swimwear entrepreneur

"Absorb everything. Read more about what you're trying to do" with Lanae Dedeaux

Lust Swimwear

Over the years, Lanae wanted nothing more to achieve confidence in her everyday life, so she set out to create a new meaning of the word ‘lust.’ At lustswim, they strive to combine the sensual undertone of the word with a hint of simplicity and elegance to create high quality pieces that are guaranteed to make you love your body.

Redefining what it means to be sexy, these detailed designs accentuate your every curve and celebrate what makes you, you. 

The Lust team is passionate about creating a community of diverse women all over the world, promoting self-love, and ultimately delivering timeless pieces each and every time. 

What made you want to start your own swimwear company?

I grew up in Las Vegas where the sun is always beaming, which called for a lot of swim activities. Unfortunately, I was never able to find swimwear shops that suited my style, so I created my own pieces with the hopes that other women would relate and gravitate towards them as well.

What can buyers and influencers expect to see at this year's show?

Buyers can expect to see bold, vibrant colors this season. Generally, I have always stuck with safe, neutral colors, but this summer I want my consumers to see a different side of me. The pieces are free-spirited, playful and full of life, fit for every woman's skin tone.

What's one thing you'd tell your younger self about starting a business?

Absorb everything. Read more about what you're trying to do, listen to what others have to say including friends, family, peers, and even yourself.

What advice can you offer other women wanting to start their own business?

Don't let fear dictate your future. You just have to go for it and learn from your trials and errors. Never be afraid to fulfill your dreams because you're worried you will fail.

Start to build your clientele, never stop being a student of your craft, and hustle hustle hustle. Turn your boundless energy, desperate innovation, and relentless determination into your entrepreneurism.

To see the entire collection, visit LustSwim.com.

"Without focus, nothing gets done" with Tricia Campbell

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Hailing from Montego Bay, Jamaica, Tricia Campbell is an accomplished plus-size supermodel, motivator, entrepreneur, and trailblazer who is gaining recognition as a symbol of confidence and a voice of encouragement to women everywhere. Tricia is Oprah’s Stand in Model for the O Magazine Cover Photo Shoots and has also been featured on the pages of publications like Essence and Glamour. She currently lives in New York where she is the proud founder and owner of Can you tell our readers about your background? Glamour Glamour Swimwear. What inspired you to start your business?

What is your backstory?

I am a Jamaican girl, born and raised in Montego Bay Jamaica where I went to the beach every weekend. After high school, my grandmother moved my entire family to NYC where I still reside.

What inspired you to start your business? 

Wow, being a swimsuit model for many years, I noticed a void in the swim industry. There were not many bright vivid controlling swimsuits on the market. I also noticed plus size women wanted to be sexy but the swimsuits on the market were way too skippy. One wrong move while playing with their children, women would be embarrassed by the pool.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

It was by the grace of God, I prayed and started sketching. I also made sure the GGSW name was not taken.

Where is your business based?

We are based all over the world via our website www.GlamourGlamourSwimwear.com, but our physical plant is in New York City.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Two strategies really social media-Instagram and Facebook; and traveling to different plus size conferences and runway shows worldwide.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Our biggest challenge as a young company is finding funding to expand the business. We are still working on those challenges.

How do you stay focused?

I really love to see the results. Without focus, nothing gets done.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Wow! that’s a good question. At Glamour Glamour Swimwear, we are a fun brand. We party, we uplift, and we empower plus size women. Good Vibes only. No judgments-our suits shape and contour your shape brightly and boldly.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Love what you do and know your customer.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Testimonials from our customers.

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

My favorite app is Square, @Stylishcurves, Successful Women Speak Differently by Valorie Burton.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

My favorite business tool is my manufacturer. They produce our suits great. Plus our suits are made in America.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Whatever God has in store for us.

How can others get in touch?

Your readers can connect with us on:

Website: www.GlamourGlamourSwimwear.com

Instagram @GlamourGlamour_Swimwear

Q&A with Designer Mei-Ling T. Millet

Mei-Ling T. Millet

Kokí Swimwear was established in 2012 by Puerto Rican fashion designer Mei-Ling T. Millet. The arts have always been present from the time she was born. She inherited her talent and love for the arts from her mother as well as her grandfather, the late Jorge Millet.

While in high school, she focused her energy in fashion while attending the Saturday Live Fashion Program at the Fashion Institute & Technology in New York City as well, as Lisa Thons’ School of Design in San Juan, Puerto Rico. These two experiences redefined her love for the fashion industry.

