how does that come down on a day-to-day basis when you have to make a tough decision or there are challenges facing the company, how do you, how do you kind of manage that relationship while you’re managing the company?

Ellery Linder: So we put together this, like co-CEO manifesto, if you will. Danielle and I spent a lot of time talking through exactly kind of those things of like, where are our strengths, where are our weaknesses.  where do we thrive, where do we feel energized? And so we really do have like a clear delineation of kind of  who owns like what area of the business, and ultimately who has final say, but at the end of the day, like Danielle and I are aligned and in lock step on everything.

I mean everything. And sometimes we have different ways of like how to solve for something or different ways of doing things. And that’s where I think trust comes in. You just, you have to trust your partner.  And sometimes that does mean like trial and error. So sometimes not everything is going to go according to plan.

I have made so many mistakes along the way, and I’m just grateful I have a partner who, first and foremost, we’re always completely transparent and honest. And so, that also means like admitting when you’re like, man, I should’ve done that differently, but here’s what I learned from it. Here’s how we’re going to get in front of it in the future.

And so, we’ve put a lot of thought and time into it. It’s amazing how many major companies have co- CEOs. And it’s so funny because we do get that question a lot of like. You know, how does that work? Who makes decisions? And I’m like, well, look at, you know, Netflix look at, the skim. I mean, there are so many. 

Danielle Rushton: Two of our competitors, Third Love, Harper Wilde, Robin Hood, all of these, not all of these, but there are plenty of companies that do have co-CEOs. 

Ellery Linder: Like, we actually have a list and it’s like in our manifesto. And we’re like, all right, don’t believe it. You know? And it’s so true. I mean,  it’s like we’re better together, that’s it? I mean, we’re, we’re better together. It’s what Danielle does, I think I’m so grateful for her because I can never do.

Danielle Rushton: And that’s how I feel about Ellery. So it’s, I’m kind of the left side of the brain and she’s the right side of the brain, the creative and the analytical. And so together, you know, we see things, we joke that we literally will be sitting at the same spot and we will be seeing things from completely opposite ways.

And that makes us better as a company because we’re, we want the same thing. We are so aligned on that same outcome, but she notices things that I would never think of. And at first I would be like, Ellery, what are you talking about? But I have to understand, like she is validating and she is validated in her own right. And her own experience. 

And she’s talking on behalf of the other customers who see the world the same way she does. And same with my stance. And so we’re able to kind of get both, well, hopefully both sides of those coins and the people who align with me and the people who align with her were hopefully being able to offer this immersive experience because we’ve thought of this.

And though we don’t,  get energized by the same things, I think that’s the beauty of it. so we can kind of separate our time and our energy because there is so much we have to do, that it’s, I couldn’t imagine doing this alone and I wouldn’t want to, so I’m just so thankful for our partnership and for our likes and dislikes and how those kind of, are off-kilter for one another.

Ellery Linder: So funny, I will never forget. Danielle and I are sitting at, we were in some convention and we’re both listening and enamored. I can’t remember who we were listening to speak, but we’re sitting there. And we were like, just both with our notebooks, you know, like writing away and our notebooks. And I don’t know why I looked over.

I looked over at Danielle and I just happened to look down at her notebook. And Danielle was drawing, not because she’s not paying attention, but like, that’s literally how she was taking notes. And she was creating these incredible, like designed diagrams. And I, I literally verbatim like writing so fast trying to take notes as I don’t miss a word, and that like perfectly sums up our differences. But I can’t draw so I can do stick figures, but that’s about it. 

Trevor Schmidt: I love the summation, just better together. It really is, that’s just a fantastic way to look at it. And it sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into how it’s going to be. So, I mean,  that’s fantastic.

So, you know, the literature is pretty extensive, kind of about some of the unique challenges facing female founders and startups led by female teams, just kind of, as far as getting investment and some of the challenges they face, I wonder if you could speak to kind of what your personal experience has been with that, and if you have any thoughts on that. 

