BRADENTON, Fla. -- Debbie McCord was walking through the grocery store when she noticed a 12-year-old girl who was more than 6 feet tall.
At 6 feet, 3 inches herself, McCord understood the youngster's sad and frustrated expression.
"She didn't say much, but she did say, 'Sometimes it's tough being tall,' " said McCord, who remembers hitting 6 feet, 2 inches even before graduating from high school. "And I said, 'Sometimes it's a good thing to be tall. Everything has a reason in life.' "
For McCord, 45, one of those reasons is to start her own business, a website named ilovemyheight.com that is devoted to T-shirts celebrating tall women.
It's a team effort that also involves McCord's 6-foot, 1-inch sister, Kristen Carde, her 6-foot, 2-inch adult daughter, Anna, and her 5-foot, 11-inch teenage daughter, Jessica.
The site touts specially ordered T-shirts selling between $16 and $24 and bearing 29 different slogans that range from the inspirational ("Live, Laugh, Love Your Height") to the silly ("I See Short People") to the snide ("Text Me When Ur Taller").
"We're trying to give that inspiration to other young, tall women that it's OK to be tall," McCord says. "Love it, go with it, don't slouch over!"
McCord remembers what it was like to be one of the two tallest girls in her Manatee High School class of 400, feeling uncomfortable dating because all of the boys seemed intimidated. She didn't let that sense of being "different" hold her back and focused on excelling in her schoolwork.
Her younger sister, Kristin, 43, didn't become unusually tall until late in high school and doesn't recall ever being embarrassed about her height.
Daughter Anna, 22, recalls her tall teenage years with a sharp sense of humor, writing about "the double check: when someone quickly looks you in the eyes, then realizes how tall you are, immediately sending them glaring down at your feet."
And Jessica, 17, is downright proud of her height, noting only the difficulties of trying to find jeans that are long enough and waiting for the boys her age to grow a little taller.
"It gives me a certain type of confidence knowing that I am tall and different," Jessica says. "It makes me unique because you can't look at everyone and say, 'We're all tall.' And it's a way to recognize me."
The family started the business after a dinner table conversation two years ago. They brainstormed the slogans for several months and spent more than a year researching the basics about hiring a web designer and graphic designer and starting their own business. They now run the business part time while working or attending school.
One of their greatest challenges was finding a T-shirt company that carried shirts that were longer. They researched a dozen manufacturers before settling on Port Authority and Tultex.
Since kicking off, ilovemy height.com has sold more than 100 shirts. The family plans to eventually offer the shirts at retail locations and to expand into related lines for the husbands/partners of tall women, and the children of tall women.
"The response has been phenomenal so far," says Carde. "It's been encouraging, and uplifting. Everybody loves the overall message."