In this edition of Lemons into Lemonade, I had the opportunity to learn more about Lauren Quinn. Lauren is the founder of Bromelia Swimwear, a vibrant brand that has been featured in publications like Vogue, Womens’ Wear Daily, and Marie Claire.
Lauren has multiple passions that she integrates into Bromelia's overarching mission: while crafting beautiful swimwear is certainly a focus, supporting local artists, the representation of female and LGBTQ individuals, and ethical fashion are also high on the list.
Here are some yummy excerpts from our interview:
Were you always interested in starting your own venture? What inspired you to start your own business?
Lauren was never interested in starting her own business; Instead, she saw a need and decided to go for it. A few years ago, she moved to Brazil for the Olympics. After learning the language, meeting a lot of people, and beginning to understand Brazilian culture, she made an observation that started Bromelia.
"I saw there was a large, underrepresented group of people - primarily women, Latina of course, black, trans, the LGTW community in general - that had so much to say through their art - so I began Bromelia seeded in the roots of this community. It kind of just had to happen."
As she puts it:
"It wasn't premeditated - it just one of those meant-to-be situations."
What was the beginning like? Did you have a hard time getting started, or did the pieces fall into place?
As with any beautiful thing, the answer to this question for Lauren was both.
One thing that made the beginning so easy was how open people in South America are - open to new ideas, new experiences, and new people.
"My tactic when starting this line was literally to leave my house and walk on the streets and neighborhoods that were maybe off the beaten track...and find people, run into people, and then one situation leads into the other...and this is something that's much more South American than it is North American...so in that sense, it was really easy. Because people have a story to tell, and they're not afraid to use their voice - they just don't always have a vehicle to share it with."
On the other hand, things with the production were much more challenging.
"But difficulty in terms of production - oh my gosh. I had never done anything in the fashion realm - I never went to school for fashion…. I just have a deep love of bikinis….The first year of production was very challenging because it was a big learning curve, learning how things run in terms of garment design and samples, and actually going to print with your lookbook…. Marketing, the whole shebang was very complicated."
Despite the challenges that come with something new, Lauren deemed her first-year experience "horrible and wonderful all at the same time!"
What is the biggest failure you've experienced in your business? What did you learn from it?
Although this isn't necessarily a failure, a challenge that Lauren comes up against frequently is women's insecurities about how they look in a bikini. I thought this was a fascinating answer; marketing a bikini is definitely different than selling a tee-shirt.
"So something that comes up constantly is... women's self-confidence. I run into this on a daily basis - where women say I love these suits, I love what the brand stands for, but my butt is too big or I have too much cellulite, or I could never do that - so marketing has shifted greatly in the past season, to include more what the world calls body-positive images...to be a more inclusive brand, which is something we've always stood for."
What's the best advice you've ever been given in life or business?
Lauren's answer was thoughtful and straightforward:
"Be authentic, and they will come."
This advice came from a good friend of Laurens, and she shared that the theme has come up repeatedly throughout her life and especially her experience with Bromelia. She shared:
"What it comes down to is know who you are, know what you're about, don't alter that - you're always going to hear criticism...but don't play or cater to them. Just know who you are, and your audience will find you!"
A Caramel Ribbed Bikini, As Seen on Bromelia
What's the most recent lesson your business has taught you?
COVID-19 has impacted many small businesses, including Bromelia.
"To ride this new wave, I've had to strategize very differently and not focus on the bottom dollar...Most years in January, you set goals for yourself - short term and long term for the year - and there's usually a dollar figure associated with that...but once COVID hit… you had to connect with people, you had to build a community without selling to people - I didn't want to be sold too! - so I really changed strategy in terms of just connecting...and it actually boosted sales in a way I was not expecting!"
Laurens's decision to change the yearly goal from a financial one to a community-focused one built confidence in Bromelia's brand. Although COVID-19 has been challenging for many small businesses, Lauren has pivoted as best she can.
"It was a huge challenge that took a long time of sitting and reflecting and guesting… but it worked out!"
What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Lauren had thoughtful advice: Don't look for instant gratification. Give yourself and your business the time and space it needs to grow.
"If you are doing something to earn quick money...something to get a lot of fame or that's really good for your ego. It's very possible that it could work out for you - but it's also very possible that 99% this will blow up in your face and leave you feeling very negative and down about yourself… be in it for the long haul and let it grow slowly...and gradually. When you let it grow, that's kind of when things happen."