By: Megan Grassell

Wellness , Caretaker

When I was 17 years old, I took my little sister, Mary Margaret (then age 13), to buy her first bra. I was appalled at all the padded, push-up, sequined and other sexualized options that were not only available for her, but marketed to such young girls!

At the time, I was working on my senior project at school, which was a research project on the early sexualization of young women in advertising and media.

I was asking myself, why does the apparel industry put tweens (typically describing ages 10-12, for the "between" years) into a position of having to grow up so fast? According to one study,  as much as 30% of all girls' clothing is sexualized

If it's true that "sexuality is a social construction and thus, a product of a particular socio-cultural environment" then I think we owe it to our little sisters to deconstruct the mixed messages that saturate their worlds. Young girls deserve to have a rite-of-passage that is both natural and organic. So, I decided, if no one else was going to make bras specifically for girls, then I would find a way to do it myself. 

I started Yellowberry with the goal of offering cute, modest and comfortable bras that were made for girls and their changing bodies.

Yellowberry is part of a social movement, launched from a failed shopping trip with my sister to buy her first bras. I wanted to make a bra that was not just a bra for a girl to wear, but one that stood for something more. I believe every girl should be confident, comfortable and embrace her real self. 

I came up with the name of my company after thinking about how tween and teen girls are in a stage between children and adults. Just as a berry is yellow before it's ripe, young girls need to move through their youthful yellows and not rush into womanhood. And that's what Yellowberry is about.

Being just seventeen at the time and still in high school, I was not taken seriously for attempting to make the world a better place with my business.  But I didn't let that stop me. I knew what I was doing was important for our little sisters everywhere.

Early on, I made a conscious decision that we would do all of our product photography from the back. I invited my friends and my sister's friends to be our models. 

As a growing start-up, our primary focus is on delivering the highest quality products for girls. Our mission to empower girls through the clothes they wear is what keeps us moving forward and constantly growing.

  • My name is Megan Grassell, I am 20-years-old, and I am the founder and CEO of Yellowberry. I started Yellowberry with the idea to make age-appropriate bra options for girls, after a failed trip to the mall with my own younger sister to buy her first ones. I had an idea, and in the past three years I have worked incredibly hard to not only make it a reality, but build a brand that is so much more than just bra company for girls. We are changing the industry for them.


Advice for my peers

The best piece of advice I have received is this: If the worst answer you can get is “no,” then you should always ask the question.  So, I ask a lot of questions!

Starting a company requires innovation, social disruption and the ability to push an entire category forward. When I took my little sister shopping for her first bra and we couldn't find anything that was really developed for someone her age, I thought, "if they're not going to do this right, then I'll do it."

Being a junior high school student at the time, I didn't have the experience or know-how to start, but I had the gumption! I involved anyone and everyone I could think of who was involved in apparel and who could help me from my local commuity. 

Although I got a lot of support and found some great mentors, I also got a lot of: "Honey, I think you should finish school before you start to revolutionize any type of bra industry." I also got: "It's always been this way. Sex sells. Have you seen Victoria's Secret?" 

If someone just tells you "that's the way it is," or "that's the way it's always been," I think that's where the opportunity exists to make a change. 

To go from concept or prototype to full production was challenging because it was hard to find a manufacturer willing to produce a small first run of just 100 bras. Our product went to market in January of 2014, but just because you build a business and have an offering, doesn't mean youimmediately have a customer-base!

I realized I needed to raise money. I decided I'd use crowdfunding to raise $25,000. I made the campaign live in March of 2014 and (at first) NOTHING happened!

I could have gone into a cycle of self-doubt and just give up, but I thought, "if these people don't get it, maybe I'm sharing the Yellowberry story with the wrong kinds of people!"

So I reached out to mom-bloggers, girl-empowerment and tween-girl fashion brands, and basically anyone and everyone I could think of who cares about this subject-matter. I reached out via email, phone and social media, telling them how old I was, and asking if they'd be willing to share my story ... AND A FEW OF THEM DID ... on their blogs or across other social media channels!

By the time the campaign ended, we earned $41,795 from 1,087 backers!

As much as the money was great, the real affirmation came when people started sharing the "why" of Yellowberry. The name itself tells the story.  Just as a fruit moves through different stages of yellow as it ripens, tweens move through their own stages of development -- and this should happen naturally and organically.

Yellowberry celebrates those yellow and youthful stages of a girl's life and gives them the literal and figurative support they need to thrive.

The attention we received from our crowdfunding campaign helped us ean a $500,000 dollar investment from angel investors. I was also honored with a top-25 spot on Time Magazine’s most influential teens list for 2014. In turn, this helped us score a limited-edition tween bra collection and licensing partnership with Aerie, a sub-brand of clothier, America Eagle Outfitters.

The brand partnership made a lot of sense because Yellowberry's target customer is much younger than Aerie, and we had a unique opportunity to work with their team to share a social message of youthful innocence. 

In addition, moms resonate with the mission behind Yellowberry. They get it, and therefore they want to support it because they want their daughters to have a positive experience when shopping for bras - especially for the first time!

Social media has been a huge part of the growth of Yellowberry.  It is in many ways, the best avenue we have to be in constant and direct communication with our customers.  It allows us to share what's new, what we're working on, and as always, it brings our focus back to our Yellowberry girl!  ​

While we not share any type of numerical or financial data, I am proud to say that our line has grown from just two introductory styles in January of 2014 in two colors each, into 15 bra styles in multiple colors along with an offering of underwear, leggings and loungewear.

Each product we sell comes with its own unique style and characteristics which reinforces the idea that Yellowberry bras are more than just bras, they represent this Yellowberry lifestyle and we invite girls to live by our mantras. 

In terms of seeing success, it’s always amazing to see how customers react to our products. Our community is very engaged, supportive, and we know girls love our products because they share Yellowberry with their friends, as evidenced from the testimonials we get on our Facebook page!

In terms of failure however, I don’t actually like that word very much because when I think of failure, I think of someone who gives up.  Yellowberry is here, we are growing, and we are working hard. That being said, we have absolutely experienced setbacks of so many kinds!  Apparel is difficult, so product can arrive in the wrong color, fabric, sizes, etc. We have hired people before who were not quite the right fit for our team, that is a challenge to overcome. We have tried, tested, and perhaps “failed” at specific marketing tactics or introducing new ideas/products etc.  And when that happens, we scrap it and move on. All we proved that is that one tactic didn’t work, so we move on to find something that will!

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