This article includes an interview with Jessica and Chloe, founders of Apricotton, carried out by Raquel Almeida Margulies.
Puberty. An experience we can all relate to….and the awkwardness of it all, probably even more so. Puberty demands an entire set of activities and experiences that each of us, in some shape or form, must endure. One of the most common, and often very awkward experiences we face is buying a first bra. While some of us might find this new venture exciting, it is rather common for a lot of us to undergo a Lizzie McGuire, “I want a bra!” moment, or worse. Hopefully, we are past the days when one’s little brother exclaims, “Ew! That’s disgusting!”, but nevertheless there remains much room for improvement in the tween bra industry. Responding to these problems are Chloe (22) and Jessica (23), two recent grads from Western’s Ivy Business Program.
“I find that girls are punished for, you know, having bodies.”Chloe, Apricotton Co-Founder
Jessica and Chloe admittedly had uncomfortable first bra shopping experiences. Not only was shopping for bras awkward, but it was also rather difficult to find bras that worked best for their body types. Fast forward about a decade later, Cindy (Jessica’s little sister) faced the same uncomfortable predicament. Inspired by the blatant lack of improvement for tweens in the bra industry, Jessica and Chloe used a university assignment to team up and conjure the idea for Apricotton: comfortable, stretchy, grow-with-the-wearer bras for developing youth. After conducting research around tween bras, interviewing tweens and parents, as well as looking at other products – they realized this was an issue that should be tackled outside of just a university assignment.
Shortly after finishing their business degrees, Apricotton’s first bra was launched on November 1, 2020. The duo forged connections in China where, as Jessica aptly notes, the manufacturers are “really the experts”, and since Jessica is fluent in Mandarin, they were able to make lasting connections with a manufacturer who truly understands the goals of Apricotton. This accomplishment was not easy, however; as Jessica and Chloe informed me, it took several months for them to even get the first core product. Up for any challenge, these entrepreneurs learned how to manage their own inventory, do their own accounting, and curated their own brand and complimenting aesthetic. When we discussed these challenges, Chloe and Jessica mainly focused on their excitement throughout the entire process.
Crucial to any business building process is, of course, identifying their business values. Chloe noted that Apricotton does not put its core values into one or two words, but rather an ideology. This ideology aims to empower young women through confidence and comfortability. Apricotton has managed to evolve its brand to provide customers with the feeling of interacting with a trustworthy older sister.
Figure 2 – Apricotton Bras
Jessica relayed that they make sure to answer every single direct message they receive on all of their social media platforms (see below). They often receive messages from young women with questions concerning all things puberty, and you can tell by speaking with Jessica and Chloe how important this aspect of Apricotton is to them. With endearing smiles, both young women explained that the community they have created, and the frequency at which girls reach out to them and entrust them with their most awkward feelings or questions, has surely become their favourite part of this business. Apricotton continues to welcome any and all questions and ensures a positive and safe(r) space.
Now, we cannot forget the bras themselves. The bras are designed in such a manner to allow for extended use – Chloe and Jessica took issue with the fact that most starter bras are not very adjustable and are rather expensive. They feel that bra shopping is uncomfortable enough, and should not also be a financial burden. Constantly having to replace your bra(s) while you are growing may be asking too much. The solution provided by Apricotton is that bras should grow as the wearer grows. Apricotton’s bras are triple layered, so even if you need to remove the padding for added comfort, the bras remain secure and unrevealing. The materials used for each bra are built for maximum stretchiness, with each size fitting a range of A- to D-cups. Lastly, they have ensured that the straps are extra adjustable so every person can find a suitable fitting. As well, their website includes a comprehensive sizing guide.
Figure 3 – Apricotton Bras
One cannot help but commend the initiative of providing such an easy solution to a longstanding problem. The truth is, girls can really suffer during puberty. During their initial research, Jessica and Chloe discovered that girls’ confidence can decrease by up to 60% during puberty. They explained that this can happen for a number of reasons including bodily changes, changes in friendships, or transitioning from middle school to high school. This can result in under-performance at school or, as seen in studies, an increase of girls quitting sports. Apricotton is working hard to provide the comfort girls need to succeed without forcing anyone to undergo the regular awkwardness of bra shopping at the mall. They put it perfectly when they said that “[bras] really work when you forget you’re even wearing one”. Apricotton bras are seriously that comfortable.
