An Interview with Danielle Rushton, founder of Wherewithal ™
Women spend years of their lives wearing bras as the base garment to all of their outfits. For Danielle Rushton, founder of Wherewithal™, this garment left her feeling powerless and confused. If you’ve ever been confused about your bra size or frustrated with the fit of your bra, you’re not alone. In fact, Rushton discovered that thousands of women have been feeling exactly the same. We sat down with the Wherewithal™ founder to hear how she’s taking her power back and helping women everywhere do the same- one bra at a time.
Tell me about Wherewithal™ and the inspiration behind it. What was your background before launching Wherewithal and when did you launch your first product?
So the inspiration behind it: I had to start wearing a bra when I was nine years old in fourth grade. And in my peak tomboy phase, I remember the markings of womanhood were shaving your legs, getting your period and wearing a bra, all of which I didn’t want to do. And so ever since I was nine years old, I’ve been wearing this garment that has always made me feel limited by what I could and mostly could not wear and just very insecure.
My boobs were my base insecurity. And after years of therapy, I can now pinpoint that wearing a bra started this cycle in my life of letting people tell me who I had to be to fit into society. And I started replacing my actual desires with what the world tells you to be. And so that had this domino effect of letting everyone kind of put me in a box and I began to navigate through the world through the lens of: I need to be a nice girl, a good girl, a quiet girl. I can’t make a scene or speak my mind- all those things.
Up until second grade I wanted to be an artist, but I remember someone told me in second grade that I couldn’t be an artist because you don’t make money being an artist. So when I got to college all my friends wanted to be dentists or accountants, and I was like well, I’ll just get a business degree. So I started work at HSN, the home shopping network and the fashion ecommerce division, specifically the intimates category. And we would laugh because week after week, intimates would be the driving force behind the fashion division as a whole.
In tandem to this before I even had a twinkle of a bra design idea in my eye, I had ordered an extra large bathing suit top that barely fit. And it was the largest size option. And my boobs really aren’t that big. So I just remember thinking who is this made for? And after, you know, 20-21 years of me just feeling like I can’t wear anything and nothing fits my unusual body, I decided to buy a sewing machine. And I started teaching myself how to sew.
I had an idea for a built-in bra for a backless shirt. Now there is a brand doing built-in bras for all different shirts now. The reason I didn’t go that way is because I was thinking: work smarter, not harder. So having a built-in bra in one shirt means that’s the shirt I will want to wear. On the other hand, bras are meant to be that universal garment, we wear under all of our clothing. So it doesn’t matter what brand or style, this is supposed to be worn with anything we want to wear.
With strapless bras specifically, I was just thinking about why we hate them. And we hate them because they fall down and I kind of just reverse engineered the bra in my head and created what I call the “Franken bra.” I didn’t do any of this to start a company. I did this because I hated my boobs. So the next day, everybody randomly was talking about how much they hate their bras and a podcast that I listened to even talked about how strapless bras must have been made by men because they’re terrible. And I was like, wait a second, I’ve lived my whole life and nobody’s talked about bras. And now the day after I make this Franken bra thing, the universe is clearly trying to show me something.
I posted in a Facebook group and 300 women confirmed that they hated their bras. So after that I felt it was my responsibility to bring this to life for other women who felt the same way. So that’s really the inspiration and reason it all started. It was my own problem that then I found out resonated with hundreds of women. And now today thousands of women that I’ve talked to. We launched our first product in April of 2021. So I had the idea in 2017 and then finally brought it to life in April of 2021. And that was just our strapless bra and matching thong and our black color. And it was more so just hey, does anybody even like this? And turns out they did.
Did you ever imagine you’d be adding “entrepreneur” and “inventor” to your resume?
I love this question because I thought even the word entrepreneur was reserved for the Elon Musks and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. But I did some continuing education courses when I was at HSN. And one was an entrepreneur course. And it simplified it down to an entrepreneur is someone who takes something that exists and makes it better or creates something brand new. That’s all an entrepreneur is- it’s just somebody who does something to give to the world. Once it was reduced down to that I was like, Oh, I’m gonna be an entrepreneur, but still didn’t have any thoughts or desires to start a business.
Once I bought that sewing machine and started teaching myself how to sew, that is when the bra idea was revealed to me. And that’s how I was able to become this inventor and founder. It’s because I was just following my intuition and listening to myself. And that is it. I don’t have technical design skills. It’s just listening to what you need and then creating it for yourself and maybe for others.
How did you figure out how to make an entirely new product and bra sizing system?
I call myself an intuitive designer, because I just kind of think of things that make more sense and what would work better. Because I don’t have that technical background. I wear strapless bras a lot because I also have an arm insecurity. I loved off the shoulder things because I like how they covered my arm and also covered my bust. So I felt sexy without exposing my boobs or any of the things that I didn’t want to. But with strapless bras, they, of course, always fall down.
And so I was asking why do strapless bras fall down? Well, without shoulder straps, we lose support of our upper bust and there’s gravity. So of course it just slipped over time. And I thought if there was something that could anchor the upper bust that we could control as women and adjust whenever we felt like it was slipping, we could just make it tighter, so it wouldn’t fall. And that’s how I created this Franken bra situation with the strap at the bottom with those with adjustable straps.
What I wanted to do once I realized this as a need, was just create a traditional bra design that has a more functional back band with these dual adjusting bands. So it has the same silhouette, but just functions better.
So that’s how I came up with the product. But then, because of that adjustability, I knew that one of our bras was at least two traditional bra sizes. But it really took my now Chief Product Officer, Heather, who has an engineering and physics background and manufacturing supply chain product development experience to identify that it’s actually three sizes and one bra.
