Let your swimwear do the talking this spring
With the keenly anticipated arrival of sunny spring days, so comes the decision of what to wear on the beach during the glorious six months of warm weather ahead of us.
It was in this very season of renewal that Caroline Moipolai started her swimwear business, Blossom Dares, a year ago.
I spotted the vibrant swimwear on social media, intrigued by the bright hues of acid yellow, cobalt and bright pink that looked gorgeous and form-fitting on the black women who were wearing it.
"In the beginning, I was very, very scared to try colours. I had black swimwear and they were not selling much. People asked me, 'do you have bright colours? I mean it's spring we need bright colours.'
And then I started with my most selling colour right now, which is yellow. I started making a few with that colour and it sold like crazy. People loved the colour," she says.
The 30-year-old started her business because she struggled getting swimwear that she liked. She wanted something different, and says most swimwear is sourced from the same place, China. Hers is locally manufactured using fabric sourced in SA. Another defining factor was that she was tired of "living from hand to mouth". I have a 9-5 job where I work in the office, but it's so hard lately to just depend on one salary," Moipolai, an administrator, says.
She has worked as a club promoter in the past, to make extra cash.
"When I started my swimwear last year, I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know which material to use. In my head I would have a design and when we finally make it, that design would not work and that would be money wasted.
It took me a lot to understand the material that I have to use. material that is chlorine resistant, it took me a long time to understand those things and in the meantime, I was losing money."
Moipolai saved for seven months to put money together to start her business. She says she'd initially thought about buying everything from China, but found it would be too expensive.
"I was trying to look for a supplier, but I didn't have money... Labour is cheap there, but I have to say that I'm very glad that I ended up having to manufacture them myself. I now employ two people . I'm grateful that I did local manufacturing," she explains.
The most surprising part of her journey so far is the month of demand for swimwear; she expressed her surprise that July had been her busiest month. She'd assumed that December would be the busiest time.
"The first few months I would sell maybe two [products] a week and I would be so stressed. I'm so glad that I didn't give up, because things are really starting to look up."
Moipolai sells her swimwear for R350 and R400 for plus-sizes. She can custom make your swimwear. She sells cover ups as well, for R200-R250.
"This business made me realise I can do anything that I put my mind to . in five years time maybe I'll have my own office space and I'll employ more people."
She named the business Blossom Dares because she wanted something that said spring/ summer without using those words.
"I was looking around in September and everything was blossoming, the flowers were blossoming so that's where the Blossom comes from and the Dares that's for someone bold enough to wear bright colours. It is also for me, because I was daring enough to start a business of this nature.
The Boksburg-based Moipolai says her swimwear designs are inspired by whatever is trending and she adds some fun twist to it. She's recently added African print to her swimwear line.
Her advice: "When you start, don't have that mentality that you're gonna see your profit tomorrow. As you're still trying to learn the business, you're still trying to understand yourself and your part in the business. Give it a few months . keep on pushing."