Homeschooled to 16,000 Followers: How Brittany Merrill Schooled The Haters And Turned Her Passion Into A Career

Brittany sold more of her clothes in her first week on Curtsy than most people sell in their first year.  A small-town girl with a big-time Instagram following, you’ll never see her carrying Louis Vuitton. Her style is just-ran-out-of-the-house chic: an oversized men’s utility button-down French-tucked into a leather mini skirt.

@britmerl on Instagram

After Brittany sold 30 items on Curtsy in one day, I wanted to know how she did it. What was the secret to her success on Curtsy? Where did her fab yet unpretentious style come from? What’s behind her charm? With these questions in mind, I gave her a call. 

Brittany grew up as a self-described ‘loner’ in a small town outside of Athens, GA.  Just a few years ago, only a handful of people knew who she was. She was homeschooled until high school, when she started at a small Christian academy with 35 students per grade.  She struggled to fit in at first, finding it hard to relate to things like sports.

She soon found her niche as editor of her school’s yearbook.  She dove headfirst into the role, spending countless hours taking photos, telling stories, and organizing those into a final product she’d share with her classmates every spring — a process she loved.

On weekends, she’d explore nearby towns with friends, taking photos and gradually becoming more comfortable in front of the camera as well.  

Driving with a friend one day, they spotted a huge American flag on the side of a building.  Her friend snapped a photo, and Brittany did what anyone her age would do: posted it to Instagram. Overnight, she got her first taste of what it meant to ‘go viral.’

The pic that started it all.

That photo, and a few tweets on Twitter, helped her go from 900 to 6,000 followers in a few weeks.  At school she was dragged by fellow classmates, who called Brittany’s new hobby ‘the biggest joke.’ She didn’t care; she thought it was fun.  She loved talking to her followers, who she interacted with as if they were lifelong friends. 

Her “ballin’ on a budget” style came from necessity, she told me.  Her family didn’t have a lot of money growing up. She learned to hunt for treasures on regular outings to her local thrift store. Most days, she throws together disparate pieces that somehow end up looking cute. Her fave look for fall is a simple turtleneck under a bulky sweater and, of course, a mini skirt. 

Brittany had never sold her clothes before Curtsy, and she initially hesitated because she can’t stand shipping stuff.  After learning about our Shipping Kit program — where we send you everything you need to ship so you don’t have to go to the post office — she was sold. 

The key to her Curtsy success? Good photos. She uses a full-length mirror in her room to show what the clothes actually look like, rather than just throwing them on a hanger (or worse, the floor). She recommends taking mirror selfies with good natural light.

The mystery of how her clothes sold so quickly?  When she shared her Curtsy closet on Instagram, she included her promo code for $10 off. This gave her followers an extra reason to check out the app (and when her friends used the code, she’d earn a $10 credit as well). 

One can’t help but be captivated by Brittany.  She carries herself like someone who’s doing what they were put on this earth to do — not in the sense that she knows all the answers, or that she’s reached perfection — but that she’s confident in her own power to grow, and figure it out as she goes along. I wanted to know where this confidence came from. 

As Brittany’s senior year in high school rolled around, her peers were applying and getting accepted into UGA and Ivy League schools like Yale.  When they’d ask Brittany about her plans, she’d shut down. Despite having good test scores, hobbies outside of class, and teachers who’d write beaming recs, something about college just didn’t feel right.  

In the spring of her senior year, Brittany’s then-boyfriend invited her on a drive to visit his family in rural Georgia. Thirty minutes in, instead of pulling into a suburb they were pulling into a college campus. She was furious. “How dare you force me to come here!” She yelled, feeling betrayed.

“I’m not asking you to apply,” he shot back, “I’m asking you to tour.”

That day she fell in love with the campus of Georgia Southern. She applied, but likely due to the late timing was rejected. She took a gap year and reapplied the following year, improving her scores and getting those beaming recs in the meantime. But she was rejected again. The next semester, she was rejected for a third time. 

The period that followed was filled with depression and anxiety. She’d compare herself to friends who all seemed happy at college. She started seeing a therapist, who helped her accept that maybe college wasn’t for her; maybe her hesitation to go in the first place was a sign; maybe God would show her another path forward. 

It was around that time that Brittany’s success on Instagram started paying off. She started charging for collabs and selling her popular Lightroom presets. Now she also sells her clothes on Curtsy. This money allowed her to move to Savannah, GA, into a dope apartment with her friend. Not one to sit still, she wakes up daily at 8 am and does what she loves: takes photos, tells stories, and shares them with the hope that they’ll inspire others. 

Brittany’s Curtsy packages ready to go out

Brittany recalls a turning point for her in high school. She and her friends were in the bathroom doing something they did a lot: complaining about the things they wished they could change about their bodies.

Out of nowhere, Brittany blurts out: “My favorite thing about my body is my belly button.”  After a few seconds of silent shock, everyone started laughing. Then they all went around and said their own favorite things. 

“Instead of saying ‘I have acne,’ I’d say, ‘I’m an awesome person.’” She gradually made the switch in her head from obsessing over what she didn’t have, to becoming obsessed with what she did have. “I started thinking about myself about as this engine of power.” She’d introduce herself like her name carried weight: “I am Brittany Merrill.” 

Her favorite quote is from Steve Jobs: “…the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” If you have dreams, she told me, nothing can stop you.  

And when she said it — and probably because of the forceful, Brittany Merrill-like way she said it — I believed her.