Jimaye Swimwear started because of my own struggles with swimwear. To start, I wanted swim briefs, which are not very common in the USA. Of the couple of brands in the USA that do swim briefs, they all had tacky designs, horrible fits, low quality fabrics, or sold for $150 per brief. I didn’t understand why a little piece of fabric sewn together cost so much.
So I went on a mission to make it more affordable while maintaining quality, sophisticated designs, great fits, and then taking it one step further: Instead of giving customers one design, our reversible swim briefs give customers two designs. That means you carry less, buy less, pack less, but you have MORE. Our prices are half of our luxury brand competitors and they get two designs. That’s basically one design for a quarter of the cost of our competitors.
Was it a lightbulb moment or gradual process?
I always knew I wanted to start a business but didn’t know what. So I would “wait until an idea hit me.” One day I decided that I just wanted to take action. I went around my apartment and looked for things I had a lot of. I had over 30 swim briefs and loved wearing them. It made me feel sexy and free and was a great motivator to get and stay in shape. Swimwear was just something I was really passionate about. Growing up in sunny California, being out by the water and in swimwear was a huge part of my life. To me, swimwear was synonymous with “fun” and I wanted JIMAYE to be fun.
I then looked at it and said “how can I make this better?” That’s how the reversible feature came about. Recognizing that not everyone is ready for swim briefs, I decided to add a shorts collection. Like my briefs, I wanted my customers to be able to do more with one piece. I wanted it to be something people could wear in and out of the water so I made them stretch and styled in a way where they look sophisticated for a day on the town as well as a day on the beach.
How did you get your first three customers?
The first couple were friends and family, of course. But beyond that, I primarily relied on digital ads - Facebook, Instagram, etc. I also found that people love swimwear for specific holidays (IE: American flags for July 4th) so I created a couple designs for those days.
How did you validate the idea?
It’s pretty easy with ecommerce:
- Are people (besides friends and family) buying your products?
- What’s the return rate of those purchases?
- Are people willing to tag and share your product on social media (Net promoter scores)
I make an effort to reach out to all my customers to make sure they are happy and to get any feedback. I also ask them to rate how likely they are to share our company with their friends which gives me an idea of our NPS.
I actually had NO experience in swimwear and I think that was the best part. I went in really questioning every part of the production and manufacturing. Even though I didn’t have experience, I was confident in my ability to learn and also hire others who have expertise that I didn’t. Now I can confidently say I am an expert in the field but it’s important to know that as an entrepreneur starting a company, you don’t have to know everything right away. You should definitely learn it but don’t let lack of knowledge stop you from doing something you want to do.
Have you raised any money?
My company is completely bootstrapped. I made a conscious decision to do this because I think there is something about putting your own money on the line that forces you to be creative with how you build your company. You have to be scrappy and resourceful. I think people get wasteful when they have funding because they have all this money. I will potentially raise money in the future because creating my own inventory has huge costs associated with it but I want to see how far I could get on my own before I do.
Who is your target demographic?
I primarily target gay men who travel and/or go to big gay parties. This audience tends to be more outgoing and confident, and, let’s face it, it takes a lot of confidence to wear swim briefs. The reversible feature of my swim briefs and the multifunctional shorts are really hot with travelers as it’s one less thing for them to carry without sacrificing options.
What is the funniest/most strange customer request you’ve had?
We actually get a lot of customers sending photos of themselves to me and asking which fit is better for them (we have a slim fit and a muscle fit) so we actually incorporated it into our fit guide. Anyone who is confused will send us a picture and we can make the recommendation
How did you fund the idea initially?
I work full time while working on this in the evening and weekends. I would work my day job from 6am-2pm (east coast time - I live in LA) then switch and work on my company until 9/10pm at night. I was basically working two full time jobs. It’s a lot of work and you definitely have to make sacrifices (less dinners, drinks with friends, etc.) but nothing feels better than creating your own product.
Hire slow. It’s tempting to jump on the first person that seems qualified but it’s better to slow down and make sure they have the skills you need because firing is a difficult process.
What sells best?
There are a lot of gay events like White Party Palm Springs and our customers love to buy items for those type of events. Also, anything related to the holidays like July 4th.
Did you run any companies prior?
I did not but I worked in marketing, sales, and operations at various sized companies include non-profits, start-ups, small privately owned companies, and big corporate companies. It was great to have such a wide breadth of experience because I could pick the things I like about each company and implement it at my own. Everything from processes to marketing channels to branding.
What motivated you to start your own business?
I realized that my life was about doing work for other people but I wasn’t creating anymore. I wasn’t doing anything that I felt was reflective of ME. I think back and all the times I was the happiest and most proud was when I made or created something. But when you are an employee at another company, you aren’t creating very much. This was my first creation in a looooongggg time.
What were your family and friends first thoughts on your company?
Most of them were supportive but some of them were fearful for me. Friends and family of course all have the best intentions but sometimes their warnings/concerns can be a bit scary. People would say “don’t take out this loan” or “why leave your cushy job?” They had the best intentions because they didn’t want to see me struggle but you have to know when to listen to them and when to follow your gut and your dreams.
What motivates you when things go wrong?
My biggest learning about entrepreneurship is that you WILL fail. And you WILL fail often. Marketing campaigns will not work, you will design something people don’t like, you will order too much fabric by accident, etc (these all happened to me). But you just have to realize that failing is the only way to really learn. When you fail, learn then pivot quickly. Do not spend time dwelling it the failure as that is not a good use of your time.
My end goal for my company is to create a family of brands similar to Virgin (Virgin America, Virgin Galactive, Virgin Records) and I’d love for each of those companies to be run by a person in the underrepresented community. Coming from an immigrant family, I have so many learnings from this experience and I wish others could have.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
Be kind to yourself. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. When I started out, I would often say to myself “I just want to see how far I can get.” That took a lot of pressure off of me because I wasn’t trying to be the next unicorn. I was just seeing how far I could push myself and do MY best.
What has driven the most sales?
Definitely email because they are people who have already expressed interest in the brand. In terms of leads, Instagram for me because that’s the platform my audience primarily uses. I started with Facebook ads before and learned that my audience no longer “hangs out” on that platform.
What is stopping you being 3x the size you are now?
Marketing - I’d like to sponsor events and put up more billboards and what not but that’s a bit out of my budget at the moment.
How do you protect yourself from competition?
Competition is healthy - it keeps you on your toes. The only way to protect against competition is making sure you continue to innovate and change. I also like to make sure I provide the best customer service so people will want to share us with their friends.
What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without?
Shopify has been so helpful in creating my store and fulfillment processes.
Instagram as that’s where my audience is.
Smartsheet to help me build project plans to see my critical path to ensure I am prioritizing on the right things at the right time.
What are the next products you’re working on?
Swimwear is a very seasonal product so we are looking at things we can add onto it that can be worn year round. We are releasing leather crowns shortly which can be worn to all the gay parties. In the future we’d like to go into athleisure and underwear.
Where do you see the company in 5 years?
I’d love to have a retail shop in LA and hopefully have launched my underwear and athleisure collections. We also launched a private label and manufacturing arm of our business so I’d love to see that take off too.
Would you ever sell?
Right now I am enjoying what I am doing but who knows what the future brings.