By Ana Alexander
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN When Grace Myler was 10 years old, she saw an advertisement on Disney Channel featuring Allyson Ahlstrom, who was starting a non-profit organization called Threads for Teens.
Threads for Teens aims to help less-fortunate young women build confidence and self-esteem, by providing them with clothing they may not have otherwise had access to.
Threads for Teens’s mission statement states: “We are the future leaders of the world. If we can give each other confidence, nothing can stop us.”
Grace became inspired. She sent an email to Ahlstrom, conveying how wonderful she thought Ahlstrom and Threads for Teens were.
Now 14 years old, Grace is starting the first Threads for Teens pop-up boutique in Minnesota, with the help of her mother, Katie. The location was initially a struggle for the pair, but they decided to start the pop-up in the family’s shop, “The Hog Shed,” located in Lester Prairie.
“I totally transformed it and made it look like a little boutique,” Grace said.
Ahlstrom reached out about a year and a half ago, asking Grace if she would be interested in starting her own Threads for Teens boutique in Minnesota.
“My mom and I did several interviews with [Allyson] and her mom. Last summer, we found out I was one of the five who were selected to open a boutique in their own state,” Grace said.
Grace and Katie have been working for the past year on the project, and Aug. 19, they saw their hard work realized with the first opening of the pop-up shop.
“I’m very proud,” Katie said. “I had no idea that she had sent the email when she was 10. I’m really excited about doing it.”
Katie grew up in Lester Prairie, and has always wanted to work on a project like this.
“My sister had told me a story about a boy [in school] who was being bullied because he was wearing his sister’s hand-me-downs, and I just remember feeling so sad for him,” Katie said. “I always wanted to do something like this, but there was always something that got in the way. I feel like I get to live out this dream that I’ve had, with Grace.”
The Mylers initially wanted to start the boutique in Scott County, where they currently live, but were unable to find a location that was close to them.
“It’s really been a blessing to have the event in McLeod County,” Katie said. “I grew up in this area, and it feels like I’m able to give back to the community that supported me when I was younger.”
The story of the young boy teased at school has always remained with Katie, and on the night of their first pop-up boutique, they dedicated the evening to him.
“It felt like coming full circle that we brought it back to Lester Prairie,” Katie said. “[That boy] stuck with us for the last 20 years; we thought about the struggles of what it was like going to school and not feeling like you fit in because of your clothing.”
So far, the Mylers have helped 27 girls, who were able to pick out as much clothing, accessories, make-up, and school supplies as they wanted. The duo hopes to help another 50 girls in the next month, but they need nominations.
Threads for Teens boutiques are available by appointment only. They serve young girls from ages 13 to 18, who must be nominated by an adult to visit the shop.
“They have to be nominated by a teacher, social worker, or someone who knows their situation and thinks they are deserving of the opportunity,” Grace said.
Girls must be nominated to attend so the Mylers can make sure they have a stock of clothing that will fit each girl. They receive sizes for attendees beforehand, so they can assure that each girl has a plentiful amount of clothes to choose from.
Girls can be nominated by visiting the Threads for Teens website. The Mylers are currently accepting nominations for the next pop-up, which will take place Saturday, Oct. 8.
This pop-up will be the fourth the Mylers have hosted, and will feature new and gently-used clothing, as well as clothes donated by Rue 21, accessories donated by Claire’s, and make-up by Mary Kay.
“We don’t have school supplies right now, because after our last pop-up, we let everybody have as much as they wanted,” Katie said. “Now, we’re just focusing on the clothes. We have clothes, make-up, and accessories.”
Claire’s and Rue 21 are national sponsors, and the Mylers will receive four shipments a year of supplies. They have also gone to family and friends, asking for donations. Some people opted to donate money, which the Mylers used to purchase new clothing. According to Katie, the clothes they picked out were the first to be chosen by the girls.
“In between the pop-up events, we are looking for people to donate money, we’re collecting clothing, and just replenishing our supplies, so girls can have this really amazing shopping experience,” Katie said.
Grace and Katie have been blown away by the reactions from the girls who have visited the boutique.
“I can’t believe how many thank-you’s we received,” Katie said. “It’s something simple clothing. But it really makes a big difference in how you feel about yourself.”
Many of the girls told the Mylers that the clothes they picked out were their favorite outfits, and many had worn them on their first day of school.
“Getting to be able to talk to these girls and help them pick out outfits, and to see their reactions how happy they were and how good they felt in these clothes was really rewarding for me,” Grace said. “Seeing all this hard work finally come together and being able to impact people.”
While finding a location was difficult for the two, they also anticipate finding clothing for the shop to be a challenge.
“Clothing will continuously be something that will be needed,” Grace said.
The pop-up boutiques take place based on the number of nominations and amount of donations the Mylers receive. If they receive enough nominations, the two would like to hold another pop-up Saturday, Oct. 15, as well.
The two are continuously working on expanding the shop. Grace has an extensive history in volunteering, and has taught leadership classes at the Boys and Girls Club in the past. The Mylers would like to incorporate seminars and classes into their events in the future.
“Grace came up with a leadership program that we would like to be able to implement with this,” Katie said.
Grace has recently transitioned from home school to attending Southwest Christian High School in Chaska, which has made it more challenging to balance her busy schedule.
“I am so proud of you, because you’ve done such a great job with managing your time,” Katie said to Grace.
Now a freshman, Grace plans to graduate from high school while expanding her boutique, and intends to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. Grace enjoys public speaking and interviews, and it is her dream to work on “The Today Show” and live in New York City.
Grace also competes in national scholarship pageants, and is the current Miss Minnesota Junior Teen. She’s currently gearing up to compete in the National American Miss competition in November, and her goal is to win Miss Teen USA.
In the meantime, Grace and Katie are working toward helping the community and building up the confidence of young women.
“We’re grateful to grow Threads for Teens,” Katie said. “I can’t wait to see where it is a year from now.”