Posts Categorized: Sum of Your Business

Sum of Your Business: Night Dive

INTRO BY ARYN HENNING NICHOLS • PHOTOS – NIGHT DIVE SWIM

Night Dive Swim logo

It’s springtime – or getting there, anyway – and that means swimsuits are hitting retail racks all over. It’s an, “ugh” time of year for many – me included. But when social media posts from Night Dive Swim, an online swimwear shop based out of Oelwein, Iowa, started rolling in, I wasn’t, “ugh” at all; I was inspired! And that’s kind of a rare thing with swimwear.

It’s partially because of the amazing designs and sunny locales featured in Night Dive’s photos, but the biggest inspiration wasn’t even about the swimwear… it was the message behind the brand: Love yourself. Be comfortable in your body. Enjoy this life. Yes!

Night Dive Swim's founder Heather Caye Brown and 2 swimmies options made of REPREVE

At left – Night Dive Swim founder Heather Caye Brown. Above – Two options for Night Dive swimmies. All the printed swimmies are made of REPREVE, a fabric created by transforming recycled bottles into fiber.
Photos courtesy Night Dive Swim.

 

We caught up with founder Heather Caye Brown in between trips (and late-winter snowstorms) – you might find her networking/working in California or Miami; or home in Iowa, where she grew up; or across the world in Bali, where her eco-friendly swimwear collections and accessories are made. “It’s definitely a lot easier to be in Bali and work face-to-face with the amazing people that help make my designs and vision come to life,” Heather says.

Let’s back up to that eco-friendly bit: Their entire Spring 2019 bikini collection is made of recycled fabrics, and they ship every bikini in a cute, reusable pouch made of biodegradable material. Their solid-color “swimmies”, as they call them at Night Dive, are made with VITA, a sustainable techno-fabric made of Econyl recycled nylon – recycled ghost fishing nets from the ocean! According to the Night Dive website, it is soft, hyper-resistant, and a unique mix of compression and comfort, and, because of its innovative construction, it is twice as resistant to chlorine and sunscreen compared to other swim fabrics. All of the Night Dive printed swimmies are made of REPREVE, a fabric created by transforming recycled bottles into fiber. The process embeds properties like wicking, adaptive warming and cooling, water repellency, and more at a fiber level. Cool!

While you’ll find Night Dive Swim products primarily online (nightdiveswim.com), they do occasional pop-up shops as well – last summer, there was one in Des Moines and one in Long Beach, California, and this past winter folks could visit with Heather and shop Night Dive at the Aerie store in Miami. “Aerie is known for not retouching or Photoshopping photos – #aeriereal – so Night Dive and what we stand for was a perfect fit,” Heather writes, with what seems to be her trademark enthusiasm. Even via email, you can feel her excitement and passion for her business. (And we are big fans of anyone who uses multiple exclamation points in multiple sentences!) We know we usually feature folks who have been running their business for several years for Sum of Your Business, but we were so inspired by Heather, we just had to share. We can’t wait to see what she does over the coming years!!!!! (< oh, yes!)

Turn the page to read Heather’s super fun answers!

Name: Heather Caye Brown
Age: 37
Business: Night Dive Swim
Years in Business: 1
Website: nightdiveswim.com

1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

I had been happily working in the fashion industry – designing, climbing the corporate ladder, and leading design teams for large companies the last 14 years, and I came to a point where I really wanted to do something different that I’m very passionate about – championing self-confidence and body positivity. I saw so many opportunities to be more inclusive, especially in swimwear, my favorite thing to design, and what I personally spend a lot of time in. There are swimwear companies that don’t even offer a size extra large, and most don’t show a lot of body types on their social media platforms. I wanted to show that no matter what size you are, a swimsuit is for everybody/ every BODY.

Spreading that message became more enticing to me than any promotion could be, along with the freedom and new challenges and learning experiences that running my own company would bring.

2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

The best thing about being my own boss is most definitely the freedom – both in flexibility of what hours I’m working to where I’m working from. Luckily enough, this past year of working on my collection and building my brand was able to be done from anywhere in the world – so I spent half of the year off/on in Bali – the factory producing my eco-friendly Spring collection is there – and I was able to focus on creating my website, visiting the factory and reviewing samples, and of course I made time for surfing, snorkeling, and all the amazing things Bali has to offer. The other part of the year I was able to work and spend time with family and friends in my hometown in Iowa, and that’s when I decided to have Iowa be the location for my headquarters and where I would keep inventory.

