Do you remember the first time you went bra shopping? You were probably in the midst of puberty, forced against your will (by your mom or older sister) to go with her to Victoria’s Secret, or for those in Canada, La Senza Girl (R.I.P.), just to be poked and prodded by a pushy salesperson. You were then given two options: a training bra that offered no support or a lacy, extreme push-up bra with a crystal charm dangling in the middle. Neither of them felt right.
Does this sound familiar? Well, Jessica Miao (left) and Chloe Beaudoin (right) know the struggle all too well. “We are both a little bit scarred from some of our experiences with puberty,” says Miao, the co-founder of Apricotton, an innovative bra company for tween, pre-teen and teen girls. “Chole and I both really believe in the mission of wanting to help girls and act as older sisters because we both had the same experience of just how uncomfortable bra shopping was.” They’re on a mission to make bra shopping a really empowering experience with products that grow with you, through every stage of puberty.
“A lingerie store is very oversexualized and can be very intimidating for young girls,” says Beaudoin. “And then department stores, there's so much selection, but none of that selection is really made for teens. And even then, a lot of the material is less durable, it's a lot thinner, so it doesn't cover anything.” Maio even remembers looking back at old pictures of herself in middle school, where her shirt always looked lumpy due to the thick stitching—yet it provided no coverage. “I didn't want anyone to see me wearing a bra because girls at school would point out like, ‘Hey, I can see your bra strap,’” says Miao.
That’s why all of Apricotton’s bras have adjustable, hidden straps, flexible sizing, seamless stitching, a stretchy band and breathable, moisture-wicking fabric—no annoying underwires, loud prints or OTT decals. Just affordable and comfortable pieces that are made to fit the wearer, not the other way around.
Apricotton even has a blog which is an educational resource for their customers, where you can find older sister advice about everything from stretch marks to different breast shapes and how to deal with peer pressure. “The whole idea behind Apricotton is super impact driven,” says Miao. “Beyond just the bras, we really want to make sure that girls aren't going through puberty alone, so that means responding to their messages, creating blog posts and emailing with moms whose daughters are getting bullied.”
The 23-year-old founders met in their third year in business at Western University in London, Ontario. It was the first day of class and they immediately clicked. “We wanted to do a school project together. We started talking about fashion, which we're both really into, and then it somehow developed into a conversation about puberty,” says Beaudoin. Miao told Beaudoin about her little sister—who was going through puberty at the time—and how much trouble she was having finding bras. And they ended up using Apricotton as their project idea. “Even though it was a school project, we were really interested in actually starting it, especially because it's such a huge issue that we both personally experienced,” adds Beaudoin. They graduated in April 2020 and officially launched the business in November 2020, funding every step of the way themselves.
So, what makes Miao and Beaudoin mesh so well together? Well, they bring different skills to the table—and that’s the key to success (and not getting in each other’s way). “I really like doing a lot of the creative aspects, so the photo shoots, graphic design and things like that,” says Miao. “Chloe is very analytical and has a great attention to detail. She’s really great at managing outreach, logistics and the day-to-day business operations. Having a partner where you like to do different things definitely helps.”
Another contributing factor to their success? TikTok marketing. "That's really been able to fuel our growth,” says Miao. They post videos of them packing orders, getting ready for pop-up shops, telling their puberty stories and more. “We hope to reach as many girls as possible because we find that especially on TikTok, as soon as girls find our products, it’s an instant connection. I think our business definitely resonates with a lot of moms and their daughters.”
Right now, the duo is focused on spreading the word about their brand and expanding the Apricotton community by hosting more pop-ups and designing even more bras. Community and education will always be the most important thing. Why? “Because when I was a tween, I did not know who to go to. I didn't know where to buy bras, I didn't know who to ask for one, I didn't know who to ask for any other questions,” says Beaudoin. Well, now, the next generation does.
Who are you inspired by?
Chloe: “Jessica is very inspiring. When we first came up with Apricotton, she was the one who was really pushing for us to do it as a full-time thing. As much as I wanted to do it, it’s a really big risk to start your own company, and Jessica was so passionate about starting it. It really moved me to want to do it as well. Jessica, you motivate me a lot, especially whenever I miss something, you always remind me. And you’re always put together too. You somehow have more hours in a day than normal people.”
Jessica: “I think we're both inspired by each other. I’m also inspired by my mom, especially because she immigrated here, and I remember how difficult it was. Whenever I'm going through a rough patch, she reminds me that she had to redo her diploma because the one she got in China wasn't valid anymore—all while having a newborn and having to pay bills because they came from China with no money. And she was like, ‘If I was able to do those three things at once, then you can just do whatever you're having trouble with.”
How do you unplug from work?
Chloe: “I’m a Netflix person. I will just turn on Netflix and watch it for an hour or two to relax.”
Jessica: “I really like taking walks downtown, usually going to a local bakery. Otherwise, I’ll just read. I really like rom-com books. I majored in English before business, so I’m a very avid reader.”
How many unread emails do you have right now?
Chloe: “We share an email and we try our best to answer them. I think it’s around 30 unread emails—and they’re all mostly promotional.”
What do you look for in an employee?
Chloe: “We really want to help educate young girls, so we're looking for people who have that same sort of empathy. We specifically look for volunteers who want to act like an older sibling and who truly care about helping young girls become more confident and educating them, so they don’t have to go through puberty alone.”
Jessica: “People who are self starters. Especially at a startup, we really welcome new ideas. We're just juggling so many things. Sometimes, we are doing the same things, like running the same kinds of ads for a sale, and we really need someone to be like, ‘you can do something new.’”
Best piece of advice?
Chloe: “When you have an idea, you have to just go for it. You can second guess yourself all you want, but it's not until you actually start that you'll get the feedback that you need to improve. Nothing will be perfect, and you can just keep improving it as you go.”
Jessica: “Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Because we have a strong mission, a lot of people have just offered their help. Always agree to meet with people and connect because you never know where that could lead or where it could go.”
Worst piece of advice?
Chloe: “This whole hustler mentality: you have to be working 100 hours per week, you need to never take breaks and wake up at 5 a.m. That can be so overwhelming. And for anyone who's starting a business, if they have that mindset, they're gonna get burnt out really quickly. It does lead to less productivity. It is hard work to start your own business, but you're allowed to take breaks, you're allowed to get your eight hours of sleep and you're allowed to have fun while you're doing it as well.”
Jessica: “When we talk to other mentors or entrepreneurs, they'll say, ‘Have you thought about this or this.’ And since it's just the two of us, we have a limited amount of time, so it's really important for us to just stay focused. Thinking that if you're not doing everything, then you're failing or you're missing out can be really stressful. You know what you're good at and you know what's working. It’s important to prioritize things versus getting overwhelmed.”