#WomenWorldwide : Launching Your Brand While At Uni with Jade of The Mermaid HQ

It can’t just be #TeamCoco who find swimsuit shopping nothing short of a nightmare?

Today we speak with Jade, founder of The Mermaid HQ who designs swimwear for real women, crafted from eco-friendly and recycled fibres. Could The Mermaid HQ be the answer to all our beach day prayers? We certainly think so…

 

HOC: Hey Jade! Great to meet you. Let’s start with the trickier one, what’s your elevator pitch for The Mermaid HQ?

Jade: First of all, WOAH. On the spot?! Here I go.

My name is Jade and I am the founder and creator of The Mermaid HQ.

Revenue in the Sports and swimwear industry alone (for Australia) amounts to US$1,219 million in 2019. The market is expected to grow annually by 1.0% (CAGR 2019-2023)

Did you know that there is actually a gap in the Australian market for active swimwear? I’m not talking about swimwear created for queens of Bondi. Neither am I talking about swimwear for the already fabulous to look even more stunning in. I am talking about active swimwear. Swimwear for the rest of us, people who want to make that walk from the changing room to the pool or beach in pieces that make us feel confident.

The swimwear ad campaigns over the decades have provided the subliminal message that on-trend swimwear is available for one body type and one body type only.

I want to start a revolution to validate and elevate real women, of all ages, shapes, colours, and sizes, in trendy eco-friendly and sustainable swimwear. At The Mermaid HQ, we create swimwear made of eco-friendly and recycled fibres sourced from discarded fishing nets, and recycled ocean plastic. In doing so, we deal with the marine pollution problem and use less virgin materials designing swimwear for real women, of all ages, shapes, colours, and sizes, who are also conscious of their environmental impact.

As an already established brand, my label is poised to move into bags, clothing, towels, jewellery and so much more. I want to offer you an opportunity to invest in my revenue-positive brand, that is well-positioned to secure a strong foothold in a $20 billion dollar global swimwear market. I am asking for $100,000 dollars for 10% equity.

Help me, start a revolution.

HOC: Sign us up, what a great pitch! Can you tell us about your personal background and your journey to running your business? 

Jade: Of course, I’m a 23 years old undergrad from Fiji, currently working on finishing up my double bachelors degree in Art and Commerce, majoring in Accounting and Interior Architecture at the University of Canberra. To be honest, I had thought a lot about starting my own business years ago, but I never really had the capital to invest into any venture, neither was I able to narrow down what service I could supply that was already in demand. I was also very afraid of failing.

It wasn’t until a friend of mine suggested that we start an online store, that I had begun to share the ideas and visions I had kept to myself till then. So, in September 2018, we started a clothing label, and our main focus was providing festival go-ers with their get-up for their music fest du-jour.

It didn’t really work out, I felt that we both had creative differences and so we decided to part ways, and dissolve the label. But, I still wanted to make my visions a reality. So I dove into another business venture that I had been mulling over for about 3 years. Swimwear. Specifically bikini sets that weren’t sold separately, and didn’t cost an arm and a leg to own.

As a university student, working as a part-time waitress, spending $70 on a bikini top seemed absurd to me. If I wanted a matching bikini bottom, that would be another $70 or $80.

So I decided to start a swimwear label, targeted towards women around my age, who don’t have the luxury of spending a lot of money just to look good for a day at the beach. To keep it simple, uni-students who wanna look good without breaking the bank. I did my research, sourced my manufacturer, and set-up my website on my own. I designed my logo on my phone using the Canva App, during one of my lunch breaks at work!

After 3 months of working out the kinks, gathering different designs, I officially launched my swimwear label, The Mermaid HQ. The swimwear label for mermaids in training. Women who love to live freely and feel confident in their own skin.

 

HOC: We love this bootstrapping story! We know you grew up in Fiji, Indonesia and Timor-Leste ; has this had an impact on your designs?

Jade: Absolutely. Having spent the majority of my formative years in those countries, was the main reason I wanted to start my own swimwear label.

