Pop-up Shop

Summer is finally on the way so I am trying to call back all of my enthusiasm and passion that I had in the beginning. Launching just before winter wasn't the best plan of action from a sales perspective, but for brand building it has been excellent. I've been growing slowing but surely and with lots of positive feedback on the fit and feel and quality of the suits which is all great. I am super excited for the next stage which is the pop-up shop. 

I bought myself a nice chrome collapsable clothing rack, a cute rug, little side table and velvet hangers, and I set up my square account... I am just about ready to go. 

First stop Randoms Boutique in Encinitas. I'll post the official date on Insta and Facebook. 

Photoshoots

A shout-out all those who participated in the photoshoot era of my branding. I had the pleasure of working along side several other woman-owned self-started businesses and it has been and incredible honor to help promote and work with so many ambitious and talented women. 

A special thanks to:

All of my models- you are so beautiful and I could not have done this without each and every one of you. 

Leilani’s Leis - Flowers and Leis

Bare Brush Tan - organic spray tans for my ladies

War Paint Aesthetics - hair and makeup

Jewels Over Deity - beautiful and unique necklaces, bracelets and body chains

Fair Seas Supply Co. - roundie beach towels

 

THANK YOU!

 

 

Eco-Friendly Vendors

I know I already bragged about my awesome printer, but I have to brag once more, just a little, about 2 more of my vendors.

Wool and the Gang - provides sustainable yarn for knitting that is repurposed from garments in the fashion industry. I am using their yarn to string the hang tags to my bikinis. 

EcoEnclose - provides earth-friendly packaging and shipping supplies. I bought their 100% post consumer shipping labels and poly mailers to send out my bikinis to my future customers.

Basic Business Set-Up

The business and tax part requires a lot of gumption. Unless you pay someone, nobody is going to hand you a list and say this is what you need, do them in this order and you'll be an official company and everything will be legal. This phase was the cherry on top of the frustration sunday and pushed me over the edge into an evening of uncontrollable sobbing. DBA registration > DBA publication > LLC registration > EIN registration > CA Seller's Permit > CA Resale Certificate > San Diego business license > home occupation permit > CA tax income forms > limited liability insurance > accounting software > credit card processing > sales tax > shipping accounts- And link it all to the bank account and the website so that it works flawlessly... holy shit. I am just one person. Like I said, uncontrollable sobbing. I cried myself to sleep and then woke up and got after it again. I am still not finished, and I am waiting on my permits, but I know what I need to do once I get them and I have all the forms halfway filled out already so that's good. I'll just say, you have to really want to start a business in order to get it off the ground, no one will do it for you. I did find some sanity saving resources online eventually. One is the small business administration sba.gov and the other is score.org; both free online resources that have most if not all of the answers. I only wish I had discovered them sooner.

Giving Back

If given the option between 2 identical products at the same price point, but one company donates to a cause that I support- I choose the company who donates. Duh. If given the option between 2 identical products, one is much less, but the other company donates - I still choose the company who donates. Sometimes I will buy a product just because they donate, because it makes me feel good. I have canvases and framed works stashed in my closet and behind all large furniture; I could rotate my walls like a gallery. I have no space left but I keep buying art because I love supporting artists. And I love supporting companies who give back. I have a t-shirt that says 'puppies for president'. I'm not a big words on my shirt, 'read me' kind of chick, and the one time I wore it in public I regretted it immediately because it attracted attention. I bought it to sleep in and I don't need anymore shirts to sleep in, but it's really soft and the company donates to animal rescue organizations.  

Giving back 10% is really nothing but it's a great incentive for buyers and it will make me feel like I'm contributing. I hope to increase the percentage as my company grows and become not just a donator but a partner with many organizations. 

10% is a good place to start and I am sharing the love between 2 great organizations because I just couldn't choose. Surfrider Foundation - protecting the beaches and water. And, Healthy Seas- cleaning the waters of marine litter. Both badass organizations getting it done. Check them out:

surfrider.org

healthyseas.org

Underwire Bikini Top Nightmare

Thinking about sourcing from S & S Industries? Don't, RUN IN THE OTHER DIRECTION.

Apparently no 2 underwires have the same shape/length. So, when designing an underwire top or bra, you have to choose your wires first. You can either source them or have them made custom but the minimums for custom orders are very large. I found an underwire that was the shape I needed from a supplier in New York called S&S Industries who also had other trims that I needed. I went back and forth with a rep for 2 weeks trying to get samples. I eventually had to call in and ask for someone else to handle my account because this lady was so unbelievably rude and actually yelled at me on the phone when I pointed out inconsistencies with information she had provided. I began the process all over again with another rep, trying to get samples to check out their products. 1 week of this, and then he passes me off to another rep at their Honduras factory whose english is less than great. Another 2 weeks and finally initial samples show up on my doorstep. The changes in reps and complete disregard for customer service would all be red flags in a normal environment. But EVERYTHING had been exhausting and super difficult and I had been warned ahead of time by my pattern maker and by the most important book I read called 'The Entrepreneur's Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing' by Kathleen Fasanella, that this industry is exactly like this and you have to be pushy and determined and wade through all the shit to get anything done. SO I did.

