April 13, 2021
If you haven’t seen or heard, Evie just announced her latest (and biggest) business venture so far: her own swimsuit line, Evie Swim. She has been working on this for over a year + half and it has been HARD FREAKING WORK. So today’s podcast episode is really special and personal as we talk about her journey to starting a physical product line from the ground up.
Evie is an open book as she shares her heart behind this company, her growing experiences, her failures, her successes, her biggest tips for anyone else also wanting to consider getting into a physical product or fashion brand.
Whether you’re curious to hear more about Evie Swim and the story behind it, including raw BTS, looks into the creation process, or you’re wanting to learn more about creating a startup company of this scale from the ground up, we think (and hope) you’re gonna get something good out of this episode.
I have always known that business is my passion, not necessarily photography, and I knew I wanted to continue as I have been growing in business. My photography business took off and was so successful and then I wanted to help others do the same and then I wanted something else too. There are a few more things I want in business in life and to start multiple different companies. In the back of my head, I wanted to start a different company and I was keeping my eyes out for what. What am I passionate about? What do I see coming from me and serving people? The story of how swim came into the picture just kind of happened.
I moved from Ohio to California a couple of years ago and when I moved here, I started realizing as I wore bathing suits more and more and was in the ocean more and more and learning to surf. That there was a gap in the swim industry that I was consistently frustrated with. I felt like there were two camps in swim. On one extreme everything is designed to look good and often means very little coverage, doesn’t stay on. It looks sexy but you know that that string bikini is not going to hold your girls in when you jump into the ocean. If any girl knows the feeling of diving under a wave and then you have to triple and quadruple check that your bathing suit is still on. That is a thing! It’s that feeling that this bathing suit is not going to stay together, I need to pull up my bottoms and tuck in the girls into the top. If the suit looks good, it doesn’t fit well or cover well and is not functional.
The opposite of the extreme was functional bathing suits for the active women, the girls who did want to be out jumping in waves or on a surfboard, but I felt like most of those looked like potato sacks put over somebody’s head. Even though it functioned well, it did not look good and was not flattering on the female form. If it covered well on the bottoms it was so low on the side that it dug in or if it was high-waisted that it was too tight that it dug in and created a muffin top. It wasn’t designed to look good, it was designed to stay on. I wanted to find that middle ground and I couldn’t.
There was maybe one bathing suit that I owned that met that need. And every single girl was feeling the same thing. I think someone made a comment when I was wearing a bathing suit saying they always loved the bathing suits I wear and should just start my own company. I laughed it off at the moment, but then it kind of stuck inside my head, and the more conversations I had I found other women struggling with it too. Everyone wanted to look good and feel good. To be covered and flatter my form where I feel feminine and beautiful. The more conversations that I had and the more I was struggling with it in my own life, I got frustrated with it one day and was like why the heck don’t I do this. So I started Googling the swim industry and how to start a swim line and knew either this Google search was going to solidify for me I wanted to do this or I am going to close my laptop and run away screaming. Clearly, I went with the former.
I want to be transparent here, and I think I have said this before, I truly think God has given me a gift where I don’t think I’m going to fail. It’s very hard for me to think my first instinct to a situation or idea is that I couldn’t do that. My instinct is “Oh I can do that!”, it’s been that way my entire life.
That has been a huge part of it, but one of the other major factors for me is I truly know God planted this seed for this company in my mind and had it germinating for months before I took action. Months before I ever opened up my laptop and decided to do this or run away screaming. It was this confidence that in every business I have ever done, my heart is to seek the Lord, hear His leading and His voice in what He is calling me to. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God called me to Evie Swim, that He put this idea into my head, He brought the right people into this company, and that He has guided me every step of the way. In the moments when it felt hard, overwhelming, incredibly difficult, and frustrating I would circle back to, “if God has this for me if God is truly called me to this, then I know I can’t fail”. Even a “failure” to me would just be a learning experience. As long as I stay close to God I know that I am going to be okay.
First and foremost, I started Googling everything and that is my MO when it comes to figuring anything out. Google will be your best friend for life. I started Googling “How to start a swimsuit brand/company?”, “What to know when going into the fashion industry”, just Googling all these things. Reading blogs and articles.
As I was looking at manufacturers I noticed that everything was made overseas. There was nothing made within the USA anymore and I started taking notes. I wanted to design my suits from scratch so I needed a pattern maker, a fashion designer who knows how to make the patterns because if I try to teach myself how to make this stuff it would take me ten years. I knew I didn’t have the expertise needed for the technical things. The first step was Googling everything and then taking notes on what I was reading and then knowing I wanted to find a manufacturing company in the U.S.
