How To Kickstart Your Start-up Like Yellowberry Founder, Megan Grassell
When Megan Grassell took her younger sister bra shopping, she was dismayed at how inappropriate the selections were for a tween—a leopard print push-up bra felt all wrong. That unsuccessful shopping trip inspired Megan to start her own bra business, Yellowberry, named after a fruit that’s not yet ripe. She launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the company and ended up far exceeding her initial funding goal. We talked to Megan about the Kickstarter, her company, and her plans for the future:
How much work did you do to prepare for the Kickstarter?
I put a lot of time into the language on the Kickstarter website, and a lot of time went into creating that video. One of my friends was really into filmography and movies and stuff, so I paid him $400 to work with me for two days, to shoot film of my sisters and friends, and then edit the film. It was my first attempt at marketing and branding. I knew it was the first thing people were going to see about my company and that it needed to be very true to Yellowberry. I tried to give it a bit of depth and tell someone why they should financially back the company. That took a lot of time and preparation. Plus, I had school, too, so it wasn’t like I was doing it full time.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
When we launched the Kickstarter campaign, I didn’t plan for it as much as I should have, as far as getting the word out there. I was actually leaving on a school trip, a Habitat for Humanity trip to Guatemala. We had a 30-day time frame, and I was going to be gone for ten of those days. I thought, “Oh, God, this is bad, the timing just hasn’t worked out well … Whatever, it’ll be fine.” I think that was me being a bit naive.
Why do you think your Kickstarter campaign was so successful?
We opened the campaign and I just sort of expected a huge reaction to begin with, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, nothing’s happening, no one’s donating, what do I do?” So I realized, there’s got to be someone out there that’s interested in this tween fashion, girl empowerment kind of category. So I put together a letter about me, about my company and what I was trying to accomplish, and I sent it out to a bunch of bloggers and Facebook pages that had been followings. One called A Mighty Girl picked up my story and wrote about it, and that was on, I think, day four. I wasn’t even in the country, had no wifi, didn’t have my cell phone, and the entire campaign was funded in a period of 24 hours. Then an article written about my Kickstarter campaign on a blog called Lingerie Talk went kind of viral, and that led to a lot of the press that Yellowberry has had the past couple months.
What would you tell someone else who’s considering using a Kickstarter to launch a company?
I think it’s important to really plan the wall—I wish I had planned out mine a little more. And then in terms of reaching out to people who can share your story and who can write about it – I was sort of doing that on the fly while it was going instead of having that set up before it started.
It’s also a great way to test the market for your product. I think a lot of times with Kickstarter, you have product stories and then you have social message stories, and Yellowberry is definitely both of those together. You’re getting unaltered feedback directly from the consumer, and that’s a really cool way to see what a market would feel like if you introduced your product for real.
How big is your company now?
We don’t have a marketing team or PR agent. It’s just me, my partner (who’s also my mom), and a woman who works full time doing customer service and graphic design work. We all kind of laugh, because someone will call one of our phone numbers and be like “Hi, we’re looking for the marketing department.” We put them on hold, and I’m like “OK, Mom, they want to talk to you about this. You’re the marketing team.” That’s still how it is today.
What advice would you give someone who’s trying to build a brand?
I think the best advice anyone ever gave to me is: If the worst answer that someone can say to a question you have is “no,” then you should always ask the question. Starting a business is a problem-solving endeavor every day. There’s not always a right answer, and not everyone is going to have an answer for you, but if you keep moving forward, you’ll find it eventually.
Growing up, were you always the entrepreneurial type?
This is my first “real” business, but when I was younger, my parents owned a gas station with a deli in the town we lived in. In middle school, my brother and I figured out that we could work as full-service gas attendants and make money from tips. I also used to make duct tape wallets and sell them in the store, and it was a little bit entrepreneurial—on a small scale, though. I maybe made a total of $200 in my duct tape wallet making career. It was a little taste of it, though, for sure.
How has your life changed since starting Yellowberry?
In a lot of ways, both personally and professionally, I think I was lucky to be pretty young and fall into something that I actually love to do that also happens to be a job. It’s really exciting to know what I want to do, as I’m growing up. Personally, too, I’ve met some really incredible people so far. TIME.com just listed me as one of the 25 most influential teens of the year. There’s a lot of things that are just hard for me to comprehend. I always had a lot of confidence in the product and the company as a business, but I didn’t realize that this concept of bras for girls was going to hit the heartstrings of so many other women—and men … dads and moms and daughters.
What are your goals for Yellowberry moving forward?
I think that Yellowberry has a lot of potential, so limiting it to just a bra company for girls would be kind of silly. Looking at it in terms of a business and its potential to grow, I think there’s a lot of room for Yellowberry to do that.
What inspires you?
I think the community of Yellowberry is a pretty inspiring group of women. We hear from people all the time—they’ll send us emails or Facebook comments or Instagram us—about the great things that they’re doing. It’s really cool to make those connections.