Despite the economic gloom, many entrepreneurs are surviving but not all can say they thrived during the pandemic.
But this 25-year-old did, by pivoting her business model and changing her products. Self-made entrepreneur Nicole Shiraz launched her second company Nalia Swim, an ethical, sustainable swimwear line, that uses vintage, recycled and local fabrics and makes it into swim and resort wear.
The former founder and CEO of handbag hire service Boss Ladies had no choice but to sell her million-dollar company after COVID-19 hit, forcing her business to shut down all operations.
Nicole revealed she went from making $60,000 in monthly sales to $0 in sales. Due to lockdown restrictions, her customers were no longer needing to hire a luxury handbag. Not knowing when they would be able to go out again during these uncertain times, they all requested refunds.
“All my customers were women who hired handbags for birthdays, weddings, events etc and since they couldn’t go out, I had to issue refunds,” Nicole explains.
“This took a huge toll on my company and I couldn’t pay my workers and keep up with bills. I was also stuck in Los Angeles at the time, so not being able to travel back to Australia where my company was located, I had no choice but to sell or go bankrupt.”
Boss Ladies was valued at $1.2 million dollars in 2019 and Nicole sold the company for $1.5 million to an investor. Selling Boss Ladies for millions allowed Nicole the time to re-assess and re-evaluate her business endeavours.
“After losing Boss Ladies, I lost a lot of confidence in myself and lost motivation to work. But I said to myself, “I can’t give up now. I’ve started a million-dollar company before, I know I can do it again,” she said.
Born and raised in Australia but now living the American dream, Nicole is more than your typical ‘influencer’, cementing herself as a certified ‘Girl Boss’, astute businesswoman and auspicious entrepreneur.
“I knew whatever company I was going to start next would be female targeted. I had all this knowledge and experience in social media marketing and dealing with female consumers. I also had access to a lot of top female influencers, so it was a great foundation to start with,” Nicole said.
COVID breed creativity, and Nicole started exclusively designing luxury swimwear pieces that were handmade and produced in Los Angeles. However, ever the innovator Nicole ensured her collection differentiates itself from its competitors by using local recyclable, vintage materials, fabrics and accessories.
“I come from a culture where going to the beach was second nature and wearing swimwear was almost an everyday thing. Living in California, I was around that same type of culture and I decided I would take inspiration from both countries,” Nicole explains.
In addition to this, Nicole has ensured her pieces are of the luxurious, yet affordable to her target market (generation Y and Z), an aspect where other brands fail.
“The pandemic also really put things into perspective for me. I wanted to make sure my products were not only safe and environmentally friendly but affordable during these tough times,” she said.
Nalia Swim launched on Nicole‘s birthday in late January (as a gift she gave to herself). Nicole has moved rapidly with her brand as well, in just 3 months she designed and manufactured two collections. Her first collection sold out within just a month after popular Instagram influencers started to wear her pieces in their posts.
Her second collection ‘Tulum’ is inspired by one of the most popular and trendy destinations for celebrities and influencers, designed to make every girl look and feel resort-ready. Featuring intoxicating uber luxe pieces, aztec prints and sexy silhouettes all pieces are delicately handmade.
Within just a month, the collection has blown up online. The brand has made over $40,000 in sales this month, projecting the company to be valued in the millions by 2022-2023. Currently, all pieces are available online only but Nalia Swim is looking into expanding into stores soon.
“I honestly was not expecting for my collection to be sold out so quickly. I worked really hard to make sure my design’s were unique so I get super excited every time I see someone post pictures in the bikini’s ,” Nicole said.
With the COVID-19 vaccine recently rolled out, Nicole hopes that once countries start to open up their borders, there would be a spike for people to travel and take vacations.
“At the moment, a lot of my customers are from the USA even though we do offer worldwide shipping. Hopefully this will expand soon when we can all start travelling again,” she said.
The start-up brand has also implemented new technologies such as QR code’s for their customers and is working on further sustainable practices. Nicole hopes that her brand will encourage and inspire young women to do the same and invest in their dreams and themselves – even during this difficult time.