The headquarters for a swimwear company being located in Iowa sounds a little strange, but being near family again after 18 years of living out of state, along with having those extra hands and help during the busy swim season, was irresistible. On top of that, another thing I’m passionate about is trying to build a sustainable fashion brand, and be as eco-friendly as possible – so having a centrally located office in the US, we’re able to ship our product to our customers in the most efficient manner possible. I also love the idea of lifting up the community in any way possible – from speaking to high school students about a career in fashion and pursuing their dreams, to adding more business at the local post office.

3. How about the worst?

Despite the freedom, work ends up being on my mind 24/7 – yet I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Besides that, another challenge I encountered was the shift of working solo versus working with a team. One of my favorite things about the last 14 years in the industry was the people on my team and who I’ve worked with. That shift from constantly working with people, bouncing ideas off of each other, and basically having a work “family” was a huge change. Thankfully enough, I still have that fashion family and friends if I ever need anything.

4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?

Never!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve encountered plenty of setbacks and challenges…but I just adapt and shift. My mom taught me at a very early age to have a Plan A, B, and C.

5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?

This question is tough because there are a ton of people that have inspired me…but someone who really has embodied the type of leadership I look up to is Chad Kessler, a friend of mine, and the President of American Eagle. I met Chad in 2004 when I started my first job as an assistant designer at Hollister / Abercrombie & Fitch. He was always someone who stood up for what he believed in, had your back, and was smart, savvy, and supportive. He truly demonstrated being a successful and inspiring leader.

We’ve worked together in various ways since then – at Urban Outfitters, and even now, he’s as supportive as ever cheerleading on Night Dive Swim.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

I thought I already knew this, but it really doesn’t drive the point home until you’re living it –EVERYTHING is going to take ten times longer than expected and cost ten times more than planned.

7. How do you manage your life/work balance?

Good question!! Since I enjoy every second of working on my company, I need to cut myself off from time to time from being so focused and engulfed in whatever I’m working on. There’s always something new I need to learn, or a new idea I want to design, so making sure to take time for a mental break or fun outside of the fashion world is something I’m constantly working on.

Night Dive Swim's message is love yourself

We love the message Night Dive Swim puts out there: Love your self! Photos courtesy Night Dive Swim.

 

8. What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?

The main thing that keeps me inspired is hearing from women that Night Dive Swim is already making a difference for them. The message I’m sending with social media and my website is body positivity and self-love, and I’ve received messages from women all over the world saying how much they appreciate seeing all body types and inclusivity on our Instagram/Social media, and how it gives them confidence. These messages seriously make everything I’m doing worth every second and every dollar I’ve invested in building this brand.

9. Where do you hope Night Dive will be in five years? 10?

Besides the financially successful goals for Night Dive, in five years I would love to be able to expand the size range to include even more plus sizes. We currently offer size small to extra large, and offering a broader range of sizes is actually quite expensive. My goal is to be in a place that taking on that expense is not an issue.   

In 10 years, my goal for Night Dive would be to be a part of (or create) a foundation for championing body positivity and self-love. There’re so many things I want to do to give back, and I can’t wait to be in a place where Night Dive can do even more.

Sum of Your Business: Empty Nest Winery

Empty Nest Winery was born out of  – you guessed it – an empty nest.

Once Pam and Dave Kruger’s kids flew the coop, the couple took a leap of faith into their next phase of life: Business ownership. They looked at shifting their milking operation away from cows and into wine, and never slowed down for a second – except to maybe enjoy a glass of wine!

When meeting Pam and Dave, it’s clear they are tireless and passionate about their work and products. From the first tasting room added on to their old farmhouse, to the thoughtfully decorated interior of the new tasting and event space that now houses Empty Nest Winery’s main operations, their century farm has been put to grand use.

That winery building, built on the Krueger’s property in 2015, has been busy pretty much the minute the doors opened to the public. Part of the success? Tireless hours poured into making sure that each event – small or huge – is a big success in the guests’ eyes. Making tasty products like distinct fruit wines and ever-changing house-made ciders is no small deal, but Empty Nest’s attention to every detail creates not only the foundation of the business, but a literal sparkle to this destination winery.

www.emptynestwinery.com

Name(s): Dave & Pam Kruger
Age(s): 50s!
Business: Empty Nest Winery
Years in Business: Started building in 2010, opened in 2011, built new winery building in 2015

1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

Both Dave and I grew up on dairy farms – this is Dave’s home farm that his family has owned and where they lived for about 100 years. When we were married, I moved here to the farm and together we milked Registered Brown Swiss cows and farmed for years. We have both also worked off the farm during those years, but for us the “leap” was starting a new winery business from scratch after all our kids graduated and moved out. Hence the “Empty Nest” name for the winery. A lot of people say that at that age of the “Empty Nest”, parents are starting to slow down and not work so hard, but that thought never crossed our minds.