Ellery Linder: We do have thoughts on that. So I’ll start off by saying the positive and that’s that we have an incredible group of investors, male and female, like, , who support us, who believe in what we’re doing, who see the opportunity,  who don’t have to connect with the product on a personal level to understand this opportunity.

That being said, you know, I was thinking about this the other day. I don’t remember why this popped into my mind, but we had this old like booth that we used to put out. And I remember somebody came up to us one time and it was a guy and he was like, you know, why don’t you just not wear a bra?

I just, I went back to him, I said, why don’t you just not wear pants? And he was thinking, his eyes got so vague and he likes took a step back. And I kind of like the words came out before I even realized that it happened. And, but I, you know, thinking back on it, I’m like, it’s true. I’m like, first of all, that’s not an option for so many women, you know, a lot of women can’t or don’t feel comfortable and shouldn’t have to decide between wearing a bra or not wearing a bra because they do or don’t feel comfortable.

I mean, you should be able to put on a bra and feel like your best self or not, you know, and vice versa. Like for the women who don’t want to a bras, Hey, I’ve been there too. Like we get it. But I think just to make an assumption like that, that like, Oh, just why don’t you just not wear a bra? And like wont that just like solve all your problems?

 It’s hard when, especially when we’re dealing with a product that many men,  you know, don’t have a personal connection to. So we do hear the whole like, oh, I have daughters or my wife or my sister, my aunt, my mom had a breast reduction, or they don’t like this about it either. I hear it all day or, you know, Hey, I mentioned your idea and they really, you know, their eyes lit up and they were really excited about what you guys were doing. And so I thinks that there’s a lot of positives to that, but it does create challenges when you talk to people who it’s like, I don’t understand the problem, I didn’t even know there was a problem. I don’t relate to this, I don’t wear it.  It’s not part of their lives, you know? So there’s, there’s definitely a challenge there. 

Danielle Rushton: Yeah. And I think it is extensive, you know, Female founded companies versus male founded companies. I think we get invested like 30 cents to the dollar. Maybe it’s 70 cents, one of those two and you know, that’s fine and well, and good. And I love it. Like, let’s keep fighting the good fight, but for us, we want to start this company so we can be on the other side of the table. So we can represent, you know, the female population, and maybe in that you invest in what you’re comfortable in is what, you know, people are saying.

And you hire people who are like you. And so it’s a lot of white men on the other side of the table. And so we’re trying to bring diversity to that other side and keep our heads down. And when somebody tells us no, we’re talking to the wrong person and that’s all it is, and we’ll just keep going until we find the people who this does align with, because to your point, Ellery, this is not just that we’re a female founded company, we’re a female founded company selling a female focused product. So it’s like double whammy of how difficult it is and challenging it is for somebody who doesn’t resonate with this product to really want to believe in it or understand it.

Because if we don’t have the inquisitive minds who do talk to their wives or their daughters, the other response is, well, why hasn’t someone done this before? And it’s kind of that passive response. So I think part of why we are here is,  again to build something that will last beyond Ellery and I, and then to be on that other side of the table  for future female and diverse founded companies to come.

Ellery Linder: The other thing I’ll add to that is you brought up a good point about  if they can’t relate to the product, we definitely I think get grilled a lot more on numbers. And  we knew that that was going to be the case for us going into this. So believe you me, we armed ourselves with facts, figures, data, our financials are, you know, buttoned up.

We know them inside and out. We tried to think about like, where are the weak spots or where people would think that we had weaknesses and like, let’s make that our strongest points. And so,  it’s not fair. That shouldn’t be the way of the world.  But we were like, we’re not gonna let that be our weakness. So no, I think we were just like, alright, challenge accepted. You know what another challenge? Alright, let’s, you know, figure out how to find and solve. 

I would say more often than not, we meet fantastic people on both sides. I mean, we really, really do, but there’s, that’s amazing. Like what people will say to you, like don’t wear a bra. I was like, don’t, don’t wear pants when you leave your house.  How do you like that, sir? 

