Q&A with Entrepreneur and Swimwear Designer Callista Gifford-DeHart
Blue Coral Swimwear LLC was founded in 2014 in Delray Beach, Florida with the idea of creating unique, fashionable, stylish, and trendy designer swimwear that flatters women of different shapes and sizes.
Founder Callista Gifford-DeHart released her first line the following year.
Since then, Blue Coral Swimwear has released and created designs and built a brand that fits women who want to make a statement on the beach.
Blue Coral Swimwear proudly declares that every woman is beautiful and original – just like our swimsuits.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
Callista: I grew up working closely with garments at my parents' Dry Cleaning and Sewing business. After earning both my Bachelors in Textiles and an MBA, I focused on developing a fashion brand that all women can relate to.
Since graduation, my career background has consisted of retail, merchandising, textile testing, and manufacturing.
What inspired you to start your business?
Callista: Throughout my life, I have been obsessed with fashion, namely women’s swimwear.
Growing up, I took various trips to Florida with my family, and the first thing I wanted was a cute bathing suit. That typically meant a trip to Tarpon Springs. That was one my favorite place to visit, so I could get everything I needed to complete my ensemble.
When I moved to Florida in 2012, I lived so close to the beach that it fueled my passion for women’s swimwear. What I found was that if I wanted unique swimwear it was impossible. So I decided to take matters into my own hands, and in 2014 I started developing Blue Coral Swimwear.
Where is your business based?
Callista: Although I live in South Florida, my business is in Batavia, New York. That’s where all my products are handmade. Being a native to that area of New York having my products created close to my heart means a lot to me.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
Callista: I began development in 2014. Within a year I had a logo, website, registered my business, and sketched my first line. It was a hard year working during weekends, and at night, while working full-time during the week. But Blue Coral Swimwear went live in 2015 and I’ve been building it ever since.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Callista: Social media has played a HUGE part of raising awareness for my brand. It allows me to shape my message. I also put my products in the hands of real women as brand ambassadors to help show what one of my bikinis could look like on you.
6). What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Callista: There are so many challenges as a business owner that you are not prepared for. The biggest frustration for me involves the people who call themselves designers, but don’t have an original thought. Knock-offs designs in fashion are a typical hurdle a true designer must get around.
I’ve also had to try and figure out who to trust and separate personal feelings.
Beyond that, building a thick skin to know that as long as you keep pushing you’ll make out in the end.
How do you stay focused?
Callista: I have always been extremely driven and keep myself busy. When I need to focus, I listen to music. The greater the variety, the more creative I get. If I need to calm down and concentrate then I listen to classical.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Callista: My unique designs separate me from everyone else. I think outside-of-the-box, and strive to make sexy, classy, and artsy pieces any woman would want in their closet.
Another thing that makes me different is quality. My background in the textile testing industry pushes me to create swimwear that will last longer than a season. Many don’t notice this, but I look at every stitch, strand of spandex, and piece of fabric to make sure it’s the best quality a woman can wear.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Callista: Creating a strategic brand ambassador program has been a huge contribution to growing my business. These ladies understand me, my message, and best represent my company. Otherwise, it’s been networking and participating in relevant shows in the industry.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Callista: I would tell aspiring entrepreneurs to not expect things to happen overnight. Everything takes time, and that slow and steady wins the race.
Another important thing is for you to stay true to who you. Authenticity matters. If you wouldn’t buy the item, then it’s not worth selling.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
Callista: If I had to choose a favorite app, I would probably choose Instagram. Sounds very cliché, but I like the creativity you can put into it. I love seeing everyone’s adventures and what makes them who they are.
I don’t read blogs but instead I listen to Podcasts. I love listening to “Straight up with Stassi” from Vanderpump Rules. The people there call it like it is and are straight up honest.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Callista: That’s a tough one. I’m always reading different business articles online from various sources. I really do like LinkedIn because I feel you can get a lot of useful information, as well as refer to other professional’s experiences. Otherwise, I like to read different books about successful entrepreneurs (Zappos and Zac Posen are two recent books I have read).
Who is your business role model? Why?
Callista: Coco Chanel is not only my favorite designer, but also my favorite business woman. She built her empire from the ground up and truly captivated the world with her fashion. She was so ahead of her time. She pushed the fashion industry to its limits. That work eventually paved the road for what you see in stores today.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
Callista: After Miami Swim Week, I will be taking a well-deserved vacation in August with my husband, so that’s something I am really looking forward too.
Once that’s over it’s back to the grind. I will be releasing my 2019 line slowly on my website, and then start sketching and coming up with new designs for next year.
How can our readers connect with you?
Facebook: Blue Coral Swimwear