What really sets Apricotton apart is its authenticity. Not only is it inspiring to see two young women taking the lead in response to issues arising within a rather established industry, but also to see the passion and certainty with which Jessica and Chloe operate. I was fortunate enough to sit down and speak with them last week, and their answers during our interview were truly indicative of the brand’s genuineness. As brand creators and representatives, they not only understand that Gen Z makes very conscious decisions when choosing products and often veer towards honest and authentic brands, but also that they themselves are Apricotton. Chloe and Jessica embodying a natural authenticity are exactly why Apricotton is a trusted brand. With ambitious goals and hearts of gold, I am certain that Apricotton is only just beginning.
Don’t believe me? Read more in the interview below and see for yourself.
Interview With Apricotton
What have been some of your favourite aspects of starting your business?
Jessica: Personally, I think we’re really lucky that we have a product that a lot of girls resonate with. It actually really impacts their daily lives, and we’re able to expand upon the whole puberty aspect. So, I really love when girls feel comfortable reaching out to us. We get emails and messages, asking, for example, “my boobs are different shapes, or how do I ask my mom for a bra?” Or “how do I shave?”. But I feel really lucky that we were able to expand. I think that the best part is just interacting with customers and girls in general, and helping them because some of them don’t have that support system.
Chloe: I really love the community aspect of being able to kind of act like an older sister, because I don’t have one. So it’s cool to kind of get that point of view. But on the other hand, it’s just really exciting to be a part of something that’s growing. I feel like usually in work, you’re kind of that one cog in a machine, so to be a part of something where you get to make so many different decisions and learn new things every single day is amazing. We were doing our own accounting, and we had to learn inventory management and all these boring things. But being able to learn how to do all this, it’s just really cool to me, and it’s an experience that I don’t think you get anywhere else.
Do you have any criticisms of the sexual education curriculum that our schools teach or how society views reproductive health as a whole?
Jessica: I would definitely say health class or at least my personal experience of health class is that they covered the very basics, like what is a period? What can you expect when you’re getting the basic facts, but none of the complications? What about the real-life things that you think about day to day? Like, whether I can go swimming on my period and things like that. I definitely think that there’s a gap and I also feel like it really depends on your teacher too. So you know, if you don’t feel comfortable talking to them, and maybe you’re also not that close with your parents…there’s not really a place to go and I think a huge part of that is now girls are basically being raised on social media. And so you see other girls like we’ve got a DM from a girl saying, like, my boobs are really pointy. Everyone else seems to have rounded boobs, like online and I’ll be like, yeah, it’s because they’re wearing push-up bras, but they don’t know that. So I would say, yeah, social media is really great, I love it, but it definitely can be harmful. You see other women who should really be supporting women actually kind of doing the opposite indirectly by photoshopping their bodies like Tana Mangeau.
Chloe: I find girls are punished for, you know, having bodies. I always think back because one time when I was in grade nine, I had pool class, and I was on my period, but I didn’t know how to use a tampon. I told my teacher that, and she was a woman. I told her, I was like, I can’t do pool class, because, you know… I don’t want to leak in the pool. She said, “well, I’ll fail you if you don’t do pool”. I didn’t realize the physics of how periods – that I wouldn’t leak in the water. So I think, okay well, I don’t want to fail. So if I embarrass myself, I embarrass myself. But it was the fact that was said to me by another woman. It’s not like she taught me, she just said, you have to figure it out or I’ll fail you. I feel like there’s no empathy for girls when they’re going through these changes like no one takes the time to educate them, when they have questions. And a big part of that is just how sexualized all of it is, like boobs and things like discharge, for example, which is completely natural, and happens to all girls. So a lot of adults just put their fingers in their ears when they share these things like, “Oh, no, I can’t talk about this”, because it’s, you know, it’s too sexual. So how are these girls, who are as young as eight years old, going to learn about these things if you don’t feel comfortable enough talking about them?
