Student on Time Magazine’s List of Most Influential Teens

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Megan Grassell ’18.5 was recognized by Time magazine for founding the company Yellowberry. (Courtesy Bradly J. Boner)

By Ethan Brady

When Megan Grassell ’18.5 went with her younger sister to shop for bras, she was disturbed by the limited and sexualized selection she found. She found polar opposites: either low quality, boring bras in beige or, more commonly, padded, wired push-up bras in cup sizes far too large for her 13-year-old sister. What her young sister needed was an appealing yet non-sexual bra that would ease her transition into the awkward realm of puberty. Unable to find any such option, Grassell founded her own company called Yellowberry.

The name comes from the natural colors through which a ripening fruit progresses. “The berry first is green, and as it grows and ages it becomes closer to its final stage of red, purple, orange, or pink,” Grassell said. “First, however, it passes through several shades of yellow that take time. Those yellow stages happen naturally, often awkwardly, and shouldn’t be rushed. That is the essence of Yellowberry.”

Yellowberry’s bras offer an alternative to the overly sexual selection on most shelves. The product line includes comfortable, colorful training bras with names like Junebug and Sugar Cookie. The bras are designed without padded cups or underwires. The company’s main goal is to instill empowerment and confidence in preteen girls, who would otherwise be deluded into thinking that bodily sexualization is the only means to their expression.

The first bra buying experience, said Grassell, is something that every single girl goes through. It is often awkward and leaves a negative impression. “Based on the responses from many of our customers though, their daughters’ same first bra experience with Yellowberry is almost always positive,” Grassell said.

Grassell wants to share her story and her business with others who she thinks are also interested in empowering young women. “What better message can a girl receive than ‘You have the potential to do anything in the world, if you just go out and do it?’”

Through Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects, Grassell, working alongside four others initially raised $42,000 — well above the $25,000 goal she set for herself — and now runs an online retailer. All of Yellowberry’s products are currently available through its website, yellowberrycompany.com, and Grassell is working with several department stores to introduce YBC lines in time for the 2015 back-to-school shopping season. The company finalized its first licensing agreement with Aerie, a brand of American Eagle Outfitters, in October.

For her work with Yellowberry, Time Magazine listed Grassell in its List of Most Influential Teens of 2014, an accomplishment that certainly stuck out to Dean of Admissions Greg Buckles. “Megan’s application stood out immediately for us in our admissions committee deliberations. She presented as a grounded, mature, compassionate young person with an entrepreneurial streak. She had Middlebury written all over her.”

During her Febmester, Grassell has been working full-time in marketing and branding for her company. She plans to continue working in some capacity when she arrives to Middlebury in February, but intends to hire an in-house employee to manage Yellowberry’s social media presence and to launch other projects Grassell currently has in mind. “Although I am not at liberty to reveal everything, I will say that you’ll be able to see a new line of Aerie for Yellowberry bras coming this spring,” she said.