When you think of Fiji, you think of our white sandy beaches and sipping cocktails by the shore. My fondest memory of Indonesia was the dawn that I witnessed the birth of, what felt like, dozens of tiny little turtles. Hiking along Timor- Leste’s Areia Branca, up to the Statue of Christ replica, is still my favourite memory of living there.

Each country had a tropical climate, and each had their own unique island vibe. When I look at prints for my swimwear, I gravitate more towards the blues that remind me of Areia Branca, the leaf prints that make me think about the vendors that would sit underneath coconut trees with their carts, cutting open coconuts for their water, for locals and tourists. In my mind’s eye, I keep in mind the people in the places I grew up in, and I think about the colours I associate with those places, and whether or not they would wear a particular design.

 

HOC: You self funded your business launch through part-time work, how was that for you?

 Jade: Honestly, it wasn’t easy. Apart from inventory, I had to think about everything to do with my business myself; things like shipping locally, and internationally; taking into account the rates, custom taxes. Packaging was another issue I had to tackle. What packaging am I going to use? Wrapping paper? Where will I put my logo?

Then came all the work to do with having a presence like making sure my label’s instagram and facebook accounts were active and posting often. I wanted to ensure that potential customers who would come across the label’s social media pages would have recent content to look over.

So many little things, that all came together to make a bigger picture! It was tough, especially since I decided to launch my label a month before University exams. It was very hard, juggling working in the mornings, classes and tutorials in the afternoons, and then working on my label at night.

Keeping my energy up was the easy part, I guess. I work in a cafe, so coffee was a constant factor. I also work with a fantastic crew. They made coming to work a highlight. The constant banter kept me sane. At Uni, I took classes with my friends so it was easy to dive back into that because I knew I wasn’t alone, I was always able to ask them for help.

Sleep was the hardest thing to come by. I’d be so wired from my long days, that it was easier for me to funnel my restless energy into doing something I love. Which in this case was building a brand. I had learned so much from failing at my first attempt at running a label, and I used that information to help me build The Mermaid HQ.

 

HOC: What makes The Mermaid HQ different from other swimwear brands?

Jade: In a nutshell, it’s a swimwear label, founded and run by a female international university student, from the Pacific Island of Fiji.

I decided to name my label, The Mermaid HQ, because the definition of a mermaid, symbolically speaking, revolves around the divine feminine energies, and the true power of the female spirit. When I was trying to figure out the name of my label, for some odd reason I was drawn to the word “mermaids”. In my research, I read that “to have a connection to a mermaid, is to have goddess energies, is to have intuitive abilities, is to be a healer of the heart and of the ocean.”

I wanted the women who wore my swimwear to feel like they were mermaids, to be attuned to divine feminine energies. When they wear my label, I want them to feel like women who love to live freely and feel confident in their own skin. “Healer of the heart and of the ocean” spoke to me because of my ambition to expand into making sustainable eco-friendly swimwear made from fabric that was a by-product of recycled ocean plastic. So I wanted to create a Headquarters (HQ), where these women could connect with their divine feminine energy, become mermaids in training. And there, I had my brand. The Mermaid HQ, for mermaids in training.

 

HOC: What gets you out of bed in the morning? 

Jade: My list of things to-do! Ever since I got my first sales, 2 days after the label launched, it’s been incredible. I’m a full time undergrad, with a cafe gig. I hate to say it but those are 2 main reasons I kick myself out of bed. However, ever since my label has gained traction, my to-do list has been filled with getting in touch with models, and photographers, organising photoshoots, sourcing more materials for my swimwear, as well as creating ad and marketing campaigns.

You have no idea how addictive it is to dive into all this work. I find it so exciting, and I lose myself in my work.

 

HOC: If you weren’t running The Mermaid HQ, what would you be doing?

Jade: I’d be finishing my degrees, and working at the cafe. So not that much of a difference. I’d be focusing more on sending out internship applications. If I didn’t have my swimwear label, I think I’d still be working on my festival line. Attending start-up expo’s in my free time. Figuring out how to get my festival line out there.

