The best piece of advice I have received is this: If the worst answer you can get is “no,” then you should always ask the question. So, I ask a lot of questions!
Starting a company requires innovation, social disruption and the ability to push an entire category forward. When I took my little sister shopping for her first bra and we couldn't find anything that was really developed for someone her age, I thought, "if they're not going to do this right, then I'll do it."
Being a junior high school student at the time, I didn't have the experience or know-how to start, but I had the gumption! I involved anyone and everyone I could think of who was involved in apparel and who could help me from my local commuity.
Although I got a lot of support and found some great mentors, I also got a lot of: "Honey, I think you should finish school before you start to revolutionize any type of bra industry." I also got: "It's always been this way. Sex sells. Have you seen Victoria's Secret?"
If someone just tells you "that's the way it is," or "that's the way it's always been," I think that's where the opportunity exists to make a change.
To go from concept or prototype to full production was challenging because it was hard to find a manufacturer willing to produce a small first run of just 100 bras. Our product went to market in January of 2014, but just because you build a business and have an offering, doesn't mean youimmediately have a customer-base!
I realized I needed to raise money. I decided I'd use crowdfunding to raise $25,000. I made the campaign live in March of 2014 and (at first) NOTHING happened!
I could have gone into a cycle of self-doubt and just give up, but I thought, "if these people don't get it, maybe I'm sharing the Yellowberry story with the wrong kinds of people!"
So I reached out to mom-bloggers, girl-empowerment and tween-girl fashion brands, and basically anyone and everyone I could think of who cares about this subject-matter. I reached out via email, phone and social media, telling them how old I was, and asking if they'd be willing to share my story ... AND A FEW OF THEM DID ... on their blogs or across other social media channels!
By the time the campaign ended, we earned $41,795 from 1,087 backers!
As much as the money was great, the real affirmation came when people started sharing the "why" of Yellowberry. The name itself tells the story. Just as a fruit moves through different stages of yellow as it ripens, tweens move through their own stages of development -- and this should happen naturally and organically.
Yellowberry celebrates those yellow and youthful stages of a girl's life and gives them the literal and figurative support they need to thrive.
The attention we received from our crowdfunding campaign helped us ean a $500,000 dollar investment from angel investors. I was also honored with a top-25 spot on Time Magazine’s most influential teens list for 2014. In turn, this helped us score a limited-edition tween bra collection and licensing partnership with Aerie, a sub-brand of clothier, America Eagle Outfitters.
The brand partnership made a lot of sense because Yellowberry's target customer is much younger than Aerie, and we had a unique opportunity to work with their team to share a social message of youthful innocence.
In addition, moms resonate with the mission behind Yellowberry. They get it, and therefore they want to support it because they want their daughters to have a positive experience when shopping for bras - especially for the first time!
Social media has been a huge part of the growth of Yellowberry. It is in many ways, the best avenue we have to be in constant and direct communication with our customers. It allows us to share what's new, what we're working on, and as always, it brings our focus back to our Yellowberry girl!
While we not share any type of numerical or financial data, I am proud to say that our line has grown from just two introductory styles in January of 2014 in two colors each, into 15 bra styles in multiple colors along with an offering of underwear, leggings and loungewear.
Each product we sell comes with its own unique style and characteristics which reinforces the idea that Yellowberry bras are more than just bras, they represent this Yellowberry lifestyle and we invite girls to live by our mantras.
In terms of seeing success, it’s always amazing to see how customers react to our products. Our community is very engaged, supportive, and we know girls love our products because they share Yellowberry with their friends, as evidenced from the testimonials we get on our Facebook page!
In terms of failure however, I don’t actually like that word very much because when I think of failure, I think of someone who gives up. Yellowberry is here, we are growing, and we are working hard. That being said, we have absolutely experienced setbacks of so many kinds! Apparel is difficult, so product can arrive in the wrong color, fabric, sizes, etc. We have hired people before who were not quite the right fit for our team, that is a challenge to overcome. We have tried, tested, and perhaps “failed” at specific marketing tactics or introducing new ideas/products etc. And when that happens, we scrap it and move on. All we proved that is that one tactic didn’t work, so we move on to find something that will!