Trevor Schmidt: I love the response. So something you said, Danielle just makes me wonder. So do you feel not only the pressure to like be successful in your business for your own sake, but you talk about this desire to be on the other side of the table and be able to create opportunities for other people.  Is that something you think about on a day to day basis and create that kind of extra pressure for you?

Danielle Rushton: It definitely doesn’t create extra pressure. I think it just helps drive forward what we’re doing and, keeps everything in check and in perspective, because if we’re facing these challenges, you know, other people are facing much worse challenges.

And so that’s always been part of my DNA is to want to give back and do be blessed to be a blessing to others is also kind of my own personal mantra. But, I think even more so just seeing, you know, we’re two white women who are starting a company and we’re still getting a lot of pushback.

And so just with everything that’s happened this year, it’s,  really put everything into perspective and, we want to build something. That’s successful because it solves a problem. We never set out just to start a company just to assert a company. So I think everything we do is very authentic to why we’re here and how can we, how can we amplify that?

How can we take what we make of this, and then do even more for other people who are looking to solve a problem that was authentic to them. And that is valid in their own right, and for a segment of customers who need exactly what these people are trying to build.

Trevor Schmidt: You mentioned the Ellery, I think once you’re successful, that  there’s potential bigger hurdles down the road. So I guess I wonder your thoughts are, what are the kind of the biggest hurdles for the company? Either five years down the road, 10 years down the road, what do you see on the horizon?

Ellery Linder: From everything that we’ve read and learned along the way, scaling is going to be a challenge, but not in a way that you can’t overcome it.  I think we’re seeing a shift right now in the digital marketing landscape. I don’t know exactly what that means or what’s going to happen, but I think, that there are probably some pretty big dramatic changes on the horizon.

It’s expensive, you know, on one hand it has never been easier, a hundred percent. Like it’s never been easier to start a brand. It’s also never been more expensive. And so a challenge, you know, that we face is. Of course, there’s some levers, you have to pull to acquire customers, but how do you think outside of the box? How do you create a product that people really just naturally resonate with?

How do you get them coming back, wanting more? How do you keep that excitement going? How do you retain your customers? And so I think that that will present a new set of challenges down the road. And as we scale and we start to get bigger, you know, making sure that we stay true to our original, you know, like mission and, and ultimately, you know, we want to create products that allow women to feel like they have the wherewithal to go out and their day and like do all the things they want to accomplish, just like Danielle said.

And making sure that, you know, as our team grows, they understand what we’re building. They remember this moment, you know, when it’s so new in its infancy and we live and breathe that and making sure that we can energize our team with that same, I think passion is, you know, it’s definitely a type of challenge, but   I think it all starts with the two of us, it starts with the product and then it starts with like, you know, the customer communication.

And if we can try to find a way to ensure that it stays organic and natural and real, you know, there’s a time and a place for the beautiful polished shots and videos and all of that great stuff. But like, TikTok is scrappy and people like that, you know what I mean? Look at it’s success. It’s like you get sucked in and you know, it is not just young people on TikTok.

Like my mom, sends me TikToks all the time. So, you know, I think it’s so fun because it, crosses, I think so many different boundaries and,  it’s real and relatable. And it’s just all of those things as we. Scale and grow.  It’s easier to sometimes I think lose sight of that. So making sure I’m gonna watch, I’m gonna come back and watch this podcast every year see these words coming out of my mouth and  it’s going to be like girl, you know, reset. So this is me saying it out loud for myself. 

Danielle Rushton: But I think too, I’m starting to think of life and you know, this professional experience, everything’s kind of like a video game. Like when you get to the next level, it’s even harder with different challenges, but you still, nobody wants to hear it’s the process when they’re first starting a company, but it really is the process that you go through and how you find yourself and the things you learn about yourself and how you get there.

I remember when I went to get that provisional patent, I was like, okay, how do I do this? And that was level one, level like double zero. And then I was like, okay, got the provisional. Now I can start manufacturing now, how do I find someone to help me with that? And so it’s just like you level up, but it comes with those challenges.