Besides work, school, and side-hustling, I like to take advantage of travelling around Australia. Doing mini-road trips with my friends whenever we have days off. I like attending concerts, going out of town to see the Vivid Light Show in Sydney, or taking trips down to Melbourne to see what exhibitions the Melbourne Museum has to offer. Those are just some of the things I’ve done. Typical 20-something activities!

 

HOC: What resources did you find useful on your journey to launching your own business, you mentioned being inspired by some other female founders?

Jade: Oh definitely. I find Interviews with entrepreneurs, specifically Jane Lu, the founder of Showpo very inspirational. Showpo had made around $30 Million in 2018, 7 years after Jane Lu founded the company. She started out almost like me.

It was comforting to know, that it doesn’t matter how I start, or how small it is, what really matters is whether I have to stamina to keep going and keep pushing forward even when faced with obstacles. Her interviews on Youtube were particularly interesting, and I found her Showpo Video addressing the fact that she and her employees had “stuffed up” regarding issues with the business. I found this admirable, and it galvanised me. Making mistakes is okay, as long as you work on providing a solution. I took that and I ran with it.

Iyia Liu was an entrepreneur that I discovered on Instagram. She has many successful ventures under her belt and she is a business woman I aspire to be like some day. Her venture, Girls In Business, was a resource I found helpful. A community of entrepreneurial females who offer support to other females wishing to grow their empires. The great thing about the digital age, is that there is so much content available online. All those hours spent doing research for homework in the last decade really came in handy!

 

HOC: Swimwear season can often be a source of upset for many of our readers who don’t live the beach life year round. What advice would you have for them choosing the right swimwear and feeling badass?

Jade: I don’t think House of Coco readers should base their swimwear on whether or not they live the “beach life” year round. But I do understand that with the seasonal change, many would not have the chance to wear them as often as they probably see insta-baddies do.

I have personally paired bikini tops with high-waisted jeans, shorts, skirts, for a night out with my friends, to attend a music festival, and attend a concert!

My advice to your readers would be, Step 1. choose a bikini that compliments you, your figure, and your skin tone. Step 2, ask yourself, what in my closet right now, would I be able to wear this with. Do not limit yourself to only wearing your swimwear to the beach.

Have a mix of swimwear that you can adapt into your everyday or going out looks. An upside to this, is that you’ll know which pieces of swimwear still fit you once it’s summer again.

 

HOC: That may be the best piece of swimwear advice I have ever heard, thanks Jade! Finally, what’s your ambition for the rest of 2019?

Jade: I have recently begun using biodegradable mailing packages. My goal is to steer my label, make it greener, more sustainable. My ambition is to slowly integrate SEAQUAL fabric as the main material for my swimwear.

SEAQUAL is a certified, earth-friendly polyester yarn, made from recycled materials, including post consumer plastic bottles and more importantly plastic captured from the sea. They also ecological dyes and finishes based on saving water and energy. I would use this fabric to create my Plus-size swimwear collection.

Seeing as I am from Fiji, another ambition of mine is to have more people of colour not only model my swimwear, but be featured in all social media platforms regarding my label. I want to use my platform to contribute to my community. My message is to create swimwear for women who love to live freely and feel confident in their own skin. This extends to women in everyday life. Real women, everywhere. Women who not only look like my friends, but women who also look like my mom, my aunties, and my grandmother. I want to design swimwear that truly embraces women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colours.

View Jade’s collection at TheMermaidHQ.com

Follow along for all your swimwear inspo @TheMermaidHQ

Photo Credits:

Photo of Jade, Mark Goina Jnr.

Maddi Iliff-Courtney, in The Mermaid HQ swimsuit Maslin One Piece, Mike Frakes.

 

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Anna Willatt

A chronic over researcher, Anna is the one who will sniff out all the unusual things to do at a destination and create a spreadsheet of options so there's no FOMO. Less likely to be spotted at an infinity pool, Anna will be finding dive bars, flea markets, 3rd wave coffee shops and chatting with locals to find out what they get up to...and sharing that intel here as part of #TeamCoco.

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