Startup Diaries: Our Families Funded our Bikini Prototypes
The NextWomen Fashion & Retail Theme.
From my experience as a young female entrepreneur starting my own business, many questions seem to be asked. Most are due to my age:
"Was this a school project that you just continued with?"
"Do you wear your product?"
Or how about this one:
"How old are you?"
The answer to these questions are no, yes, and 20.
In July 2012 the idea for my bikini line, Mprint Swimwear, was conceived as I was lounging poolside in Charleston, South Carolina. I was on a summer vacation visiting my boyfriend Cody Dragon. Cody was working as a lifeguard for his summer job. So with that being said of course I would walk down to the pool to to soak up the rays and lounge, all while staring at my studly boyfriend on his lifeguard chair.
I was living the life, you could say. My attire to the pool yard was a bikini that had straps across the hips. I thought it was a cute bikini because it showed some extra skin, but it wasn't without the repercussion of a funky tan design that was left behind on my hip area.
After Cody's shift of life guarding was over I showed him the odd shaped tan design left on my hip. I was complaining about the tan to him when he said "Why not make swimsuits with cut-outs in recognizable shapes so girls get tan lines they actually want?"
BING! The light bulb went on and we both automatically knew we had a great idea at hand.
You see, a trend with young females lately has been tanning stickers in distinguishable shapes that they place on their hip/stomach/butt area. Girls will also makes shapes of hearts,stars or suns, etc. with sunscreen for the purpose of leaving behind a fun tan design.
The issue with these tanning techniques is that you are confined to your beach towel or lounge chair once a tanning sticker or sunscreen design is applied. If you wish to be mobile or go in the water you must start your whole tanning experience over again. This can be timely and an annoyance. With our suits girls/women can run, jump, surf, swim, etc. all while still achieving that fun and flirty tan design you wish to receive.
We started working on the design of the bikinis right away. We hopped on the computer and started photo editing what our bikinis could look like. We were eager, enthusiastic and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
From what started as a "Hey, why not?" idea, has now turned into a swimwear company that is poised to disrupt the entire swimwear industry.
We are patent pending in the U.S. and Brazil. If someone would have told me 11 months ago I would have started my own bikini company I would have laughed. But here I am working every day building my bikini empire. I had a good idea for a product so I ran with it. There were so many obstacles that we had to overcome, but we never gave up.
Some nights we would come home from Los Angeles feeling so defeated after wasting money on a prototype that didn't end up working. We believed in the idea of our product though. Cody and I always had this saying of ours that kept us driven during the prototype stages of our company "If someone can build a rocket ship that goes to the moon then we can make a cut-out in stretch fabric!"
One thing I've learned from starting my business is that money makes the world go round. It was difficult to raise money for the prototype phase, Cody and I gathered about $15,000 throughout the time period of nine months. This $15,000 was purely dedicated to the start up stages of our business. Prototype testing took up most of the money earned. The $15,000 didn't all come at once though since we were raising money from our families instead of an investor.
It was hard for our families to keep giving money when over and over again they weren't being presented with a working prototype.
Creating a new product requires so much prototype field testing. You are bound to fail time and time again, but it's all worth it when you finally achieve your working prototype. Even though our families groaned every time they pulled out their wallets to put towards developing the bikinis, they had faith in our idea and that is why they continued to pour money into us.
As the months went on we finally had a working prototype! We were beyond excited to bring our product to market, little did we know it was a lot more complicated than that. Here we were, two kids who had never known anything about the fashion industry before- let alone the swimwear industry. We were wide eyed and thirsty for growth. What started as an idea we had while tanning poolside, has now quickly become my life long dream and career.
Suzanne Silva is co-founder of Mprint Swimwear.
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