This week, I’m excited to share insights from one of our current clients, Sophie Wardrop.
Sophie is the founder of SWMR, an athleisure swimwear brand that doesn’t compromise on form or function. SWMR was made for the woman that wants her top to stay in place when she gets caught up in a wave but doesn’t want to sacrifice her fashion-forward style.
I’m delighted to be a part of the incredible brand Sophie has created. I’m grateful to share her experiences as a founder. Sophie is one of our swimwear clients, and it’s been a real treat to watch her bring this brand to life. While the brand has certainly had its ups and downs, making the most out of those lessons is what will SWMR to the next level!
Were you always interested in starting your own company? What inspired you to create your own business?
“I’ve always been interested in starting a business, but with the reality of bootstrapping a startup with a day job, I quickly discovered it has to be something you are passionate about to actually be compelled to turn the laptop on before and after work or on the weekends. SWMR was conceived by my own frustration in having to choose between training swimwear or a bikini at the beach (I swim for fitness but often like to have a beer with friends or lie out for a bit after) and wanted swimwear that stood up to a dash out to a buoy and back, but had a clean and modern aesthetic.”
K: The reality is that most startups are built in the hours after working a 9-5. So having a strong “why” will keep you going when you just want to give up. It’s also extra awesome that Sophie was inspired by her own frustration — it’s one of the best reasons to start working on something new like this!
What was the beginning of starting SWMR like? Did you have a hard time getting started, or did the pieces fall into place?
“It still feels very much like the beginning! Working with Kristen and nailing the designs truly was the easy part. Beyond that, from manufacturing, brand, and marketing, those pieces are still falling into place. Timing seasons right, particularly with swimwear is critical, and I’ve learned it’s really important to have a backup plan because when you’re starting out, there are obstacles around every corner.”
K: Yes! Always have a plan B. When it comes to building a brand, we can almost guarantee that things will not always go to plan. Maybe even have a plan C and D, too. You really need to always think about how you can be agile and flexible during more turbulent times.
Was it scary when you first went out on your own? How did you get started?
“Not too scary, but sequencing things correctly is a big challenge when you’re new. The manufacturing side of things somewhat takes care of itself once you’ve placed the order, but decisions such as when to start marketing, to pre-sell or not to pre-sell, etc, aren’t quite so easy.“
K: We feel Sophie on this. Marketing is tricky, especially with a seasonal product like swimwear. It always feels like you have to seize the right moment. We find that the best way to gain hype is to build a relationship with your customer long before you have something to sell. And don’t forget to pay attention to what they have to say when you do start sharing your product with them.
What is the biggest failure you've experienced in your business? What did you learn from it?
“Less failure but more the biggest learning, and something that I am still learning, is what I can do myself and what to outsource to experts. You learn really quickly if you aren’t a content creator that creating high volumes of content that is relevant and compelling to your audience is basically a full-time job in itself. Let alone then segmenting the audience and buying digital media if you’re doing paid placements as well as organic. Certainly, in my start-up, I can’t afford to outsource everything, so it’s a lot of trial and error to find the balance.”
K: Totally! Time is our biggest nonrenewable resource. As a business owner, you burn through it crazy fast because you’re trying to wear all the hats. So, as Sophie did, we suggest figuring out what tasks drain you the most and start outsourcing them.
What's the best advice you've ever been given, life or business?
“Probably the old tried and true don’t give up and see it through. I do pretty much believe that a break is probably only just around the corner from the point at which you want to throw in the towel, and if you knew that break was coming you’d find the resources to keep pushing through.”
K: I love this sentiment! It reminds me of an artist a friend brought up recently.
What's the most recent lesson your business has taught you?
“To constantly be adaptable, and that your original ideas might not be your best ones.”
K: Adaptability is a critical trait for entrepreneurs! You'll always find success if you can learn to pivot and stay in a growth mindset.
What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
“It’s not easy, but it’s super rewarding, so if the passion is there and the time feels right, it’s time to jump in!”
K: Yesss! If you can’t stop thinking about it, it’s time to pursue it.
What's your favorite part about being a business owner? What's the most challenging part?
“Seeing your brand and products come to life is unbeatable, and receiving positive customer feedback. The hardest part is uncertainty, planning, and forecasting, especially in the early days while you are still building awareness and with a seasonal product.”
K: Having tangible proof of your hard work is SO gratifying, and nothing can beat the feeling of knowing you exceeded your customers' expectations!
What is something you have accomplished that you are most proud of?
“Getting SWMR launched at the tail end of a pandemic when we were still in lockdown in NZ - certainty made things a bit more challenging!”
K: BRAVO! It always amazes me how my clients were able to create such purposeful and beautiful brands during a time of such turmoil.
What are the most important skills or traits you've found helpful in entrepreneurship? Are there any traits you've discovered that make it harder to succeed if you don't keep it in check?
“Willingness to give everything a go, to be honest, enough with yourself about when to call in help, and to try and fail - it’s constant testing and learning, validating and baking in the findings for next time from product through to marketing.”
K: Sophie hit the nail on the head! When you approach life with a growth mindset there’s nothing that you can’t do. Just keep getting back up when you fall down.
What's your favorite 'game-changer' tool that you can share with everyone? (ie. hellobonsai, airtable, later, etc.).
“Nothing special, just Google Drive and being organized enough to file everything properly!”
K: Our team uses Google Drive daily!
Where can we find you if we'd like to learn more about you?
“You can shop SWMR at www.swmr.co and follow us @theswmr.”
Check out this amazing woman right here!
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