And I think for us, you know, it’s not about making it. It’s not about getting to a specific destination and thinking we’re finally there. It’s okay, what can we learn on this level? What will the challenges be here and how do we persevere and how do we get through them? Because I think once, once I’ve accepted that you’re never, you’re never there.

It’s once you’re there, you know, it’s the next thing. Or if there’s never something you’re striving for more,  you’re remaining stagnant. So that’s not, that’s not good either. 

Trevor Schmidt: I love the analogy because it really is, you know, you gain this experience so you level up, but the challenges just get harder and harder. But if you’re not facing those new challenges, you’re just playing the same level again. What’s the point of that? So, I like that. 

So what still has to happen before product launch for the team?

Ellery Linder: We can show you our to-do list and then if you want to come and like, I mean, really we’re, we’re in the final phases of just kind of crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s.

I mean, I can’t believe like in just a few weeks we’re going to be launching. So we’re going to actually start communicating to our waitlist. So we’ve generated a wait list of over 2000 customers and in growing. So if you’re interested at all in learning about what we’re doing or what we’re building, or you want to buy product, which is even better, you can definitely go on to shopwherewithal.com and follow along.

We’ll be sharing more about like our journey  and what we’ve been up to. But yeah, I mean, it’s really kind of just like putting, putting the final, like corner pieces together of this crazy giant. 500,000 piece possible. Dan, I don’t know if you want to add anything to that. I have a list if you want to add.

Danielle Rushton: April is our launch month.  This,  last Monday right now last a week ago, we were doing our photo shoot. So we received those images back. We’re just placing those images within our website, planning out our social, and then the first time that people will be actually available to purchase this product is this April.

So just in a few weeks here. So yeah, we, we better have everything dotted and crossed and all the things, ,cause this is what we’ve been working for for the past three years. And it’s just level one of many levels to come. 

Trevor Schmidt: It’s gotta be a very exciting time though. 

Danielle Rushton: It is .

Ellery Linder: It is it’s exciting. It’s it’s like exhausting in a new way, but also energizing in a totally new way. Like that photo, having our first photo shoot was so surreal. Like I remember Danielle and I were standing around and we were just like looking at,  we had a model there and then we had some friends who came in to help model the product.

 And I mean, we were just blown away and like, everyone’s talking about it. All the girls were so excited and everyone was dancing and having fun. And I mean, ultimately we were there to get amazing shots  and videos, but we wanted to have fun. And I think just the day went, we put a lot of time and effort into making sure the day was organized and plan and that kind of thing, but it went off without a hitch and it was a blast.

 We had so much fun on Saturday. And I think to just be able to like have fun in a strapless bra on set, like in front of a bunch of people, it was really telling because it’s, a weird thing, you know, to like, be in your underwear, having everyone take pictures of you and we had a blast, I mean, it was really, really fun and that’s what we wanted. And I, I think it really reflects in the images and the videos, so more to come. 

Danielle Rushton: And I was just to add quickly to that. I was dropping off our creative director. She came into town to be at the shoot and we were just saying how magical the day was. And, you know, you’re kind of always waiting for the other like shoe to drop or foot to drop, whatever the saying is.

And, and we sat there and we were like, no, we actually prepared for this. We, it should be this, magical.  And when I was dropping off our creative director, she was like, everybody was having so much fun. It was the best day, that the shots were beautiful. We got these videos of our model jumping in the bra and it not falling at all on the way down.

And she was like, but the craziest part is that we weren’t even talking about how exceptionally well the product worked. We were just so excited to be there. And it was so energizing that everybody was having so much fun, but really the product was kind of the undercurrent of the whole day. 

And just to stop and reflect on the fact that this, this product that was a bane of our existence was just the platform to which we were able to spend this time together and create these beautiful shots and  come together with the people in Tampa who are photographers or videographers or models and, pursuing their passions to showcase this for all. It was just such a dream, and we’re so excited to launch and finally get this on other people outside of us.

