About a year and a half ago, 17-year-old Megan Grassell took her sister, Mary Margaret, then 13, bra shopping for the first time. “We couldn’t find anything that wasn’t super sexualized, padded or push-up,” Megan recalls. “I have a very vivid memory of my sister walking out of the dressing room, and I was like ‘Oh my God, Mary Margaret, you can’t wear that!’”
It was the same at every store they tried.
“I remember thinking to myself in anger: ‘What is the hurry to grow up so fast?’” Megan says.
To avoid inappropriately sexy bras, the sisters ended up with boring, low-quality white, beige and black bras, which neither was very excited about.
…you just can’t rush those stages… that’s what makes you who you are.
“I was super frustrated on the way home,” Megan says. “And that’s when I started to wonder why anyone couldn’t make a cute, colored comfy bra for a girl to wear.”
That’s when Megan had the epiphany that she could do it. She couldn’t get the idea out of her head.
Sowing the Seeds of Yellowberry
A high school senior in Wyoming, Megan had no idea how to sew, design or make a pattern. But she didn’t let that stop her.
“I looked around for other things that were available,” she says. “I liked straps on one bra, the backs of others, and we eventually pieced something together that we wanted to get made.”
Creating their first sample was a bit like working on a jigsaw puzzle. “We eventually made it fit,” she says.
When she was ready, she took a box of colorful fabrics and a couple of colored-pencil sketches to a seamstress and began prototyping.
“I had my sister and her friends test the bra and wear it for a day or two and tell me what they liked and what they didn’t like,” Megan says.
Meanwhile, Megan settled on a name for her new company: Yellowberry.
“If you look at a berry, before its fully ripened, it’s just this yellow berry,” she explains. “And you just can’t rush those stages. For a girl, those yellow stages are your teenage years when you’re growing up and becoming a woman. And that’s what makes you who you are.”
In January, Megan launched her website and received her first batch of bras to sell.
It’s Not Just About Bras
As Megan thought about moving forward, she needed funding, and her parents urged her to be creative about it.
“I looked at Kickstarter as a crowd-funding platform, and I started a campaign in March that went for 30 days,” she says. “The goal was to raise $25,000, which was going to be used to produce more products.”
Her one-month goal was met within 24 hours.
“The campaign went a bit viral, and all these people, especially mothers, were really passionate about Yellowberry and the product,” Megan says. When she realized she would pass her target, she started crying from excitement.
“There was clearly such a need for Yellowberry bras,” Megan says. “Something that just didn’t scream ‘sex’ to these little girls.”
The final amount for the Kickstarter campaign was just under $42,000, and that’s what made Megan realize that Yellowberry was more than just a bra company.
“If we’re helping to avoid the early sexualization of girls, and we’re having a positive impact on that, and we’re encouraging girls to not grow up so fast, that is such a cool thing to be a part of,” Megan says.
Finding Inspiration in Family
Megan says Mary Margaret, the company’s inspiration, continues to play a pivotal role.
“Her opinions probably mean the most to me in terms of everyone else,” Megan says. “She’s like this super spunky 14-year-old girl, always very honest and blunt, which I usually appreciate.”
Eat as many marshmallows as you can.
Megan admits that Mary Margaret probably doesn’t love that the story of her buying her first bra has been broadcast all over the Internet, but she hopes her sister is at least a little flattered.
Yellowberry also honors the memory of Caroline, Megan’s 5-year-old sister who died when she fell off a parade float 10 years ago.
“Yellowberry has six different mantras that Caroline’s godparents wrote in her memory,” Megan says. They are:
- Water the flowers every day.
- Watch quietly and observe.
- Go barefoot.
- Love the outdoors and nature.
- Seek and find a hug when you need one.
- Eat as many marshmallows as you can.
“These are mantras that are very relatable for any girl who is in the midst of her tween years,” Megan explains. “When you buy a Yellowberry bra, one of the tags is a circle with a berry on one side and one of our tag lines on the other side. The mantras remind us to stay in touch with that innocence and that youth of the tween years.”
Parents are Fans
Megan says that moms have been especially grateful for the fact that Yellowberry exists.
“Mothers send us emails, and they thank us for providing a product like this because they’re now looking forward to buying their daughter’s first bra,” Megan says. “We had a few emails from single dads who thank us for what we’re doing, as they say we have made the process of buying their daughter’s first bra less daunting.”
Have No Fear of ‘No’
Since she was a high school student when Yellowberry launched, we asked Megan what motivated her to start her business.
“I didn’t think I was starting a business,” she says. “Things tended to fall into place as to what needed to happen next from the very beginning.”
She explains: “It happened very organically. I thought Yellowberry would be a fun hobby, where I could package bras on the weekends. But my Kickstarter campaign took it to another level as I realized that not only do I love this product and am passionate about empowering girls, but there is also a need for this product. This sparked the business side of Yellowberry more than I had ever intended.”
Once Megan realized that she fell into something that was really necessary, she refused to stop working on it and was determined to make it successful.
“Up to where we are now, it has been kind of like a crash course in business,” Megan says.
For the next few months, Yellowberry is focused on improving current products and looking into expanding into different bra styles. “I want to introduce some underwear … we’re in product development right now,” she says. “We’ve had some inquiries for swimwear, so we’re looking at the current swimwear available for girls.”
If you have an idea you want to pursue, Megan has some advice.
“The worst answer you can get to a question is no, so you should always strive to ask the question,” Megan says. “It’s also important to admit that you don’t know what you’re doing and to ask for help.”