I can’t believe it’s already June—but here we are, and I have a lot going on this summer that I can’t wait to share with you guys! So much, in fact, that I’ll be moving to biweekly blog posts. After almost two years of posting every Thursday and nearly 50,000 of you subscribed (thank you so much!), I’ll now be posting every other Thursday! Make sure you’re following me on Instagram, Snapchat, and Tiktok, because I’ll still be posting my day-to-day there!
I also can’t believe that June 11 will mark Sienna Swim’s first year in business! I get lots of emails and messages from mostly women, asking for advice on how to run a business and where to start. So here are five lessons we’ve learned this year. If you’re thinking of starting a business, these lessons might help!
- GO WITH YOUR GUT
When my mom and I founded this business with the help of a few close friends, we did so after turning down a few offers from larger companies to take a more corporate approach to Sienna Swim. My mom, Dina, actually worked in corporate consulting for 25 years, so we had that corporate knowledge on our side, but what was important to me was that the business remain my creative outlet, not just a side thing. My first “jobs” were brand deals, all of which I had a ton of fun doing, but usually I was being told what to do. Sure, I had creative freedom here and there but I would do a few partnerships with a brand and then they’d move on to their next initiative. I wanted this brand to feel like mine from top to bottom. I wanted to be involved in every aspect from design and marketing, to shipping and customer service. I knew that going corporate wasn’t the right fit for me at the time, because I wanted this brand to represent me well—and I knew I would need to do that myself. So my first piece of advice is to trust your intuition and go with your gut. You know when something feels right. Trust yourself and then move with intention.
It is so important to be able to stay true to yourself, but it’s also important to listen to feedback. It can be hard when you work on a collection for months upon months to hear that people don’t like the fit or the colors, but being a good business owner means learning how to create with criticism. We have changed the silhouettes we offer based on feedback from customers, ambassadors, and critics alike. The key is to not let the criticism stop you from creating. We do our best to take it all in stride and implement the feedback we receive.
- POUR INTO YOUR COMMUNITY, AND YOUR COMMUNITY WILL POUR INTO YOU
Without a doubt, the best, most fulfilling part about launching this business has been the community I’ve found through it. When I started this brand it was because I loved swimwear (and still do). I originally found a passion in wearing bikinis as part of my self expression, and then leveled that up by creating bikinis for self expression. I love the feeling of making great suits that people feel great in, and the design process is so rewarding to me. I never thought that feeling could be amplified, but it definitely has by expanding my circle to include other creatives who have become incredible friends and family and who have supported me in my own creative journey. I became an influencer in 2020 amid the pandemic, where it was largely just me and my phone a lot of the time. I felt so disconnected and separated – even the people I chose to spend time with back then were not authentic – so I didn’t know what real community looked like. Now, after launching this business, I know collaborating looks like my collaboration with Kai Sallas, whose love for surfing is something he wants to share through partnerships. It’s standing backstage at Swim Week shows, helping other models do their hair and makeup, cheering each other on while we’re all standing nervously waiting to walk. And it’s those same models shooting entire collections with me just to hang out for the day and have fun, or meeting me for beach clean ups on Oahu, the island that has given me so much. This company has shown me what kind of community I am capable of being part of, and has made me so invested in giving back to it. So if you’re starting a business, open yourself to other people in your same industry, and make friends that cheer you on. It won’t be the same without them.
- DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF
When I first started my company, I knew that swimwear wasn’t the only thing I wanted to make. I love creating great products that improve people’s lives in some way. I think there’s a lot of pressure to kind of find your “thing” and stick to it, but believe me when I say that one of the BEST lessons I learned this year was to not limit myself. I love graphic tees, and I decided I wanted to sell them. I didn’t know if anyone would buy them, but I thought they would do well, and I was right. There’s going to be people along your journey who try to discourage you from expanding. Don’t listen to them, and don’t limit yourself! I surely won’t be. You can expect LOTS more exciting, out of the box—or the shower—items coming your way in our second year of business. ;)
- HOLD YOURSELF & YOUR BUSINESS ACCOUNTABLE
We have had a fantastic first year at Sienna Swim, and, if we wanted to, we could keep things exactly as they are, but that wouldn’t be true to who we want to be. We know that social and environmental responsibility are huge priorities for us, and we invested a lot of our first year’s earnings back into those areas. Early on, we changed our sizing systems to make our line more accessible and comfortable while keeping the price point affordable, and continue to focus on being as inclusive as possible. Beyond that, we’re also changing our manufacturing and operations to become more sustainable, as well as donating to organizations who have the same values we do, like Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. We may be a small company, but we know the value isn’t necessarily in the dollar—it’s where you spend it, and we are determined to spend ours in a way that reflects the responsibility and standard we believe all businesses should hold themselves to. I’ve learned that as a business owner, holding yourself and your business accountable is the only way to invest in your company’s future and your personal character.
Sienna Swim has allowed me to grow into myself, and I will always be so incredibly grateful for all of the people who have supported me and this company along the way. If you’ve purchased a suit, followed us online, or simply cheered for us from afar, I appreciate you, and can’t wait to share all of the incredible things we have in store for year two. <3