Teens get worked up about a lot of things. But for Megan Grassell, the frustration she experienced during a bra-shopping trip to the mall with her younger sister sparked an idea she then grew into a company that makes age-appropriate bras for teens. In three short years Megan caught the attention of Forbes Magazine for her success, Time called her one of the country's most influential teens in 2014 and this year she's among the youngest speakers featured at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women. where QVC is giving her the opportunity to present her product to their buyers at the QVC Sprouts Inventors and Entrepreneurs Forum.
Grassell: So I started the company after a trip to the mall with my younger sister. I was 17 and she was 13 years old. We were shopping for bras and I was appalled at everything in the stores because it was oversexualized. There wasn't just a normal, comfortable bra for this age group. After doing quite a bit of market research, I found there wasn't really anything out there and so I launched a website when I was 18 with just two products and a Kickstarter campaign to raise money. I mean all I had was the money I'd saved from busing tables during high school, but we raised $25,000 overnight and then doubled that. It was amazing to hear how many people had experienced the same thing I did, so we had from the beginning, a lot of people really supporting the brand.
And why the name YellowBerry?
YellowBerry? If you think about a fruit before it's ripened, it's sort of synonymous with this stage in a girl's life.
How are you growing the company?
I started with 2 styles and 2 colors each. I was testing the market to see if people identified with my products and if they resonated in the market. Then I decided to add more products and be more like a teen apparel line. So that's definitely a focus for us as a company.
At 18, you were written up in Fortune Magazine. That's pretty impressive. When did you start to see yourself as an entrepreneur?
I think that's an interesting question for me. I guess that's what I am, but I never really thought of myself like that. I definitely think of myself more as a founder. And right now I feel like I founded something that's definitely headed in the direction I want to be going.
When you were young, did you love or hate the question, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' and how did you answer it?
I don't think I every really had an answer. I mean my schooling even up until now is through high school. I always wanted to go to college and get my undergrad as a history major and maybe go to grad school. But when I started YellowBerry I was really motivated and this is what I love right now.
Part of your success must be about that emotional connection you've made, so there are probably a lot of girls out there who feel like you really get what it's like growing up. What do you think is the toughest part of moving through those teen years for girls?
As a boy or a girl, I think it’s really hard. Whether you're on your computer of phone you’re saturated with information all the time. And when you’re growing up as a man or a woman or whatever, you’re trying to figure out who you are and it’s just a difficult balance to understand that everything out there is not real. It's hard.
Megan, how do you measure success?
I think for me, I don’t know. I don’t’ think it's something that’s right or wrong, there’s a lot of different ways people can see it and I just really want YellowBerry and our team (of 6) to grow. We are very collaborative and working really hard and having just a lot of fun every day.
A lot of people in your generation are really drawn to brands with a social component. Is that something you think about with YellowBerry?
I think part of my challenge right now is really just understanding that I’m not on a typical path for someone my age. I’m working with people who are older than me right now and I spend the majority of my time working on YellowBerry. That's where my head is now.
What are you usually thinking about at the end of the day, when your head hits the pillow?
Mostly it’s YellowBerry I guess. I wake up and get to the officer really early. You know we’re a startup and we’re doing a lot of different things. We’re constantly thinking about how we can make our product better and celebrate the girls and their stories. It’s definitely an open sort of approach every day, not a handbook. We are figuring it out as we go. Definitely fun.
Tell us what you're planning to talk about at this year's Pennsylvania Conference for Women. What's your message?
I’m a little bit nervous but what I kind of go back to — my go-to advice — is that no one really took me seriously. So I like to tell people if the worst answer is NO, then you should always ask the question!