Next, I needed to figure out my patterns and designs of my suits, so I started screen shooting any suits that popped up that I have or like the general idea of. Getting inspiration and then started asking all my friends. “Hey, do you know any fashion designers in L.A. or how to make a bathing suit pattern?”. Started asking all these questions and it was such a God thing, every step of the way. I ended up getting coffee with a friend of mine and was telling her about Evie Swim, my vision for it and I had done everything I could without a fashion designer. She said she would let me know if she thought of anybody and then a day later she had thought of someone, MJ. Who then connected me to Hope, who has now become one of my lead designers on the Evie Swim team. She was the product manager for over a year of product development and a ton of stuff.
It’s such a big question to answer because there were so many moving parts but it was Google searching what I didn’t know. Then when I sat down with MJ, the first time, I just remember she asked me “What stage in the development process are you in?” and I was like I know the vibe I want to go for, I know the functionality I want to go for, I have a couple of designs in mind, and here’s my Pinterest board and a few saved screenshots. I had no idea where to go from there and I looked her in the face and was like I have no idea what I don’t even know. I am so oblivious, naive, and ignorant to the fashion industry and pattern making and she was like “Cool I am good at tech packs”, and I asked what’s that? Which, it’s a multiple-page PDF document with all the technical details that then go into pattern making. She would say what about your MOQ’s, what’s that??? Which is your minimum order quantity.
I didn’t know anything and I had to learn through this entire process to admit that. To ask questions, to be ignorant and not be ashamed of that ignorance but to bring people on who knew what they were talking about. Which honestly in my opinion is the only thing that made this company happen.
We are capable of so much more than we realize, we just say no for ourselves because we are afraid of failing. We have to get over that fear of failure because failure is not the deadly sin that we think it is. It is just a part of taking risks, learning, and growing.
Things changed so much over time. Let me just say I have had to be more flexible and more peaceful intentionally through this process than I have ever had to be in any business. So many moving parts and pieces and so much can go wrong. It’s been crazy.
My styles were kind of close to what I envisioned in the beginning but there were certain things that I wanted on a certain one piece that will not be included in this launch but am working on for the next release of suits. As we were designing it, we realized it was an involved design and is going to be expensive to produce as well and is taking so much time because there were so many pieces and parts. Things like that where we had a couple of pieces we wanted to include in the first launch and are pushing to the second launch. In the time frame that we had to make all these patterns and design all these suits, then samples of the suits to test them and then tweak them, we realized we should postpone some.
What the fashion industry calls the print is the design or pattern on the fabric. We had such a difficult time because we have a nylon-based fabric. Getting the ability to print a pattern on top of that fabric without melting the nylon fabric was difficult. Most prints are put on fabric through digital printing or heat, which is putting heat on the fabric and nylon will melt if you do that.
I wanted to work with high-quality recycled material. These big rolls of fabric would have to cut to the specific size for the screen printing and would waste more fabric when you cut it into the size and shapes of the suit patterns. I didn’t want to do that either. We spent so much time trying to find a company to print and we thought we did and then when we got the fabric back it changed the feel of the fabric so much it felt like sandpaper rough. It was awful. The ability to print on our nylon fabric without ruining the quality and feel of the fabric and not waste material was such a challenge.
We then found an option within our manufacturer that we can do a screen printing on our polyester fabric and it feels identical to our fabric. I had this suit color in mind and it is on brand and beautiful and when it comes back it’s so pixelated. Then we had to go back and figure out that this digital print can only read certain Pantone colors. All the neon colors were perfectly saturated and all the earth tones were pixelated.
Man, it has been a journey.
Paying attention to your fulfillment is probably one of the biggest. Fulfillment is your shipping, receiving, and returns department. If someone places an order, who is going to pack and ship that suit? How are you going to track what order is given and then pulling the items from the inventory, packing them up, and shipping them out? If a return needs to be processed, who’s handling that process? Who is handling any receiving of the inventory? Are you able to store all the inventory?
