Imagine you are eleven years old and your mom is taking you to the mall to purchase your first bra. As you enter the lingerie section, you are confronted with rack after rack of lacy and racy undergarments befitting the runway of a Victoria Secret Fashion Show.
It is exactly the scenario that inspired Megan Grassell, the CEO and Founder of Yellowberry who speaks today to inspire local girls, to create a bra that “fits your body, not the one you are supposed to have.”
On a harrowing trip to purchase a bra for her younger sister, Megan was immediately assaulted by the lack of age-appropriate undergarments for developing girls. Everything was overly sexualized and designed for a full figured woman. The experience led to an epiphany: “If no one was going to make age-appropriate bras,” she reasoned, “I would do it myself.”
At 17, while a junior in high school, Megan took steps to form Yellowberry, the company she founded to create bras for ‘tweens and young girls. She sought the help of a local seamstress in her hometown of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Together, they developed a prototype that Megan later tested on her sister and her friends.
In January 2014, the first batch of bras, in four styles and all-cotton, arrived on Megan’s doorstep from a small manufacturer in California. Megan was just a senior in high school. At home, she had created a website to sell her product and watched her first sale register just thirty seconds later. It took a few minutes to realize that it was her dad who had purchased the bra from a computer in the next room!
Megan recalls how that first sale to her dad was her only sale for several months. She admits she had built the website herself, using pictures she snapped with an antiquated iPhone. But her initial failures also inspired her future success.
“I felt like this idea was bigger than just bras…people were not understanding the brand.”
At the time, Megan had used all her resources to develop her product. She decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to both raise money and tell her story. With the help of a high school friend, she created a beautiful video set against the backdrop of her Jackson Hole home. In it, girls swim, skate, ski, dance, and sing. Overlaid, is the story Megan wanted to tell from the beginning:
Seek and find a hug when you need one
Water the flowers every day
Love the outdoors and nature
The sentiments capture the mission of Yellowberry: to empower girls to be confident in who and what they are, a message she plans to send today when she speaks to girls at Bryn Mawr, Garrison Forest and Roland Park Country School.
Megan spent over a year researching and contacting organizations with a similar mission of empowering girls. She recently discovered an email from A Mighty Girl, one of the first websites to promote her product. With an active Facebook following, the website helped Megan reach her entire Kickstarter goal. Seemingly overnight, Megan’s notoriety grew to include an appearance on TODAY and features in The New York Times, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, Forbes Magazine, Seventeen and Teen Vogue.
In 2014, Megan was selected as one of TIME Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Teens and included on Huffington Post’s list of 14 Most Fearless Teens. In 2015, Megan was named by Yahoo one of the 24 Millennials to Watch. And, just last week, Megan was named to the 2016 Forbes “30 Under 30,” the youngest honoree at age 20. In addition, she was selected as a consultant for the first-ever Barbie Global Advisory Board for Mattel and was instrumental in Barbie’s changes launched last Friday.
Despite the accolades, Megan remains humbled by and grateful for her success. She always reminds herself of her beginnings, even recalling her first call, on her personal cellphone, from a major media outlet. “When I answered, they asked to speak to my publicist…so I hit mute and passed the phone across the table to my mom.”
This humility also stems from the pride Megan feels for her product and her mission. She truly believes in her ability to encourage young girls.
Megan feels the opportunity to address upper school girls is especially poignant given her own high school experience. She explains that high school was not an easy time for her. In addition to developing her bra idea, she ski raced competitively. She recalls being “on my own a lot…I didn’t have a lot of support.” However, both activities provided important outlets for her.
Just as she did, Megan stresses the importance of following through with an idea.
“If you have an idea, make it happen.”
She believes her company’s goal, beyond outfitting girls with bras that make them feel comfortable and confident, is to empower them. When she reflects on her own struggles, she often wishes there had been an example like Yellowberry for her.
Yellowberry’s name comes from the developing, yellow stage of fruit that ripens into a berry. She likens this to the stage to that of her target audience — that moment of growing and maturing that ultimately informs the rest of their lives. Her products are exclusively for girls and, in recent months, have grown to include enhanced bra styles, seamless undergarments, active and loungewear.
There is no doubt Megan’s message will resonate with Baltimore high school girls. Her words of encouragement and empowerment as well as the incredible example of implementing ideas into reality capture the heart of 21st century girls’ education. As schools seek ways to implement STEAM programs, Megan’s success provides just the living model they need.