Another huge “leap” was in February 2015, when we held our annual “Blind Wine Tasting” which is always the weekend after the Super Bowl. We had over 500 people come to our small tasting room and vote on their favorite wines. Even though we were both over 50 years old, we knew we had to build a bigger winery. With the help of our son, two neighbors and a local crane operator, we carefully took down our 100 year old barn, reclaimed all the beams, boards, corrugated steel and pretty much anything we could use in the new winery building. We designed the building using new technology like geothermal heating and cooling and spray foam insulation, while also incorporating those reclaimed materials. We made sure the building with a spacious tasting room, larger event room and warehouse/production area for wine. We found a general contractor who would run with those plans (working out the details) and broke ground in May of 2015 for a new building.

We moved in and held our Grand Opening Thanksgiving weekend 2015 with over 3,500 people coming to see and celebrate the new winery building. Since November 2015, we have hosted over 450 private parties and events either in our front Tasting Room or our spacious Event Room. There is something going on every weekend from Murder Mystery Dinner Theaters, to weddings, reunions, bachelorette parties, birthday and anniversary celebrations, graduation parties, wine and painting parties, baby and bridal showers, Christmas parties, vendor shows like our ‘Wining with the Arts’… we have pretty much hosted any kind of party here. People love the new building with its outside patio and relaxed fun atmosphere. Our latest addition is a stunning new gazebo a short walk from the winery, where you can sit and relax in a more private setting.

2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

Probably setting your own hours

3. How about the worst?

Probably setting your own hours… lol. We are both “workaholics” and have a goal to make every person’s event here the best it can possibly be, even if this means working through the night to achieve that.

4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?

Probably our first wedding here. There is so much that goes into a wedding at the winery that you have to get it perfect, that is why we only host six weddings a year. We host the whole wedding day from decorating the event room, to the perfect wedding picture backgrounds, then onto making the outside ceremony flawless, back inside catering the reception dinner and hearing those tear jerking speeches, seamlessly tearing down and flipping the room into the best wedding dance ever, all while everyone is enjoying a drink at the bar and having a great time. How did we overcome it?? We had some help from our kids, help from some great friends, we worked our tail off, and just trusted and believed we could do it!

5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?

It might sound crazy but our role models are each other. We both love working with each other, we make great partners in business each doing what we are good at. And make great partners in life. Our sum is much larger than each part.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

All the behind the scenes work there is to both the making quality wine/winery business and the catering / venue business. Trying to keep everything inside and outside perfectly clean and beautiful for Empty Nest Winery to be a destination for many people to come, relax and enjoy!

7. How do you manage your life/work balance?

That is a constant struggle for us. Being “Empty Nesters” we don’t have kids at home to set mealtime or bedtime hours, or attending all those sporting and fine art events at school as in younger years. Those family hours of younger years are now more working hours. So our scales are too tipped on the working hours and not enough family hours right now. We are working towards more balance in our lives, so we can enjoy our four children and their growing families more.

8. What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?

What keeps us inspired is two-fold.

First our kids keep us inspired. They are all successful in their own chosen professions and balance that with their family lives. We are so proud of each and every one of our children! When they come home, they are amazed at how the business has grown and jump right in and help. Every event we host also inspires us. For example, it is so inspiring to have a bride and groom find us at the end of their wedding day and say that it was the perfect wedding they had always dreamed of. Or the excitement of a mother-to-be at a baby shower. Or pulling off a surprise birthday party that really was a perfect surprise. Or having a winery guests that drove hundreds of miles to come here, write reviews on Facebook that they loved the homey relaxed atmosphere here… and the wine!

We have several quotes:

• Do whatever it takes
• I will… until
• If it was easy, everyone would do it
• If you build it, they will come or If you pour it they will come
• Make every day count
• Treat people the way you want to be treated

Sum of Your Business: Impact Coffee

Impact Coffee roasts and brews a great cup of joe.

Interview and photos by Benji Nichols • Originally published in the Summer 2017 Inspire(d)

In a world that seems to move faster with each passing day, a true attention to detail is something that stands out. A perfectly matted and framed piece of art; a beautifully honed bench in a compact space; coffee beans transported halfway across the world, to be roasted, brewed, and served to perfection. These are traits of a craftsperson – or, for this story, craftspeople: Decorah husband and wife team Jeff and Anja Brown, and their sons Sean and Kai.

Impact Coffee Bar and Roasters is a young business, but for almost three decades Jeff and Anja have served the community through The Perfect Edge, now in its fourth downtown location, where they offer high quality professional art framing and matting services. It makes sense that the level of skill needed to frame literal works of art would follow through to anything else the couple touches – from the careful remodeling of old buildings to the roasting of a specialty batch of Yemen coffee beans.