How is it that you ensure that the girls reaching out to you feel comfortable when speaking to you?
Chloe: I was just going to say a big part of it is just our authenticity. So as Jessica said, on her personal TikTok, she’ll reach back out to every single person who comments and we answer all of our DMs and all of our emails, and just read through our Instagram. We try and showcase that we are genuine and that we do want to actually answer these questions. And we’re lucky enough that girls feel comfortable enough to reach out to us and we often find that when we answered their questions, then they’ll tell their friends, or encourage their friends to follow and stuff that they also feel comfortable enough to reach out. And so that’s why I think this community is a big part of it is so that we build up this trust not just for girls to reach out to us, but to reach out to each other as well if they ever have questions.
Does either of you have women that you look up to as advisors or confidantes or any female figures in your life that you look like you look up to?
Jessica: I guess I just haven’t really had the luxury of having a female mentor. Really, I think Chloe, and I are both trying to find one through business. And it’s been great. Being a female-owned brand, we’ve worked with people in university who are women who’ve been very helpful. So definitely, I think just taking parts of the people that I’ve met through Apricotton, but no one particularly comes to mind.
Chloe: It’s definitely my friends who have carried me through, you know, even when I was younger, they were the ones who answered my questions. And then even now, as I find, just being able to talk to my closest friends, including Jessica, it’s just like, there’s a way higher level of trust and just like being able to understand each other’s struggles too. And even just now that we have graduated from university, I feel like now it’s kind of a time where everyone’s really changing their paths, and are doing interesting things. And being able to see so many of my female friends accomplishing their own goals in all different ways, it’s just really inspiring to me. And it just gets me going, you know, then I feel more empowered, and to continue on with what I’m doing.
What do you hope is the main takeaway consumers have after interacting with your company?
Jessica: I feel like probably the fact that now, I think a lot of times, we talk about how we hope our bras allow girls to not be distracted. And so, they’re able to accomplish anything in their day. So, I definitely think that as much as we want girls to love our bras, I think it’s almost like they really work when you forget you’re even wearing one, which a lot of girls say. So definitely think that’s what it is kind of like someone can wear one and because of that, like you can accomplish whatever you want.
Chloe: I guess, kind of, as we’ve been saying in the past, just so girls don’t feel alone and stuff. So it’s like when they put on the bra, they forget that they’re even wearing it. But beyond the bra itself, it’s like that they know that they, when they are wearing it, they’ve joined our community and that they can come to us or anyone else in the community at any time, whenever they have questions. And so for example, every time we make a sale, we personally hand wrap everything with a president and we put in a little thank you card and we write a little note on it. And we try to make it as special as possible because we hope that when girls actually receive it, they realize, you know, this isn’t just a bra, this is to help me feel comfortable and feel confident in my skin.
Do you have any advice for young women aspiring or trying to create or start their own business?
Jessica: I would say probably the number one thing is just starting. I think entrepreneurship is really ambiguous. And for example, we had no idea how to even create a bra. And so just getting the core product took months, which I’m sure I think we probably talked about in the manufacturing questions. But I would say definitely, when you’re thinking about starting your business, just list out all of the immediate things you have to do today. And then the next day do the same thing and eventually, all of those small steps will add up because sometimes when you think about the bigger goal, it gets very overwhelming, and it seems really hard. So yeah, I definitely think the number one thing is just to start because so many people have an idea, but very few people actually pursue it.
Chloe: Mine is, don’t be afraid to ask for help. That goes for literally anything. So, for us, we didn’t know anything – we didn’t have any background in fashion. We actually reached out to other small boutiques and seamstresses and stuff to ask them like, okay, where did you find a manufacturer? How do you design a bra? How do all these processes work? And we even went back to our old University and asked our professors for help with starting a business. And so, there’s that and then even my parents, sometimes I asked my parents for help, and my friends. And honestly, you can ask for help in so many different ways. But I would just say, never be afraid to ask people because everyone is always willing to help.
So, what’s next for Apricotton? Swimwear!