And then further, we realized it’s three sister sizes and one bra.
Where all the confusion is with traditional bra sizing and sister sizes is because a 34 C is the same as a 36 B or 38A. So the band size changes when the band changes, but the cup label also changes when the cup size is staying the same. That doesn’t make any sense. So bra sizing never made any sense to me, and I had been wearing a bra since I was 9-years-old and I never knew how to find my size. It’s the only garment that we have to go and get sized and it’s the garment that’s never changed. We’ve been wearing bras since childhood, but we still don’t know how to find our size, so there’s something that does not make sense about that entire equation.
Once we had identified that it’s three sizes, I had always known with our sizing system, I wanted to get away from ABCD, whatever cup sizes, because I myself was told I was a DD at Victoria’s Secret and I would shove my boob into a C cup because I was not going higher than that, because of the stigma. I wanted to create a system where we have four bands, one through four, smallest to largest. So we have nine cups, six through 14. And the cups are also smallest to largest.
So we use traditional sizes as a point of reference, but it’s a broken system. But the beauty is if, say you pick a band 2 cup 10, because of your traditional size, you get it home, you love the band, but you want to go down in the cup, you stay in the band 2, and you go down to a cup 9. It’s everything I thought bra sizing was until I realized it wasn’t. The way we find our size in anything else– you put on a pair of pants, if it’s too long, you go to the shorter version, but you keep that waist size. So it may be a little confusing at first, because bra sizing is already confusing. But once you get it home, it’s so simple. And we fit all of our sizes on the same fit model and will always do so, so that it’s always consistent.
What’s in store for the Wherewithal brand- any exciting launches coming up? What do you hope consumers experience with your brand?
Well, we’ve been really under the radar since we launched. I’ve been waiting to secure our utility patent, before really trying to make a big name or splash in the market. We secured that utility patent last November. So now we’re ready to reach more women than ever. In 2023 so far, we launched on nordstrom.com and we had that first viral TikTok moment.
But this year is really about more PR and more marketing in every way we can. Really getting our brand out there, because, like I said, we’ve been pretty under the radar. And what that TikTok alone has shown is that this product resonates with women, and it’s of all sizes of all backgrounds. Whatever you do, whatever your role is, where you are in life, we all have a touch point with a girl. And there are only a handful of women, probably 10, that I’ve met in the past five years that have said they liked their bra and that was it. So there are so many of us that need something better.
I hope with Wherewithal, by definition, that it provides the tools, resources or support necessary – and I believe a bra is just the tool we use to wear the things we want to wear. And I really hope that with our back band, and with the adjustability, there is a daily practice of listening to what feels good to you, and then adjusting accordingly. And so the same thing with your bra- if you need to adjust the band at all to make it more comfortable. You’re the only one who can make that change to feel good.
I do hope it transcends your role and goes into every area of your life that if something’s no longer serving you or something doesn’t feel good, you are the only one who can change that. So whether it’s your job, or your relationships, or the city you’re in, we are the ones who ultimately are in control of our lives, and it’s so scary to really realize the power we have. But, we can make those changes, we just have to act on that. So I hope that this becomes so much more than a bra company, because it’s not about the bra at all. It’s about what you wear your bra to do and who you are when you’re in a bra. Like me pitching my startup to a roomful of male investors or on a first date, or with friends, there are these moments that I’m becoming more of who I want to be. I hope we can support women in any way, as they become whoever they want to be.
What has been your favorite moment so far on your journey to launching Wherewithal?
The thing that just comes in so clearly is the women that I’ve met. I’ve always been a girl’s girl. I’ve always had a ton of girlfriends. The only thing that has kept me going without question has been every single moment I have met a woman or now, you know, thousands of women at this point, who just validate and verify the need for this and how limited they are in their current bras and how confused they are by sizing and how brands don’t even have their size. So it’s just the women that I’ve talked to at every step of the way. That has been my favorite part and has been the reason that I have been able to keep going through all of the challenges that come with starting something new.
I’ve made so many friends. And it’s so cool to be in a position where I just get to connect with so many amazing people. So that’s definitely been my favorite part, thinking about these women who start their day with this product that makes them feel good and makes them feel like they have what they need to wear, what they want to wear, for the first time ever is such a privilege.
What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs?
That’s a tough one. I think I would say to leverage, “female founder” to your advantage, like with the grants and other unique opportunities that come with it. But this is something I’m working on to not let it limit or define me as less than by any means. I think being a woman in business is sometimes intimidating, at least for me, and I’m really trying to wield my power and realize I know what I’m doing. I am capable, I’m confident and the people who resonate with this product as I fundraise, those people will become my partners and investors. I think the S&P 500 just came out with something about how there are about 426 male-led CEOs, compared to female led companies and women led companies have significantly outperformed the male led companies. When women are in business, we are very successful. I think we need more female founders and female entrepreneurs and female business leaders. I just encourage you to do whatever is on your heart because the world needs it. And the world needs you.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I think it’s just the reminder, again, that this isn’t about a bra company. The bra is the least interesting thing about anyone who’s wearing it, including myself, as an inventor and founder of a bra company. It’s wherewithal- it’s all about what you wear your bras to do. So while I’m still wearing bras, I’m just going to make better ones. I hope that for any woman who chooses to wear a bra, that this is the bra they choose. Because it’s just more comfortable and this garment that has always kind of made me feel really powerless and clueless about how it works is now designed for you to take your power back.