What It's About
Frustrated by the lack of supportive and stylish plus-sized swimwear, two friends launch their own brand.
Words of Wisdom
Liz and Lu have some great advice developing a product, “Hire a research group, or a friend to test your product without you in the room. Don't stop iterating based on YOUR idea, you have to solve for your target customer's problem.”
Most clothing brands don’t actually make swimwear. They just order products from the seasonal catalogs of a few giant manufacturers, which leads to low-quality products that are designed for a one-size-fits-all model, rather than being designed for specific body types.
Notes from Chris
Episode 1020Best friends Liz and Lu both hated shopping for swimsuits. It wasn’t unheard of for them to walk into a dressing room with twenty suit options, only to leave half an hour later empty-handed. But it wasn’t because they were picky. They just couldn’t find anything that fit well. Liz and Lu—both in Minneapolis, Minnesota—didn’t understand why it was so hard to look and feel great in traditional swimsuits. They weren’t the only women with this challenge, so why weren’t swimwear brands making it easier for people with their body shape to shop? As a UX Designer by day, Lu was used to finding problems that customers face when using a product and thinking up creative solutions to solve them. She kept coming back to this idea that shopping for swimsuits was a user experience problem—a disconnect between brands and shoppers—and if she applied her problem-solving skills, maybe she could fix it. That’s when she started researching swimwear in her free time. She created a huge spreadsheet of over 200 swimwear brands and realized that fewer than 20% even sold a single top designed for D cups or up—a clear sign there was a market gap. A few nights of Googling turned into two weeks, then a month, and by the end of three months, she had all the research she needed to truly understand the problem. What she discovered was that there were two sides to the issue. The first was on the side of the swimwear brand. For most clothing retailers, swimwear makes up less than 5% of their sales, so they don’t actually focus on it—they outsource it. A few giant manufacturers dominate the mass market swimwear world because most clothing brands order from the same few manufacturer catalogs and only make minor customizations. These companies tend to design for “medium” bodies—whatever that means—which leaves everyone else without great options. Between Lu’s UX experience and Liz’s marketing experience at a local clothing design studio, they knew they were right for the challenge. They were going to launch their own swimwear brand: Wild Isles. Liz, Lu, and their freelancer worked on prototypes for the next few months, doing try-on testing with friends they knew would give honest feedback. They ended up with a top piece they were really proud of: they dropped the underwire and foam cups, using a tie in the back to create adjustability. They also found an exceptional fabric from Italy that behaves more like a yoga pant than traditional swim polyester, which makes their suit far more comfortable. (Look out, LuluLemon.) Liz and Lu missed the 2019 Spring Break season, but when they finally launched their signature suit in May, they couldn’t keep abreast with inventory and sold out three different times, even after launching two more styles. Their first summer season generated over $50,000 in revenue. They didn’t have a complicated strategy, paid ads, viral social media posts, or lots of press. The magic was in finding an innovative way to solve a problem that nobody else was trying (or willing) to solve.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Wild Isles: Check out Liz and Lu's swimwear lineup at the Wild Isles online store.
- Underwear Side Hustle Turns Into $500,000/Month Business: Two women launch an underwear brand in their spare time. It grows from an early Kickstarter campaign to a multi-million dollar company with more than a dozen employees.
- Bikini Model Creates Multi-Million Swimsuit Line: A swimsuit model uses industry connections and social media savvy to launch a high-end shopping site taking on major swimwear companies from the beaches of Miami.
- New Yorker Covers Up With Comfy Underwear Line: For years, she wanted her own side hustle—and she finally uncovered it in a drawer of intimate apparel.
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