During her tenure at Miami International University of Art & Design, Mei-Ling focused all of her energy on mastering her craft. In 2008, all her hard work paid off by graduating Cum Laude with a Bachelor's of Fine Arts Degree in Fashion Design.

At the conclusion of her college career, Mei-Ling embarked on a new journey. Influenced by her past experiences living between Puerto Rico and New Jersey, Mei-Ling decided to fuse these cultural experiences into her own swimwear line. As a way to pay homage to her Puerto Rican roots, Mei-Ling came up with a logo that would represent the tiny frog of the island called Coquí. Thus, Kokí Swimwear was born.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mei-Ling T. Millet. She is the founder of Kokí Swimwear. The arts have always been present from the time she was born. She inherited her talent and love for the arts from her mother as well as her grandfather, the late Jorge Millet.

While in high school, she focused her energy in fashion while attending the Saturday Live Fashion Program at the Fashion Institute & Technology in New York City as well, as Lisa Thons’ School of Design in San Juan, Puerto Rico. These two experiences redefined her love for the fashion industry.

During her tenure at Miami International University of Art & Design, Mei-Ling focused all of her energy on mastering her craft. In 2008, all her hard work paid off by graduating Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts Degree in Fashion Design.

At the conclusion of her college career, Mei-Ling embarked on a new journey. Influenced by her past experiences living between Puerto Rico and New Jersey, Mei-Ling decided to fuse these cultural experiences into her own swimwear line. As a way to pay homage to her Puerto Rican roots, Mei-Ling came up with a logo that would represent the tiny frog of the island called Coquí. Thus, Kokí Swimwear was born.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico. My interest in the arts was evident early in my childhood, as I loved to draw. Living in Puerto Rico as a kid, I would spend my weekends at the beach with my Mom, which is where my passion for the beach and swimwear began.

At the age of seven, my family moved to New Jersey. Residing in New Jersey was different than Puerto Rico, but those experiences molded and influenced my future. During my junior year in high school, I focused my energy in fashion while attending the Saturday Live Fashion Program at the Fashion Institute & Technology in New York City.

Once I moved back to Puerto Rico, I was determined to focus on all the different aspects of my dream from modeling to design school. I attended Puerto Rican fashion designer Lisa Thons’ School of Design in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Here I was exposed to the world of fashion and it solidified that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

While attending Miami International University of Art & Design, I graduated Cum Laude which truly prepared me for the fashion industry.

What inspired you to start your business?

My family consists of mostly women who are all different sizes that have experienced the same issue I had when shopping for swimwear. I always had difficulty finding swimwear that would fit correctly. At that time, bikinis were sold together so it was hard to find stores that provided them separately. My goal for Koki Swimwear was to eliminate that issue for buyers. I wanted to create swimwear that was unique so that women could choose their correct sizes.

Where is your business based?

San Juan, Puerto Rico.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

With $700, I was determined to create my own online swimwear boutique. It all started with the name. I wanted a name that represented me and my island. Koki was inspired by the coqui frog. The coqui frog is one of the most common frogs in Puerto Rico and is a national symbol to the island. There is a Puerto Rican expression, “Yo soy de aquí, como el coquí”, which translates to I’m from here, like the coquí.”

That first season I created 8 designs each with two colorways and had a photo shoot on the beaches of Puerto Rico. The following seasons, I created designs based on different inspirations related to island life. I have been fortunate to work with amazing models and photographers that have presented Koki Swimwear in amazing images at locations such as the Dominican Republic, Australia, Jamaica, Aruba, Philippines, and Antigua.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

I found that the most effective way to raise awareness about Koki Swimwear was through social media. We are in a generation where social media allows you to interact with companies, celebrities along with customers. Platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snap Chat have made huge impacts in regards to networking along with reaching out to our customers directly.

We strive to have our customers feel as though they are part of Koki Swimwear. When customers post pictures in our swimwear, we encourage them to tag us on their social media pages.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Having an online store comes with some challenges. In the beginning, one of the biggest challenges was having customers shop online versus going to a store to purchase swimwear. We acknowledged the difficulty in shopping online and finding the perfect size. In that regard, we implemented a size chart on our site that customers can refer to in order to purchase an accurate size. We have received positive feedback and to date, we have not received a return order due to an incorrect size.

How do you stay focused?

I find that going to the gym and/or running clears my mind, which helps me regain my focus. Also, I like to research competitors and see what is out there. This helps me focus on things I want to improve on with my company so that I can be better than the next swimwear company.