I designed my underwire bikini top around this underwire and sent the initial samples to my pattern maker for measurement. When I tried to order more samples to get my sewbys made and inquire about other products, my new rep in Honduras would take a whole week to respond to each email I sent and when she finally responded, only 1 out of the 3 questions I had asked were answered and it was written in broken english and the message was very unclear. And then I finally got the samples for the sewbys along with a $120 shipping fee, because they rush shipped it (not per my request), and it came from the Honduras facility instead of New York. 

Eventually, I discover that the original rep that I had discussed minimums with, had lied. According to my new rep, minimums are several hundred more than what I was first told. Now I have a bikini top designed around an underwire supplied by a company whose minimums I cannot meet. This relationship started in January and ended in June- I put up with these people for 6 months and all of it was for nothing. I looked into getting the wires duplicated overseas and called every supplier under the sun and eventually after a month of research, I found a supplier in Massachusetts who has an underwire that is only slightly off and will work with the pattern that I have already paid for. My new supplier is lovely, responsive, and in the States. Barekini (1) ; S&S (0).

Trims and Sourcing Suppliers

The most frustrating part of this whole process has been sourcing suppliers for all of my bikini trims. I wish there was a one stop shop for hooks, rings and sliders, wires, and all the different elastics, but there is no such thing. Someone might carry all of it but it's not all going to be what you want or at the price point you need. Intensive research and patience and determination are definitely required. So many rude suppliers who act like they don't want your business. I discovered that either my quantities were too small or the fact that I am not an established business yet means that I am so not worth their time. Several instances of 'yeah, yeah, we'll have so-n-so call you back', 'yeah, we'll get a catalog out to you asap', 'yeah, we'd be happy to send you samples'. All music to my ears but all said only to get me off the phone, no call back, no catalog, no samples received. And, calling them again doesn't get you anywhere because they've already decided to put you on their 'you're too new and pathetic for us' blacklist. I tried at least 30 different suppliers. Emailing and calling until someone responds and then just sitting and waiting to see if they actually follow through on sending me anything. The way that most of these companies do customer service or lack there of, you would think that they are just so successful that they don't need your business, but that cannot possibly be true. Eventually I got enough suppliers to send out samples and found all the trims that I needed. 

 

Be the Solution

Identifying a problem in the market doesn't get you anywhere unless you decide to be the solution, so I began chatting with women about their own bikini buying experiences. What do you loath, what do you love, what is missing? There are many women with my support vs coverage dilemma, and the tied string bikini is out. 

So, ditching the strings is a must. But ditching the strings makes the suit non-adjustable which will alienate too many people, so it has to be a fixed adjustable. This will maximize comfort and allow each person to adjust to their own measurements and also keep the suit in place. But, a fixed adjustable means trims and trims cost money: s-hooks for the underbust band and rings and sliders for the shoulder straps. It's not that other brands have never thought about it. They're just cheap or greedy or it's not important to them. Well, it is important to me and I'm willing to pay more to have a better product that actually fits.  I decided that what I really need to do is design bikini tops that have the fixed adjustable band that are sized differently all together. What if the band fits bra sizes 32-36 since they are the most common and then just increase the coverage? So the band stays the same sizes small through x-large but then the cup or amount of fabric/coverage increases as the sizes get bigger. So a small is a 32-36 A/B and an x-large is a 32-36 D/DD. YES!

Bikini bottoms are a much simpler product but they still have many flaws. Bottoms are usually too low. Having a butt can be the problem, but even thong and cheeky bottoms, which should be unaffected by butt size, are still too low. An inch or more in the front and back is definitely called for. Low-rise is so 90's and it chops up the body disproportionately. Also, most bikini bottoms are straight across on the top. This means that the strap of the bikini is hitting the body in that sort of fat pocket between the hip and waist bones. Even if you are in great shape this can be and unfortunate place to have a stretchy item squeeze in. The muffin top is not a good look and is inevitable with this placement. Curving that line upward on the sides, so that the straps sit on the waist bone and not in the pocket is a must. This also will create the illusion of a longer leg. Who doesn't like long legs?

Identifying a Problem

Bikini shopping is thankless. I have been losing the battle against trying to find a bikini top that is supportive and also has enough coverage so that I can actually move without falling out of it. Most brands provide very few styles that have either let alone both and the styles that do offer both are essentially full coverage sports bras made from swim fabric. Bikini tops should look like swimwear not muumuus, so I find myself settling for support OR coverage. In order to get the coverage that I need, I have to buy a larger size. But in standard sizing, when you go larger, everything gets larger, including the support band under the bust. Now I have the coverage, but no support because the band is loose. The typical triangle string bikini is the only top I can buy larger and make tight enough under the bust. But the string bikini slides around and requires constant adjusting not to mention how uncomfortable it is to have a knot digging into your back and neck. There is nothing sexy about watching a woman fuss with herself and constantly adjust her clothing. Truly sexy is effortless and easy.