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Jessica Miao, Co-Founder, Apricotton

Photo caption: Jessica Miao (left) and Chloe Beaudoin (right). Courtesy of Apricotton.

Hailing from Western University’s prestigious Ivey Business School, fresh grads Jessica Miao and Chloe Beaudoin launched Apricotton, a revolutionary bra company for tweens, in 2020. Empathetic to young girls dealing with puberty, Apricotton offers age-appropriate styles of comfortable and adjustable bras to the under-served demographic, plus sisterly advice via the brand’s Gen-Z-friendly online presence. 

Can you share with us how you first started Apricotton with your co-founder Chloe?

Apricotton started when we graduated from university, right in the middle of the pandemic. One of the first challenges we had when starting was finding a manufacturer because a lot of them were closed down due to COVID. It took us around three months to find one. 

In that time, I also taught myself [Adobe] Illustrator to figure out how to make tech packs, which are essentially the industrial designs for the bras themselves. After I taught myself to do that, we would share them with the manufacturer, and they were really the ones who helped us bring the designs to life. 

We launched in November 2020. We wanted to be in e-commerce, so we tried to build up our social media presence, partnering with moms as well as tweens and giving sisterly advice. 

As a relatively recent grad, how much did business school help prepare you for starting your own company? Did the entrepreneurial process surprise you after finishing school?

Yeah, totally. One of the good things about Ivey [Business School], which Chloe and I both graduated from, was that there were entrepreneurship classes. However, a lot of them were about theory. We were learning about how to define our competitors, the business model canvas … but, once you go to the real world, entrepreneurship is so different. 

They don’t really talk about how you are supposed to manage taking financial risks and how you actually go to market with a product. For example, we didn’t really talk about how to gain followers on Instagram, which has been super important for us, or how to start a successful TikTok channel. Those things we had to learn ourselves, but the fundamentals were definitely helpful.

What were some of the challenges you faced and overcame in being your own boss?

I think one of the things was definitely that entrepreneurship ebbs and flows, [and] there’s no one you can really talk to when you’re going through challenges. Chloe, my co-founder, and I really rely on each other. 

Entrepreneurship can also be super ambiguous. For example, when we’re deciding whether we should launch two bras or one bra, or planning our sales promotions out for the year, we really have to rely on our gut because there’s no one trying to validate whether or not [what] we’re doing is a good idea. The validation comes [later] from the customers.

Do you have advice for other young entrepreneurs?

If you are thinking of starting a business, especially if you’re young, you should go for it. There are so many resources online. There’s a lot of accelerators, even attached to schools, that can give mentorship or grants. 

But, most importantly, when you’re young, you don’t have a lot of financial duties, like you don’t have a family that you need to support. So, it’s really the best time to take risks. The worst thing that happens [if you fail] is you find a job, which is what everybody else is doing, so you’re not really behind in any way. 

There’re just so many people who are willing to help, if you have a strong mission. That’s really what we found with Apricotton. Because we wanted to ensure that girls aren’t going through puberty alone, a lot of women wanted to help mentor us. A lot of our customers are super supportive as well, so we genuinely feel like we’re doing good in the world.

As a Gen-Zer, how have you harnessed social media for business growth?

Actually, 90 per cent of our sales comes from social media, and we’ve found that social media also has impacts to sales in other ways. For example, we were able to increase our TikTok following to 65,000 followers within just four months. Within that timeframe, a lot of girls were commenting on my videos, saying that they really wanted to buy a bra. Word spread very quickly online too because people were sharing the bra videos with their friends. We also got a lot of customer feedback, [like] people were saying that they really liked one bra over the other. We took that feedback into consideration when we were creating new products. 

One of the awesome things about social media growth, specifically on TikTok, is it led us to have a huge SEO boost. We’re actually the first search for “teen bra,” and that’s on top of Walmart, Seventeen, [and] Amazon. That’s really because of all of the organic site traffic that came whenever we posted a video and people click the “link in my bio.” Because of that, it really helped us get exposure too.

What’s next for Apricotton? Is there anything else you’d like to share?

We’re hoping to launch new bra designs and hope to double our product line from six by the end of 2023, as well as launch into other adjustable apparel, like swimwear, because girls have the same kinds of issue when they’re shopping for swimsuits. You either have one-piece, childish swimsuits to choose from, or you are wearing triangle bikinis, which, if you’re just starting to develop, might [make you] very self-conscious. We wanted to solve those kinds of issues as well and also continue to write blogs and share advice so that girls — even if they don’t have anyone in their personal lives to talk to about puberty — can always come to us. 

Rose Ho | Assistant Editor

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