Being an athlete while growing up, competition has always fueled me. I always strived to be the best in every aspect of life. By being the best family member, friend, and all-around individual helps me remain grounded and focused on my long-term goals. I strive to make those happy that have supported and believed in my dream.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Our swimwear is inspired by an island lifestyle. They are hand-crafted and only a certain number of each style will be produced to give our clientele that one of a kind experience and exclusivity that they seek. Our swimwear is stylish and fashion forward.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

I feel that our marketing strategy goes hand-in-hand with how we raise awareness about our business. The social media platform has created opportunities for Koki Swimwear to grow. Through social media, we have developed relationships with models, influencers, and photographers who have assisted in marketing and spreading awareness of Koki Swimwear across the U.S. and in other countries around the world.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Follow your dreams, believe in yourself and do not give up. When someone says you cannot do it or that financially your idea does not make sense, just take a deep breath, do your research, and find a way. All you need is one person to believe in you in order to fulfill your dream and that person is yourself.

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

My favorite app is Spotify because fashion and music go together. Music is the one thing that motivates and inspires me while designing.

I do not have a favorite blog, as I tend to read anything that has to do with fashion.

My favorite book is the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

My favorite business tool is Instagram because we get to interact with the customer. Taking the time to get to know our customers helps us develop new styles for them.

Who is your business role model? Why?

I have a couple of role models in my life. My mother is the role model who inspired my creativity and my grandfather is also my role model in regards to hard work and dedication. However, from a business standpoint, I would have to say that Puerto Rican fashion designer Luis Antonio is my role model. Like myself, he went to a fashion design school and later returned to Puerto Rico to start his fashion company. He pursued ways to exhibit his talent and he made his debut at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week with his 2015 Spring-Summer Collection. His determination is what I admire.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

In the upcoming months, I will be working with BikiniTeam TV on their swimwear tour. Koki Swimwear has had huge success in obtaining customers when sponsoring swimwear for BikiniTeam TV.

Also, I would like to start a charity geared to giving back to Puerto Rico. My island suffered huge losses as a result of Hurricane Maria and there is still work that has to be done.

How can our readers connect with you?

The readers can connect with us through our website www.kokiswimwear.com and our social media pages.

Instagram: @kokiswimwear

Facebook: Koki Swimwear

Twitter: @kokiswimwear

Q&A with Mariah Caver, Amor Swim

Mariah Caver

Mariah Caver designer of Amor Freedom, hails from Atlanta, GA. She began designing at an early age and it has now blossomed into an eco-friendly luxury clothing line. Amor Freedom has just recently released the Amor Swim Collection providing swimwear for women of all shape and sizes to feel beautiful available at AMORSWIM.COM

Can you tell our readers about your background?

My Name is Mariah Caver, and I am a lover of fashion. My love for fashion started at a very young age I would style my dolls' clothes; by the time I got to middle school, I would go to the Dollar store and buy the sewing pack which came with the thread needles colors, measuring tape, and soft ball to make different outfits and things for myself.

What inspired you to start your business?

The inspiration behind starting my business came from me wanting to give back to the world in a way that was relatable for me and people like me. That was fashion for me. Fashion is a way to express yourself ! Style is a reflection of your attitude and personality. So being able to create clothes that allow the women to look and feel AMAZING is my inspiration. #Womenempowerment

Mariah Caver

Where is your business based?

We are online currently based in Atlanta, and are looking to expand to MIA and LA... but we ship worldwide.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

The first step I took during the process of starting my business was the sketches of course, and from there, I allowed the name of my line to fall into my lap, then I hit the ground running with production, and the rest was history. 

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

The most effective way of raising awareness for my clothing line has definitely been instagram.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Finding the eco-friendly fabric that feels amazing and still looks great. 

How do you stay focused?

The passion I have for design and being able to produce a product that can help with pushing a socially conscious world through fashion.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

The fabric AmorSwim uses is Eco-friendly , all the fabrics we use are made with recycled bottles.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

I would definitely say the most effective strategy would be Instagram; it’s an amazing tool to use to reach people all over the world.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Nobody will see your vision but you, so follow your heart and your dreams and make it happen no matter what people say.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

My favorite app would have to be my google app, my favorite blog is definitely Pinterest, and my favorite book is tied between "Think and Grow Rich" and the "48 Laws of Power".

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

My mother and father would be my favorite business tools lol I ask them EVERYTHING when it comes to the right business moves.

Who is your business role model? Why?

Jay-Z is definitely my business role model. He didn’t allow the world to box him in and limit him to just being an artist.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

The other half of Amor Freedom will be launching which is the Freedom streetwear for women and men. So definitely be on the lookout for that.

How can our readers connect with you?

