Startup Reporter publishes a new article of the series “Startup Journey: from 0 to 1”. In this series of articles, we aim at presenting founders not only through their innovative projects but also by talking about their personality and the team.
Oleksandr Komarevych (OK): – Charlotte, please tell me what Missfits is doing? Where did the idea come from and why in this period?
Charlotte Chiang: – We started Missfits as an answer to a common problem: 80% of women buy and wear bras that don’t fit. That’s because the last revolution in lingerie sizing standards took place in the 1970s (and was developed by a man).
Simply put, women don’t have good tools to shop for bras and as a result, many of us feel needlessly frustrated when we shop for bras.
So, at Missfits we sell bras based on each customer’s unique breast shape, preferences, and lifestyle. Our proprietary sizing system uses 22 measurements and helps us curate the right bras for every woman, which we send to her doorstep to try in the comfort of her own home.
The idea began three years ago when I moved to Milan to study lingerie design. The more women I spoke with, the more I realized they had the same problem I did: not being able to find bras that felt good and represented their personal style. My attention shifted from producing bras to producing a better method to shop for them.
I believe that now more than ever, personalization and inclusivity in the fashion space is the key to creating a more sustainable industry.
Furthermore, interest and investment in women’s wellbeing are on the rise. As women, we’re no longer content to be ‘sold to’ – we want to our products and services to understand us and help us live fuller lives.
Finally, now that remote fitting has become a necessity, so too are the tools that will help us accomplish this virtually.
OK: – What are you working on right now with Missfits?
Charlotte: – We’re working on more specialized products/services for pregnant women and breast cancer survivors. Bra shopping is incredibly challenging during moments in a woman’s life when her body is changing in rapid and often unexpected ways, and we want to be a resource during those moments.
OK: – The team is vital for a startup at any stage. Who is in your team? Could you tell us about the uniqueness of each team member?
Charlotte: – I (CEO) was born in the US to immigrant parents. I myself am also an immigrant, having lived in four countries and three continents as an adult. My background is a mixed bag – as an undergraduate, I studied politics, then got my masters in Economics. I made a brief career developing microfinance and green finance programs in Asia before I decided to move to Milan and study lingerie design.
Alex, our CTO, also comes from a multicultural background. He was born in Brazil and has lived and worked in the US and Europe. He’s built startups across an array of technologies, from consumer-tech to blockchain to A.I. Meanwhile, he’s a guitarist who’s played and toured with several different bands.
Between us, we speak five languages and have lived on four continents. I think this diversity keeps us flexible and resilient.
OK: – How would you describe your team in one word?
Charlotte: – Scrappy!
OK: – What is your plan with Missfits for the next six months? What is your vision for 5 years from now?
Charlotte: – Our priority in the next 6 months is to continue servicing our customers to the best of our ability by 1) improving our recommendation model, and 2) innovating solutions to specialized bra fit issues, as I mentioned above.
Our biggest asset as a company is the data we’re collecting on bras, breast shapes, and how these fit together. In five years, I would really like to create a virtuous data cycle with brands/retailers in the industry.
Our data can be helpful at the design, merchandising, and purchasing stages to optimize sales and reduce waste. What we now know is that remote fitting solutions will become increasingly necessary, and we’re providing one way for lingerie retailers to meet this change.
OK: – Often, in an interview, I ask why you choose this project and not others, why where you so interested in this specific topic.
Going a long way around, this brings to the questions:
- What kind of child were you?
- Did you have someone who influenced you?
Charlotte: – I was an introverted child who never felt like I fit in – not in terms of looks, nor interests or ambitions. This is a sentiment I’ve carried with me through adulthood – though now I understand that ironically, many people feel the same.
When I started Missfits I did so knowing that lingerie – despite being the most fundamental garment for half the world’s population – excludes many with its lack of sizing options and outdated marketing. As the first thing we put on each morning, lingerie can very much impact our comfort and confidence for the day, yet we often feel awkward or frustrated when it comes to buying and wearing bras.
Coming full circle, Missfits was really built as a home for people who felt maligned by the lingerie industry. We carry an enormous range of sizes, don’t showcase models in our website, and use gender-neutral language. Anyone shopping with us should feel completely welcome and safe.
OK: – Describe the conversation when you first mentioned to your husband that you wanted to start Missfits.
Charlotte: – It was very early on in our relationship. He told me “Great! Go for it!” If that hadn’t been the case, I guess we wouldn’t still be together today.
OK: – Why did you become a founder (startupper) and what should anyone develop in him/herself to become a founder?
Charlotte: – I always wanted to own my own business – I saw it as great training and means to make a direct impact on the world.
To get anywhere with a startup, I think one needs to learn resilience: resilience against challenges, uncertainties, and other people’s opinions.
Too often people think you need to be particularly smart or talented to do a startup. But at the end of the day, there are no ‘hacks’ to building a good business. You just need to put in the work, day after day, and not back down when things get tough.
OK: – What would you recommend to readers who have an idea, but haven’t figured out where to start yet?
Based on your experience, what would be your advice to them?
Charlotte: – Now more than ever, it’s easier to reach an audience. We have Wix, Shopify, and all kinds of social media at our fingertips – no need to find a technical cofounder or read a bunch of startup books before you begin.
Make something (even if it’s just a landing page!) and see if people will actually pay for what you’re selling – this is the quickest way to train yourself into launching things and getting honest feedback on what you’re building.
OK: – What purchase of €100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
Charlotte: – When I tested positive for Covid I got an oximeter to make sure my oxygen levels were fine. Now I use it several times a day and it’s a great reminder to take big deep breaths!
OK: – What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have significantly influenced your life?
Charlotte: – The last book I gave as a gift was “Algorithms to Live By”, by Brian Christian. As humans, we tend to overcomplicate our everyday lives.
This book shows how to apply some basic principles of computer engineering to our decisions, interactions, and processes, in order to eliminate a lot of useless stress.
OK: – If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?
“Every breath a new beginning.”
We often doom our own thoughts by holding on too tightly to the past or the future, which prevents us from reaching our highest potential in the present moment.
I believe that if we all practised renewing our assumptions, outlook and mood on a constant basis, we might live more fully and graciously.
OK: – What did you learn from being a founder?
Charlotte: – I’ve learned 1) how to let go of perfectionism and 2) that money from customers is better than money from investors.
OK: – If the old you could see the new you, what would the new you say?
Charlotte: – Realize that every person you meet knows something you don’t – learn from them. Start trusting yourself, and good things will happen. Take care of your health. Take care of your skin. The point of money isn’t to buy things – it’s to buy freedom.
OK: – What would you like to wish the readers?
A life of non-complacency. We need people who will risk their own comfort and status in the service of a better world. Whether you do that through entrepreneurship, social activism, or self-development, is not important.Charlotte
Our society has been designed to keep us complacent and entertained – and surely if we all accept a life characterized by these values, we will bring about our own demise.