Oftentimes, fashion and fashion stereotypes are pitted against each other as if one is out to get the other—as if there's no middle ground. But Coral Swimwear proves that there is a middle ground and that fashion can also be a tool to break stereotypes that are commonly involved in the industry. Read on as partners Patricia Ocampo and Margaux Alampay share with us their business mission and how they started Coral Swimwear.
How it started. "Several years ago, we became involved in a formation program for teens called Pure Fashion. The program aspires to help young women realize their self-worth by teaching them about authentic femininity through values like confidence, inner beauty, purity, and even modesty! Inspired by Pure Fashion, we wanted to start something that wasn't just a business, but something that would make a positive impact on the lives of women, too. So we started Coral Swimwear, dreaming that it wouldn't just be a swimwear brand, but also a movement to help women become more confident and happy without feeling pressured by trends."
Why Coral Swimwear? "We decided to sell swimsuits because at the time there were few options for one-pieces that were trendy, but also tasteful. We no longer saw ourselves wearing suits that show a lot of skin. Our main goal is always to help girls feel confident and stylish at the beach—no matter what shape or size they are. So we try to design swimsuits that flatter various body types. In fact, our website includes a guide for identifying your body type and recommends which swimsuit style would look best on you."
Being an entrepreneur. "Being an entrepreneur is definitely hard, but it is so worth it! It really pushes you to try new things, be creative, and broaden your skillset (not to mention, mindset!). We started the business with a small investment, so we had to be extremely resourceful. We've also had to make a lot of decisions through trial and error, and had to learn to do/source everything ourselves. All of these things are part of the struggle, but it's also part of the fun. When things get tough, we go back to our mission and message, we are motivated by the fact that our brand isn't just about making money or about promoting ourselves. And that makes it all worthwhile."
Drawing inspiration. "Our inspiration comes from our customers! Our main goal is to help girls of all shapes and sizes feel confident and stylish in their swimwear. We are inspired by trends, but we redesign these trends for "real" girls, considering their needs, and helping them to feel comfortable and secure. We want our customers to feel confident and not self-conscious about whether or not they have the perfect "beach body" to show off. We believe there is also a quiet confidence that lies in accepting one's imperfections and knowing what you are willing to show and hide."
Power duo. "We are very grateful for each other! We'd like to think we complement each other very well, in terms of our skillsets, personalities, strengths and weaknesses. We are so happy that our values are aligned because we are learning that is so important when it comes to making decisions for a business. It also helps that we are going through the same things as young moms, so we are really able to support each other. Our friendship has deepened all thanks to Coral Swimwear."
Little challenges. "There were a lot of challenges that's for sure! The biggest roadblock when we were starting was finding the right suppliers for production and materials. We went through a couple of "horror" suppliers/swimsuit makers, but now we are blessed to have found a production arm that we can trust. For materials, it was a lot of trial and error before we figured out what worked and what didn't. Until now, there is still a lot we are learning. But whenever these obstacles come along, we try to see them as learning experiences, and we try to use them to constantly improve our quality and design processes. Hopefully, our collections will get better every time. On the side of sales and marketing, one of our challenges was really finding our voice and identity as a brand. We were initially hesitant to be bold about our real message because we were afraid we would get haters or alienate potential customers. But amazingly enough, our message resonates with a lot of women, who like us, find empowerment in modesty, and embracing and loving one’s body type."
Staying original. "When we design a swimsuit, we don’t just consider trends or sales. We think about the woman who will wear it--how it will make her feel, what it will make her think, and how others will see her. We only sell one-piece swimsuits because we believe that this design is empowering. It shifts the focus off of body parts that normally attract a lot of attention to what we believe are the more essential aspects of being a woman--her personality, her talents, how she treats others. So when you look at a woman wearing one of our suits, you don’t just think---oh, she’s got great boobs, or a nice butt. We’d like to think you are more likely to get to know her and say, "Hey, she's really smart, and funny, and creative and nice."
What's next? "Our newest collection just came out last March 15, so we're really excited about that! We are also currently expanding our reach to different stores around the country. We started out selling solely online and through occasional bazaars, but now we are also available at Rags 2 Riches in U.P Town Center and Locallective in Eastwood Mall. We are also working on distributing to Nothing But H2O and Rustans very soon! Aside from this, we are also working towards making Coral a social enterprise. We would like to be able to provide employment to women-at-risk, and also be able to give them formation on the same values we try to give our customers."
Entrepreneurial philosophy. "We're fairly new to this, but if there's one thing that has kept us going during the last two years is the mission of the brand.
We think that if you're able to combine passion, purpose, and profit—the work becomes meaningful and worthwhile."
To young budding entrepreneurs.
Margaux: Choose a business partner who has the same values and goals as you. Start small but dream big!
Pat: Thanks to the internet and social media, it has never been easier to start a business. So if you've got a brilliant idea that can combine passion, purpose, and profit, just go for it, and learn along the way. And when it gets difficult, go back to your purpose because, as the saying goes,
"She who has a why can overcome any how."
Know any young entrepreneurs? Leave a comment below and you just might see them on the site next week!