You guys can go to the website for the swimwear at AmorSwim.com and for the apparel you can go to AmorFreedom.com.

My social media account is @rriahb_ AmorSwim and social media account is @Amor_freedom AMOR.

Website: Amorswim.com

Q&A with Entrepreneur and Swimwear Designer Callista Gifford-DeHart

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.

www.bluecoralswimwear.com

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.

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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

Twitter: @SwimBlueCoral

Instagram: @SwimBlueCoral

Q&A with Natalia Vargas

Natalia Vargas

Natalia Vargas is the creative and innovative mind behind the brand Doppia Swimwear. She has been running the company for a short time with a big picture of how the brand is going to grow. Natalia was born in Colombia with Latin blood and passion for her country. She wants to share the story of Colombia, its rich culture, diversity, colors, people, and values through the Doppia brand. www.doppiaswimwear.com  

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I studied and worked in finance at the beginning of my career. However, I have always loved to draw, design, and create, so I quit my job four years ago to start this new adventure.

I also studied for a Master's Degree in International Business in Spain and have a certificate in Brand Management from The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

What inspired you to start your business?

I wanted to connect with people and to create a brand that represents and celebrates the different shapes of women.  My own experience was also part of the inspiration because I am curvy - my hips and legs are thick and it was very hard for me to find bathing suits that didn’t leave me marks but were also pretty, fancy, and trendy.

Where is your business based?

My business is based in Bogotá, Colombia.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

The way I started is not usual because the brand already existed. I joined the company four years ago. I was a customer and what I loved the most was the concept; Doppia means "double" in Italian so reversibility is the main characteristic of the design.

I kept the essence of the brand (reversible swimwear) but made improvements in terms of design, inspiration, and communication. I asked our customer what they wanted and how they felt about the brand. Once I had gathered that relevant data, I used inspiration from Colombia, its people, and traditions to create bold and fun designs.  

Natalia Vargas

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Word-of-mouth is definitely the way I started to build brand awareness. Between my friends, family, and every place and event that I go, I talk about the brand and its concept and people get really excited and start following it. Social media has also been an effective way to build brand awareness. 

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenges have been related to production and design. I have all the ideas about what I want and how I want the products to be, but as I am not a trained designer, there are many things related to both processes where I don't have enough expertise. So the way I overcome them is by working closely with my design team and the garment factory.

How do you stay focused?

Oh boy, this is a hard one! When you have your own business many opportunities emerge. Yet I stay focused by tackling one goal at a time. Sometimes you just have to say "not now, but later" when different opportunities emerge. 

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I think the way my brand is different from my competition is how we communicate with our customers. We have close relationships with them and provide as much information as we can. For example, our hang tags are designed specially to let the customer know which garments are reversible.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Since a few collections ago, I decided to switch the image and prototype of my Doppia woman by shooting campaign photos with my customers. This strategy resulted in more engagement with my market because women identify with the girl they see in the photos. This approach also helped to grow the brand's sales and awareness in social media.

Natalia Vargas

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

My advice is to keep working, love what you do, and be patient. Sometimes being an entrepreneur is hard and everything can get overwhelming, but don't quit.  Just keep working and keep the goal in your mind. Patience you will get where you want!

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

My favorite app is Instagram; I use it for editing pictures, making short videos, benchmarking, as a communication channel with my customers, for inspiration, to find stores, potential customers, shopping and sale events and many other different things.

My favorite blog is Foundr because there are many interesting articles related to business, new entrepreneurs, marketing, and strategies that are very useful.

My favorite book is "The One Thing" because it tells the importance of keep focused!

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

I like Shopify because of the valuable data it provides, including what visitors see, what products they like, as well as what are the most viewed and added to the cart products. The platform also provides information about promotions, ads, and marketing strategies to reach wider audiences. 

Who is your business role model? Why?

A couple of years ago, I met a wonderful Colombian designer based in New York City named Raul Peñaranda. He became an inspiration for me and my business role model. I had the opportunity to find out about his work and history, how he began to work in the industry and started his brand with all the struggles and this really inspired me! And last year, I worked with him at an event in Bogotá, Colombia where he presented his collection and it was an amazing experience!

What do you have planned for the next six months?

My plans for the next six months are exploring new markets - one is the U.S. This collection will be inspired by our indigenous southern tribes and their creations, and we'll let women and men know about our unique Colombian pieces and share a bit of our country.

How can our readers connect with you?

They can reach out to me or to the brand through social media, in Instagram as @doppiaswimwear, Facebook as Doppia Swimwear or our web page www.doppiaswimwear.com. I would love to get in touch and introduce them to my brand experience!