Last month I had the pleasure of meeting teen entrepreneur Megan Grassell, now 19, at an energy summit in Jackson Hole, WY. Grassell is the founder of Yellowberry (www.yellowberrycompany.com), a company that sells age-appropriate pre-teen bras and messages of empowerment to girls.
A year ago, while shopping for bras with her pre-teen sister, she was struck by the lack of age-appropriate choices. “Everything we saw was underwire, push-up, and screamed ‘sex appeal’—not a single fashionable or comfortable choice for a 13-year-old girl,” she recalls.
So Grassell purchased a bag of fabric samples instead and began her own company, with the help of her mom. Based on Megan’s sketches her mother was able to create product samples, but the retail shops she approached rebuffed her, unwilling to do business with a “high school kid.” Undeterred, Megan was more determined than ever to remove the pressure on girls to dress and act in a manner too mature for their age.
The mission in her mind was rapidly growing into a revolution.
Teen entrepreneur Megan Grassell is spreading a message of fun and empowerment for preteen girls
So she decided to sell through the Internet. Initially, she raided the money she’d saved by pumping gas and waiting tables to create prototypes of her initial designs. But to get her business to the next level she needed additional inventory and an appropriate website design. Her solution: a Kickstarter campaign, with a goal of raising $25,000. By Spring of 2014, she’d raised $42,000 in one of the site’s most successful campaigns.
Her site exudes sass—product styles carry names like “Bug Bites” and “Tiny Tetons.” Every product has a message of fun and empowerment stitched into the seams such as “Go Barefoot,” and “Campfires are rare; eat as many marshmallows as you can.”
Yellowberry is working to change the bra industry by introducing fun and youth-focused products for preteen girls (Image courtesy of Yellowberrycompany.com)
What’s next for Grassell? Now graduated from high school she’s been accepted to Middlebury College, but acknowledges she will likely defer her schooling for a year while she continues to establish her business. While she declined to share revenue numbers with Forbes, she openly declares that her ambitions are high. “My parents are entrepreneurs and I love the idea of beginning and owning a business,” she says. “I’d like to take this venture as far as I possibly can.”
She also draws inspiration from the memory of her younger sister Caroline who died in a tragic accident at age 5. The accident reminds her daily that life is short, she says, and the company’s message of empowerment for young women is also a means of keeping her younger sister’s memory alive.
Regardless of the business, entrepreneurs of every age can find inspiration in the story of Yellowberry’s beginnings. When the retail industry failed to meet Megan Grassell’s expectations, she didn’t get mad. Instead, she got busy and became resolute, by honing the characteristics that can help every growing business succeed.
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