That was probably one of the biggest learning curves. Right now I have an incredible third-party fulfillment center that I am working with but my goal eventually is to bring my fulfillment in-house. To have a warehouse for Evie Swim where I have a team working on that but to start I wasn’t sure that was the best move. I consulted a lot of people on my team and others and weighed cost-benefit analysis and profit and loss statements to figure out financially what makes sense and what I thought I could do. I went and toured a warehouse near my house that would have been perfect but I just kept praying about it and realized I can’t do everything. I ended up going with somebody but even with that, there are so many layers with UPC’s (barcode number you would scan on a normal item) that trigger your inventory. You have to have a UPC for every size of every style in every color. I have a hundred different UPCs. Even though I only have seven different pieces but five sizes in two to three different colors. We had to figure our care tag, our hangtag, and our sanitary liners in the bottom of the suit. There are so many different pieces to a physical product. Such as the packaging and the brand experience I wanted people to have when they opened their box. A lot of moving parts with a product-based business, especially at this scale. I obviously could have started much smaller but that is not what I wanted to do.
It was a lot to navigate through and different things that go into having a lot of inventory and management and quality control. Manufacturing and finding your manufacturer. A lot of learner curves, a lot of industry stuff that I didn’t know and to this day still don’t. I am learning as I am going.
Brenda: consultant on Evie Swim (found her by asking a friend)
Max: my marketing director
Laura: operations manager- day to day operations, customer service, communicating with manufacturers, and fulfillment center
MJ: the designer who has been helping with the Tech Packs and patterns
Hope: the lead designer who create the patterns for the swimsuits, the fittings, and the adjustments
The Manufacturer: we send them our fabric and they cut and sew and then ship out to our fulfillment center
Fulfillment Center: catalogs the inventory and then when an order comes through they pack and ship the order to our customers
I am going to be hiring a social media manager and a brand photographer as well, but those are the core people starting right now.
I have self-funded it from the profits of Evelyn Grace, my photography business, and a vast majority from The Heart. Everything I have earned from selling courses and workshops I have pretty much saved and am now reinvesting back into this new business and paying attention to my dollars. I almost bought a house, I put in an offer and didn’t get it, but see that as the hand of God kind of keeping me out of it. Full transparency that’s where my money has come from.
I am a person who likes to keep stuff quiet. If you know me at all I like to set big goals and stay quiet about them. Work hard and then just be like BAM here’s what we are doing.
God has given me a vision for Evie Swim that came in the last couple of months. I knew that God had big plans for Evie Swim, that He had called me to this for a reason and I knew there was something for this company. He opened it so clearly a couple of months ago.
This started when I wanted to find ways to repurpose cast-off suits that were damaged or a fluke or leftover fabric. I initially started looking for an organization where I could send them the fabric and they could repurpose it, or send the suits or fabric to somebody in need. Or repurpose that fabric to some other product. I had my team researching this for a few months and nothing was popping up that had a deep meaning that we connected to. I was still sitting on that and brainstorming how can I make more of an impact with this company, make a difference in the world with this company.
I was on a marketing call with Max and in the middle of this conversation God dropped a vision inside my head and I just started crying. The vision that He gave was I saw this big warehouse (ascetic and so pretty) and had women of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Women were laughing and they were sewing suits or working the machines to cut the suits and there were women around them giving them hugs and helping them. In that picture, I knew I wanted to turn Evie Swim into a company that is all in-house and employs women coming out of human trafficking, who are giving a job with life-skills, who loves them, given discipleship, and nurtured and protected. They are empowered, blessed, and loved on after coming out of such a horrific lifestyle. They get to work for a company that cares about them and is making a difference in the world.
Everything I create in this company I want to be forwarding God’s kingdom and changing lives, even with swimsuits. I want lives to be impacted and changed whether it’s the women wearing the swimsuits where they feel finally confident and excited to wear something that they can show their kids the world in. Or if it’s the women working in the warehouse, for the first time in their lives they feel loved for who they are and not for their body. They feel safe in their environment for the first time in their life. I want to bring God into the center and change the world around me in any way that I can.
I am about quality from the experience that you have with the company down to the product.
It’s a lot more work than I realized and it’s a lot harder than I realized, but it’s also in ways a lot more fun than I realized. My biggest encouragement is if you are wanting to go big, big scale, really bring people on who know what they are talking about, who can do the work. If you are wanting to go smaller, figure it out on your own with people who can give you input and advice.
Don’t be afraid to start small. I don’t want you to hear my story and just because I had the financial resources and the ability to go big starting. Don’t feel that your small beginning is lesser than. You have to start somewhere.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to Google stuff. Bring people on that know stuff, ask for help and be humble. I had to swallow my pride and say I am ignorant, please explain. That will help you grow, admit that you don’t know something, and ask for help.
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WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
Whether you’re coming to an in-person workshop, joining our online course, or soaking up all the strategies via this blog or our podcast, we’re STOKED you’re here + can’t wait to see you out there kicking butt.
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