Have you already checked out Robyn Deedat’s custom swimwear? Check out how this SA female entrepreneur and full-time student embarks on the journey of starting her own business.
You know that moment when you gasp at the sight of the perfect Brazilian bikini calling your name on Instagram, and then you realize “The designer is my buddy”?
Yeah, that moment.
To cut to the chase – I have this friend, Robyn Deedat, who pretty much went from one casual bikini design to igniting her very own swimwear fashion empire. In a matter of a few months, the still full-time student launched what currently seems to take the shape of a killer career path.
Female entrepreneurship is on a fierce rise, and I’m excited for Robyn for taking the first steps towards her entrepreneurial success. I decided to chat to her about her recent success. As a cheerleader of all things lady power, I thinks it’s great to learn a little bit more about how her idea took shape so fast and what her next steps will be for this impressive creating-a-business-while-completing-a-degree journey she has chosen.
Two-Piece for the Win – A Chat with Robyn Deedat
What and where did you study?
I started off with a BA at UCT in English, Film and Psychology – liked it but didn’t love it and felt no sense of direction. After completing first year, I dropped out and went to study Fashion at Cape Town College of Fashion Design.
After completing that and working a bit in the industry, I’ve now returned to UCT to complete the BA.
What work have you been doing since graduating in Fashion?
I went straight into a design assistant job at a leading corporate retailer in South Africa. I moved from Design Assistant to Assistant Designer to Designer (the titles sound the same, but each one requires a different set of tasks).
I learnt a hell of a lot about the industry, particularly that I didn’t like it too much – largely because it was routinized and required very little creativity. It’s an excellent ‘world’ to be part of if you love trends over design, and if you enjoy a set schedule.
I’m not ungrateful for the opportunity and work experience, but I am glad it’s over!
Why and when did you start making bikinis?
Last year December, my girlfriends were complaining about the challenge to find nice clothing with a good design, fit and affordable cost. As a means for me to make a small income while studying, I offered to make them what they wanted at an affordable rate.
The first order I got was a bikini set for one of my friends. After posting a pic of it on Instagram (@robyn_d), things took off quite fast. I got quite a few orders in for Christmas and things haven’t really stopped since.
When did this become more than just a student job?
I thought business would die down after the summer holidays, but orders keep coming in. I soon knew this could be more than just a hobby for making pocket money for textbooks.
What is the name of your custom bikini brand?
LoMinimo, it’s Spanish for ‘bare minimum.’ I love it because it links back to the sensual teeny-tiny, minimal detail bikinis I love to create – well, I learned that this is what I love after creating so many different styles.
What is it about your bikinis? What makes them unique?
My bikinis are 2 in 1 (unless structured padding is requested for the top).
Each bikini is double-lined and therefore reversible, and I encourage clients to be adventurous and select completely different prints or colours.
Particularly with custom wear, people seem to think that it’s best to stick to something neutral (as a custom piece is often a timeless), but the reverse side allows for choosing something a little different.
Minimizing the amount of fabric/detail while maximizing the function has always been my design signature.
Who are the women who buy you swimwear?
My initial target market was simply my friends. Currently, I’d say I mainly sell to young adults, women in their mid twenties and thirties.
What experience do you wish to give your customers, and what is your personal highlight?
I want to make my clients’ swimwear dreams come to life. There is no room for boredom. Each bikini is completely different, so I’m always being challenged in new ways. Also, I get to make people’s visions come to life while putting my own spin on it.
How did you spread the word about your work?
I’ve simply just been using my Instagram account for now – often a single post yields more custom orders. Plus, a lot of it has been word of mouth and client referals. For now I’m still learning how to manage everything as is. Once I feel ready, I’ll take on new platforms too. In the near future, I’d like to explore having a Facebook business page and creating an online store.
How many bikinis are we talking so far?
I’ve made just over 40 different styles in the space of 3 months. Weekly, I make about 3-5 individual sets (- if I could make them faster, I would!).
What about the price range? Any profits after only 3 months?
I charge between R700-R1000 per set/full piece. Because I create the bikinis from home as the orders roll in, my expenses are quite low and I’ve been able to make profits already 🙂
Do you have anyone helping you in any way?
I’m quite lucky to be surrounded by very supportive people who are each experts in what they do, from finances to marketing, so I’m never short of advice in most areas. Other than that, I’m a one-woman show.
How did you feel when you realised this could become bigger than you first thought?
I knew I would create some sort of brand one day, but I thought it would be deliberate, fully conceptualised and organised – I’ve virtually done the opposite. And quite honestly, I’ve enjoyed feeling my way through the dark; its fun!
Have you had any setbacks or challenges since starting?
I think because I’ve gone one baby step at a time, and the business came before the vision, there hasn’t been anything super challenging yet. I’ve faced minor issues like the implications of not creating a return/remake/alter policy after purchasing.
What are your next steps?
I am in the process of setting up a website and going for this full time (it has honestly been full-time, ever since the first bikini!). I’d like to create a range for next summer as well as continue the custom option.
In your opinion, what have been the most important factors for your success?
- Saying yes – responding to a need/gap (people have asked me countless times to make them some form of clothing, but this time around was the first time I said yes).
- Timing – I started at the beginning of the summer holidays. Bikinis are awesome Christmas presents.
Can you pin-point any lessons you’ve learnt so far from this venture?
Yes, I’ve learnt many things. For example, contrary to what I used to believe, my left side of my brain works! I’m more business-savvy than I previously thought.
Being in the business hands-on has taught me that design life is messy with very rare moments of glamour, and that being my own boss doesn’t mean having more freedom. Rather, it means very little freetime, as I’m the one making all the decisions and carrying out all the tasks from beginning to end. It’s a constant immersion in what I do – I literally dream about swimwear.
I’ve also really learned to make the most of my introverted side, and am happiest when I’m working alone.
How can people reach you and place orders?
Whether you think you have the business mind or the know-how on how to start your own business or not, take a risk and follow your instinct. You may end up on the right side of success with a newfound confidence and a booming business. It’s never too early or too late to take a good idea. Like Robyn, you may be a full-time student busy with a second degree, and bam – next thing you know you’re launching your own successful business.