By: Marie Griffin, Content Strategy Director, KidBacker
Yellowberry, which makes bras for young teen girls, was founded by a 17-year-old “big sister” who dared to ask, “What is the hurry to grow-up so fast?” Megan Grassell was shopping with her younger sister, who was looking for her first bra, and she was appalled that the 13-year-old could only find bras designed to push up, pad and enhance her developing figure.
As fate would have it, Megan won a grown-up bra in a raffle shortly afterward. “This one was made to wear every day with no padding, no wires, and no expectations,” Megan writes as she tells the Yellowberry story on her company’s website. Megan immediately decided that she was going to make bras for young girls herself—even though she couldn’t sew and was a busy high school junior and a nationally ranked competitive skier.
Megan started Yellowberry in 2013 in her family home near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where she collected images of bras she liked, sketched ideas and made model bras with swatches of fabric. “This idea would not leave me alone until I jumped up and did something,” she adds.
In March 2014, Megan launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 to begin manufacturing and shipping Yellowberry bras. At the end of 30 days, after her campaign went viral, $41,795 had been pledged.
As the campaign ended, media around the country picked up on Megan’s story—Fortune magazine, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Good Morning America, The Today Show and others. Orders came rushing in.
Since graduating from high school in 2014, Megan has been running Yellowberry full time. Luckily, KidBacker was able to catch the busy entrepreneur for a question-and-answer session.
KidBacker: What was it in the way you were raised that prepared you to be an entrepreneur at such a young age?
Megan Grassell: I grew up in a small town in Wyoming, and my parents are very entrepreneurial. They were involved in some small family businesses. Also, my parents expected a lot from my siblings and me at a young age. They gave us a lot of responsibility.
KB: On the Yellowberry website, you tell the story of how you got the idea to start your business while helping your younger sister shop for her first bra. What did you do next?
MG: The idea was never to make just a few bras for my sister and her friends. It was bigger than that. I didn’t know how to sew, so it was a long and involved process to create a design. I did my research by going to different stores and the mall to see what they had. I found someone in Jackson to make a prototype, and then I made cold calls to manufacturers. My mother went to California and met them in person, and we decided to go forward with one of them.
KB: Each of these stages costs money. Where did that come from?
MG: I had made money working in the summertime. I bussed and waited tables and worked on a ranch.
KB: That wasn’t enough to start manufacturing products, was it?
MG: No. I put up a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. I looked at what other people were doing to see what made their campaigns successful. They had great stories and great videos. I wrote all the copy to explain what Yellowberry is and worked with a friend to do the video. I put a lot of time and effort into building my campaign and then I put it out there, really believing it would do well, and it did.
KB: What was your biggest challenge?
MG: Being so young. It was hard to get people to take me seriously. But I really wanted to do this. I knew that there were people who would believe in this business, and I was determined to find them.
KB: Early on, you found a mentor, Stephen Sullivan, who was a founder and co-founder of two outdoor apparel companies. How did you meet him and how did you get him interested in helping you?
MG: I simply reached out to him with a phone call and told him about my idea. He was more than willing to help me. Steve was very helpful in the very beginning stages of Yellowberry, and he is still someone I go to for advice. However, as Yellowberry started to move forward, I was able to establish relationships with people in the apparel-specific space, which has been eye-opening as well as incredibly valuable. I have tried to find people who have certain areas of expertise and who also might be interested in helping a young woman navigate her way through the vast world of startups, big business, and apparel. Lots for me to learn!
KB: How did you juggle school with launching your business?
MG: It was quite hard. When I first started, I was a junior in high school, and the business took off toward the end of my senior year. I was also a competitive ski racer, so I had a really difficult time keeping up with school, ski racing, and Yellowberry. I eventually quit racing.
KB: How did you feel about giving up so much for Yellowberry?
MG: I was excited about this new venture, so I never felt I was missing out on anything. When you start any business, you have to be very motivated to be able to see it through. I was doing this by myself, but I was committed. If I had to do it over, I wouldn’t change anything.
KB: When did you open a formal office for Yellowberry?
MG: About a year and a half ago, over the summer, I moved into an office space in Wilson, Wyoming. It was a great thing to have been able to move everything out of my family’s living room and garage.
KB: What’s next for Yellowberry?
MG: First of all, we’re trying not to grow too quickly, but when we do expand, we’ll do it horizontally, with more products for young teen girls.
KB: Finally, how can people find Yellowberry on the web and social media?
Location: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Business: Retail Clothing
Mission: To change the bra industry for girls
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