retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

You have to love this young woman. More importantly, you may want to find a job for her in your organization.

Her name is Megan Grassell, and she's currently 18-years-old. When she was a junior in high school, a recent story in the New York Times reported, she was "disturbed" by the selection of bras available to girls her age. She felt they were "dominated by push-up styles with padding and underwires. So last year, Ms. Grassell founded her own company, Yellowberry, and began making colorful, age-appropriate bras herself."

The Times goes on to say that "without knowing how to sew, much less how to create prototypes and samples, Ms. Grassell began to research fabrics and sketch designs. She asked her mother for help ordering materials, and she hired a local seamstress to collaborate on prototypes, paying for everything out of savings earned from summer jobs … In February, the first batch of Yellowberry bras arrived at the Grassells’ home from a Los Angeles manufacturer. Ms. Grassell began selling them online for $29.95 to $42.95. She declined to disclose Yellowberry’s total sales, other than to say that the first three batches of orders she placed with her manufacturer had sold out."

Now, to be sure, Megan Grassell is not your average teenager. She has a competitive spirit and is a champion skier - in fact, the reigning Wyoming state champion in the slalom and giant slalom events. And while she's been accepted to Middlebury College in Vermont, she may delay her education to shepherd Yellowberry through its next growth phase.

But I think this story represents something more fundamental - yet more evidence of the power of the consumer. If companies don't give them what they need or want, they'll do it themselves. If they're savvy, they'll use Kickstarter to raise money. (Grassell did.) And if they are both lucky and good, they end of inventing a niche and building a category that nobody else saw.

It is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: