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Lemons into Lemonade: Clare Barrins

Time to gush about one of our amazing clients, Clare Barrins.

Clare is the founder of SHEILA, an Aussie luxury active swimwear brand all about versatile staples to take you from swim, surf, or sand and even through brunch with your besties. Because why should you have to sacrifice style or comfort while you enjoy your day?

We’ve been thrilled to be a part of SHEILA and to share Clare's journey as a founder through all the ups and downs and everything in between. It’s been a wild ride, but there’s nothing better than the lessons you learn along the way.

Seeing SHEILA come to life has been a truly rewarding experience for our whole design team and Clare’s unwavering commitment to her vision will make this brand a HUGE success!

And the best part? SHEILA just launched this week, so you can check it out for yourself. Sorry if you’re in the USA, because right now these bad girls are only shipping to our AU friends for now.

But first, let's dive into our fun interview with Clare and get the inside scoop on her inspiring brand. And learn how she turned lemons into lemonade. Let's go!

A redheaded woman sitting wearing a mint green dress sitting on a white couch. She is smiling. There's retro floral artwork in the background.
Clare Barrins, owner and CEO of SHEILA.

Tell me a little bit about your business.

"Our brand tagline is “Swim short for land, sea, and life”. Our purpose is to offer every kind of woman a greater choice of swimwear, and we feel like we’re leading a swimwear revolution from the bottom up—pun intended. SHEILA was born from my own search for a pair of luxe, versatile swim shorts. When I couldn’t find the right product, I decided to create something new. I’m hoping swim shorts will become a new swimwear staple for women, and that they’ll give women the confidence to no longer sit on the sidelines—and to live freely and in the moment."

K: I’m a firm believer that the best products are born out of untapped white space. I remember how excited Clare was when we first met, eager to get a second opinion on her research. She knew strongly in her gut she was onto something and after a quick review of all the homework she had done, especially vetting the customer landscape, I was sure she was onto something excellent, too!

A blonde woman and brunette curly haired woman embracing and smiling. The blond is wearing a purple swim top and swim shorts. The brunette is wearing an orange swim biketard.

Were you always interested in starting your own company? What inspired you to start your own business?

"I’ve always wanted to start my own company. The idea of being able to shape a company guided by values that align with my own personal values really appeals to me. And the idea of being able to create a product that gives women more confidence to participate in life is also an inspiring factor. Plus, I view it as an opportunity for personal growth—a test of my own ability to lead, to strategize, to execute, to make shit happen!"

K: The world needs more female businesswomen with a clear vision and strong ethos. It’s definitely a test of your ability to lead, strategize and execute and if there’s anything I’ve learned — Clare knows how to make shit happen!!

What was the beginning of starting SHEILA like? Did you have a hard time getting started, or did the pieces fall into place?

"It was a little overwhelming, in terms of knowing where to start. I had a clear idea of the product I wanted to create (swim shorts), but I had—and have—no background in swimwear or fashion or design. I was confident in my ability to navigate the process and plan toward a successful launch. I started by pulling together a business plan—an overview of what I wanted to achieve, an analysis of competitors, the market opportunity, and more. And then I researched options to help with the design piece—and that’s how I ended up working with KRSTN NDRSN!"

K: We are so grateful that Clare’s entrepreneurial journey led her to us. We are happy to have been able to lend our design and development expertise to SHEILA. It feels so wonderful to be part of a brand like SHEILA. Creating a brand is not necessarily just about the vision of the founder, but how to tap into something that the market truly wants. The collaborative team-oriented process of design + development has really made a huge impact on this all coming together.

A blond woman standing under an sun umbrella on a beach. She is smiling wearing a purple swim biketard.

Was it scary when you first went out on your own? How did you get started?

"It wasn’t scary—it was exciting—I just started by doing: making lists; writing plans; engaging with people; and taking action!"

K: Yes! It all starts with taking ACTION! You can only strategize for so long before you have to just jump in feet first. I also love lists because they help you feel like you’ve made noticeable progress!

What is the biggest failure you've experienced in your business? What did you learn from it?

"Right now I don’t consider anything a failure as everything has been a learning opportunity. Having said that, I’ve learned that I would do some things differently—maybe not paying as much money for things that I outsourced when other options are available. And I would learn to back myself and my gut instinct more, instead of seeking as much input from others."

K: I 100% agree! Everything is a learning experience, especially as an entrepreneur. You’re constantly going to be put in new situations. A favorite quote on this exact notion is: “I never lose, I win or I learn,” attributed to Nelson Mandela.

A brunette woman with curly hair sits on a beach towel. She is wearing sunglasses, a black swim top, and black swim shorts. A partial eaten watermelon is sitting on the towel.

What's the best advice you've ever been given in life or business?

"I haven’t really been given that much advice that’s been transformative, but my own advice to others is to back yourself—be confident and believe in your own idea. And then just make it happen!"

K: If you don’t believe in yourself then who will? Sometimes you’ve gotta fake it a bit before the real confidence settles in, but don’t let the uncomfortable parts scare you from the attempt.

What's the most recent lesson your business has taught you?

"As above, it’s to trust myself. To believe in my own vision, and to not feel the need to defer to other people for guidance on the way forward when a tricky decision needs to be made."

K: You have to live with the choices you make, so make sure you’re committing to ones that feel good for both you and your business.

A curly haired brunette woman is lounging in a chair wearing an orange rashguard and orange swim shorts.

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?

"To all entrepreneurs regardless of gender: believe in yourself and make it happen!

To women, entrepreneurs specifically: back yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man, and then some! Don’t listen to the naysayers. Build yourself a community of trusted advisors and friends with whom you can bounce ideas off. Reach out to other entrepreneurs in your network and connect with them regularly—be vulnerable and share your challenges and your learnings. It’s helpful to you, and it’s helpful to them."

K: YES! Be confident and lean on your community when the days get tough. I really appreciate the being vulnerable commentary as well—it’s OK to be a work in progress—we all are. Sharing your struggles out in the open is a great way to reduce their power.

What's your favorite part about being a business owner? What's the hardest part?

"My favorite part is being my own boss—being able to set the strategy and vision and execute against it!

The hardest part is time—juggling SHEILA and a day job, and time with my family, and my friends. I need more time in my day—there are never enough hours and there’s always work to be done."

K: For new founders, time is definitely the most fleeting resource. We totally get where Clare is coming from—juggling a budding business, a busy day job, family, and friends. Time is our most precious resource, but sometimes you are in periods where you are sowing seeds and there will come a harvest and you’ll get to reap the benefits of the hard work you’ve put in. We all need a break sometimes, though, so we encourage all founders to engage in regular self-care. Check out a post here.

A blond woman is walking up stairs wearing a black swim biketard. A black crossbody bag is around her chest.

What is something you have accomplished that you are most proud of?

"Launching SHEILA! Taking it from just an idea to a fully launched business in 18 months. It took a little longer than I expected but now that I’ve gone through the process, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in that time."

K: We are SO proud of SHEILA. While it took longer than expected, the final product turned out beautifully. The quality and fit truly highlight all the hard work and attention to detail that went into each and every swimwear piece. We can’t wait to see the reviews come in!

What are the most important skills or traits you've found helpful in entrepreneurship?

"Persistence and resilience; the ability to set a vision and keep that goal top of mind; organization; good communication and responsiveness with people and agencies you’re working with."

K: Persistence is definitely key. You’ve gotta be able to get up when you get knocked down—you are your biggest advocate for your business and brand.

A brunette curly haired woman is wearing a purple triangle bikini top and matching swim shorts. She has grapes in one hand and water in the other.

Are there any traits you've discovered that make it harder to succeed if you don't keep it in check?

"This is a tough one. I was tempted to answer this with “perfectionism” because it can lead you to spend a lot of time trying to understand things, or perfect things that aren’t materially important. But I also feel that perfectionism helps you create a product that you can be proud of."

K: I couldn’t agree more, Perfectionism is a double-edged sword and a fine line to walk. It can cause analysis paralysis, self-doubt, and procrastination, but it can also move you to reach higher standards. You have to learn to keep it in balance. Progress, not perfection is what I like to remember!!

What's your favorite 'game-changer' tool that you can share with everyone? (ie. hellobonsai, airtable, later, etc.).

"This one is thanks to KRSTN NDRSN. It’s been Loom! Being able to record videos and watch recorded videos as we went through the fitting process was a lifesaver!"

K: We LOVE Loom! It’s the best for communicating between meetings and for keeping records. One of my personal faves, for sure!!

A blond woman and brunette curly haired woman are lounging by a pool. The blond is wearing an orange bikini top and matching swim shorts. The brunette is wearing a purple bikini top and matching swim shorts.

Where can we find you if we'd like to learn more about you and SHEILA?

Let's show some love for SHEILA's big launch! Go snag some swimwear and follow her socials.

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