Jessica Miao and Chloe Beaudoin venture Apricotton is an online bra brand improving bra shopping for young girls. The bras have adjustable features to grow as the girl grows, like removable padding, adjustable and hideable straps, and stretchy moisture-wicking fabric.
Buying your first bra is a significant milestone when going through puberty, so Apricotton wants to make this experience fun and exciting for girls. Because of this, they wrap all their bras like a present and include a personalized thank you card in every order!
Alongside the bras, they have managed to build a movement on their website and social media to help educate girls on everything related to puberty so that no girl must go through puberty alone.
What made you start this business?
We are Chloe and Jessica, the Co-Founders of Apricotton. We became close friends during our business program classes at Western University. During one of our classes, we started talking about our own negative experiences with bra shopping when we were 12 and how girls are still struggling with this issue today, which inspired the idea for Apricotton. We started Apricotton straight out of university in April 2020, and we officially launched in November 2020.
How did you come up with the name?
We wanted a name that was fun and represented growth for girls going through puberty, like fruit. We also used the word ‘cotton’ because our bras are soft, just like cotton! Apricotton is the combination of the words apricot and cotton.
What is the most frequently asked question that you have faced from your clients, and how do you guide them in the best way with that?
The most common question we get is, “what is my bra size?”. This is because bra sizing is so overcomplicated that most girls, including adult women, don’t know their bra size. We wanted to make bra shopping and finding your size easy since wearing the wrong size bra can lead to discomfort and back problems.
Therefore, we made all of our sizing similar to standard t-shirt sizing. Girls simply must measure their underbust and then compare it to our sizing guide, ranging from an S to XL. Although we have four sizes, our bras fit measurements from a 30A to a 36D because our sizing is so simple, and our bras are made to stretch to conform to different body types. Thus, we can give girls a quick and easy answer since our sizing process is so simple.
How big is your team?
We are a team of two, with seven incredible female volunteers that help us with our content creation and social media. At the moment, we’re all working remotely, but we’re excited to meet up once it is safe to do so! Our team has become its little community, acting as older sisters to the next generation of girls.
How has the community helped you in this journey during the pandemic?
Our community has become increasingly important during the pandemic. Girls already struggle to find specific information about puberty. Still, it’s become even more complicated with virtual schooling since girls no longer have easy access to their friends, teachers, or guidance counsellors to ask questions. We’ve grown our community by making blog posts and relatable content to answer these questions, such as “How do I ask my parents for a bra?” and “How do I deal with my first period?”. Girls feel comfortable enough to send us questions, and we’re so happy to help them, especially since we didn’t have this kind of advice at their age.
We’ve managed to grow quickly due to so many girls turning to the internet to answer their puberty questions. As we continue to grow, we want to ensure that we’re actively helping girls and supporting them through puberty since it’s so much more difficult to access information and even go bra shopping in-store due to the pandemic.
How has the business changed with covid?
When we first designed the bras, we struggled to find a manufacturer since most places were temporarily shut down or switched to only producing masks. We started Apricotton in the middle of the pandemic, which made things difficult. It took us about three months to find a manufacturer that matched our values and quality standards, which delayed our launch to November 2020.
Most of our COVID-19 related challenges have been related to shipping. In December, we had a great Boxing Day and sold out of 80% of our inventory. However, our manufacturers shut down for the entirety of February for Lunar New Year since they wanted to give their employees the time to quarantine before and after the celebration. We were happy to hear about how much our manufacturers care about their employees, but it also resulted in us going three months with our bras on pre-order.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing as an entrepreneur right now?
At the moment, we are struggling with funding. Apricotton is currently self-funded with the help of some awards from competitions, and we are using our sales to fund our working capital gap. However, because we are still small, we maintain our working capital gap through short inventory cycles, which lead to issues such as running out of inventory quickly. We are also struggling to manage the gap to buy new inventory versus working on product development.
Another big issue that comes from funding is our marketing budget. Since all our money goes directly into producing the best experience possible for girls by designing quality bras, it gives us a tiny budget for producing content and advertisements. Currently, we are making all our content ourselves with our basic camera equipment. We mainly post on our Instagram and TikTok since our advertising budget is so low. Although this strategy has been effective so far, our budget is limiting our growth. With better funding, we can expand our product lines quickly and reach more girls through more professional content and advertisements, to help us reach our goal to become the #1 tween bra brand in Canada.
What is your everyday routine like now (in terms of work)?
We both share quite a few tasks and interchange them based on our schedules. The main tasks we do daily are:
● Managing our social media channels and creating content
● Meeting with our team to talk about weekly goals.
● Answering messages and questions from girls about puberty-related topics
● Packing and shipping orders
● Meeting with moms and women who are interested in joining our movement.
We also take the time to give ourselves breaks. Sometimes that involves going on a hike or just stepping away from our phones for an hour or two. These breaks are significant since entrepreneurs don’t usually have much structure to their days. This also helps us clear our heads and recharge so we can brainstorm new ideas with the team.
Do you have advice for other entrepreneurs who are trying to start their business at such a young age?
When you start your business, nothing must be perfect. The idea, the design, the execution – you will make mistakes and find challenges with everything but working through these problems helps you learn! Many people try to make things as perfect as possible, but nothing can be perfect, so it’s better to launch and ask for feedback from your customers.
Aside from your customers, it’s great to ask other people for feedback and advice. We don’t have backgrounds in fashion, but we’re really into design, which is why we reached out to local seamstresses when we first started for tips. We’ve also built a great relationship with our manufacturer, who helps us create our designs and pick suitable fabrics.
We also joined a couple of accelerators to find mentors and meet other entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs have great insights when you’re first starting out. If you’re intimidated to start because you don’t think your idea is good enough or you don’t have the expertise to execute on it – don’t be! There are tons of people who want to help. All you have to do is ask!
Author: Ravleen Bali, Content Writer for Onside Media, Canada. If you have any stories or comments to share, kindly email: –[email protected]