Arguably one of the greatest adventures of owning a small business is that inspiration (and opportunity) can strike at any moment. It was one of those chance opportunities that eventually led Anja to move the framing shop (for the third time!) to the beautiful space at 106 Washington Street, a former century-old cobbler and shoe shop (rail ladders still intact). Meanwhile, just down the block, 118 Washington became home base for the now-expanded Impact Coffee, a “third wave” – as they say in the business – roaster and coffee bar.

Much the way microbreweries have grown in recent decades, “third wave” coffee has shifted the bean business from mass commodity to a craft that honors the product’s finest nuances. From grocery store tins to the mid-century rise of Italian-influenced espresso cafes to the onset of worldwide café chains, a culture has grown, giving the utmost attention to fairly sourcing, processing, roasting, and serving single-origin coffee beans.

This transformation of a rather humble agricultural product into a truly artisanal beverage is indeed an art, and Impact Coffee captures that. Beans are coaxed through the roasting process to bring out the subtle flavors of their source – from Kona, Hawaii to the Lake Kivu area of Rwanda. The differences can be immense, much like grapes to wine, and result in a truly stunning cup of coffee.

Jeff Brown is the man behind (well in front of, really) the roaster at Impact’s processing facility, jumping through multiple regions and batches of beans on any given day. He’s also the preparer of beautiful amounts of cold-brewed coffee – a process that can take more than 12 hours before it is kegged. These cold brews get served over ice through a nitrogen-charged tap system at the café, which produces a coffee with rich mouth-feel, smooth, yet exact flavors, and a great kick. The Brown’s sons, Sean and Kai, are both involved in the business, and can often be found behind the counter serving up single origin pour-overs, frothy lattes, locally baked goods, tea, and more. The Brown family has clearly found their sum in Downtown Decorah, and we’re Inspire(d) by that!

Tell us about your “leap” moment. When/ how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

Our “leap” moment was a gradual one. We met our former partners through The Perfect Edge three years ago. They were selling their roasted coffee at the farmers market and we offered them a retail space so they could have a permanent outlet in Decorah.

From there, the idea grew to replace the gallery space with a small coffee shop. Shortly thereafter our partners got an excellent job opportunity and sold us their roasting equipment. Impact Coffee Bar & Roasters was born. The name refers to the asteroid that hit Decorah 470 million years ago and created its distinct crater.

The decision to take over a new business was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. But we could see that we had the enthusiastic backing and support of the community. When you look at the coffee bar now, it is full of pieces offered by the community and friends: the old archway, the tin ceiling pieces, the barn wood, a humungous old photograph of Decorah, etc.

What is the best thing about being your own boss?

The best thing is that when you have a crazy idea for your business, you go ahead and do it. You own it. Making your own way, seeing it through. The satisfaction of knowing you did it and have sustained it, making it into a thriving business.

And we are lucky that Sean and Kai joined us and are running the coffee shop. Who knows what the future holds, but for now we can say we are a family-run business.

How about the worst?

Some days you just don’t want to be responsible for anything. You just can’t hand it off. Again, you own it.

Being a small business owner means you don’t get to clock out at 5. Whatever the issue is, you need to deal with it for as long as it takes.

Was there ever a hurdle where you said, “I just can’t do it!”? How did you overcome it?

Loosing our partners shortly after opening the coffee bar was a stressful time. While we had crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s, we had not worked on an exit strategy, which is an important factor when going into business with someone.

But we are so lucky to have a wonderful community and friends who gave us great advice and moral support. That gave us the energy to move forward. And we could never have made the transition without our two sons.

Mentors or role models?

Anja: Watching the way of life of my grandmother and my parents. Even through difficult times, the goal is always to do your job well and with pride. Maybe that is the infamous German trait I’ve heard so much about since coming to this country…

Jeff: I’d say all the entrepreneurs and small business owners were and are an inspiration. Hard work, integrity, and good customer service… the heart of any business.

What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

Sometimes it’s probably best that you don’t know! It forces you to be creative, to keep an open mind, and to trust yourself. We had been running The Perfect Edge for the last 28 years when the opportunity to get into the coffee business presented itself. This transition happened fairly quickly but things seemed to fall into place one idea at a time.

We knew that running two businesses was going to change our lives, but now that we’ve settled into our separate roles, we’ve adjusted well. With Jeff running the roastery and coffee shop now, we can finally come home and say: “How was your day, honey?”

Tips on managing work life balance:

It’s good to have passion for life AND for work. The satisfaction of loving what you do carries over into life. And when things get crazy it’s the small moments of joy that carry you through: a hug, a nice walk through the woods, getting your fingers dirty in the garden soil or making dinner together with friends.