Cause I have about 4,000 samples at my house, but we are ready to get this on women and see what they say. And make tweaks based on their feedback, but it’s finally time, but time’s finally here so

Trevor Schmidt: Wow, that’s fantastic. And I love the, it’s just such a great memory for the company, you know, years down the road to be able to look back at this time right before launch. So that’s very exciting. 

Ellery Linder: I am, I’m going to look, but I’m going to watch this and I’m going to be like, remember that moment. 

Trevor Schmidt: So we are the founder shares podcast. And so I like on every episode to be able to ask our founders, you know, if you have one piece of advice that you wanted to share with somebody, who’s either thinking about starting a company or kind of knee deep in it right now, and you wanted to share one piece of advice, what would that be? And you know, I’ll let you both have a chance to, to share your piece. 

 Ellery Linder: I think my answer to this also probably changes daily, just like, dependingon like where we’re at, what we’re dealing with, but we’ve been reflecting a lot on like, the very, very beginning and the kind of idea stages.

 I think stay open to advice, but also know yourself. And I do think that there’s gotta be a balance between being able to have like really strong advisors and a really strong community that you can lean on to ask questions and to pressure test different things.

But at the end of the day, like you’re the one making the decision and nobody knows better than you what’s right for the company. It’s not to say there’s not like right and wrong decisions. There definitely are, and like I’ve made the wrong decisions before too, but you got to stay open, like approaching with an open mind, know that, you know, plans are gonna change, be open just entirely to pivoting, to changing and adapting just like our bras, shameless plug.

But I would say at the end of the day, you know, if you have conviction about something or you feel very passionate, like  don’t neglect that, you know, there’s probably a reason why. So it’s, you’ve got to find that balance with yourself. Also. I’m like saying this to myself too, because you know, some days it feels really strong and other days it’s not as strong and I, you know, I’m left questioning different things, but yeah.

I think part of the reason why I’m so grateful to have Danielle is, you know, we can bounce those ideas off of each other. We know how to kind of go out. And if we’re unsure of something, we kind of collect facts and figures. And we talk to people who have that experience or whatever we need.

And then we kind of come together and we say, okay, what’s best for Wherewithal. Cause at the end of the day, no one knows what’s better for our company than us. So it’s, you know, find that balance. But stay open, try to stay open because you know, it’s amazing what you’ve learned when you meet people and you stay open. And man, we changed a lot because of, because of some of the advice that we’ve gotten along the way too, so. 

Danielle Rushton: There’s a quote kind of to go off of what you just said, Ellery. It’s be stubborn in your goals, but be flexible in the way that you get there. And so just like stay true to whatever it is you’re bringing to life.

I loved everything you said. And so just to kind of add to that. Elon Musk was on Clubhouse and someone asked him if like, what words of encouragement does he have for someone starting a company? And he said, if you need words of encouragement to start a company, you probably shouldn’t start a company.

And just to caveat off of that, I truly believe that everybody is here on this earth to bring something to this world that only they can bring. And so when you stay true to who you are and you, if you’re interested in starting a company, what are those pain points in your life that you deal with daily?

What are the things that you would like to solve? And once you find a true purpose and a true passion, that conviction comes very naturally and you’ll keep going through all the knows, all the challenges, all the naysayers, they won’t be able to stop you because you’ve found something that you believe in with so much conviction is really the perfect word.

And once you find that there’s truly nothing that can stop you. And, going back to what Ellery just said,it’s be stubborn in that goal and what you want to bring to the world, but be flexible in the way you get there. 

Trevor Schmidt: Well, I thank you so much for that and Ellery and Danielle, thank you so much for taking the time and sharing the Wherewithal story. And we’re very excited to see what the next few weeks hold for the company and, good luck with the launch.

Danielle & Ellery: Us too. Thank you.

Full Episode Transcript

Hosted by Trevor Schmidt, Founder Shares is brought to you by Hutchison PLLC, and is edited and produced by Earfluence.

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