Posts Tagged: owning your own 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.

Iowa Secretary of State interview with Aryn Henning Nichols (< that’s me!)

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Aryn_Summer16Hi friends! I was contacted recently by Erin Bunce, the business services and social media intern at the Iowa Secretary of State’s office in Des Moines. She’s heading up a project that celebrates entrepreneurship by showcasing small Iowa businesses on their Facebook page… and they said they would love to feature Inspire(d) Media. Yay!

“We want people to learn about what it takes to start and run one’s own business, whether that be lessons learned, challenges faced, or rewards gained from his or her experience,” Erin says. “We want to share the advice, knowledge and wisdom you’ve gained from starting and running Inspired Media to encourage others to do the same.”

I loved answering the questions. Erin said they usually post just one answer on their Facebook page, though, so I thought it might be fun to share the whole interview here. Erin was on board with that idea too, so here you go!

Also, FYI, if you’re curious about what the Iowa Secretary of State actually does, here are a few things I’ve learned:

The Secretary of State office is a service center for businesses in Iowa, the nation, and the world and advocates for Iowa business, products, and the idea of making government more business friendly.

The Secretary of State is on the Voter Registration Commission, the State Insurance Committee, the Iowa Executive Council, and the State Records Commission. The Secretary (currently Paul D. Pate) co-signs, with the Governor, all commissions, proclamations, extraditions, and land patents. The Secretary of State is the state commissioner of elections and supervises Iowa’s 99 county auditors.

The Office of Secretary of State also preserves many original documents including the Constitution of the State of Iowa and the Acts of the General Assembly.

Iowa Secretary of State interview with Aryn Henning Nichols (that’s me) from Inspire(d) Media:

What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?

I remember the first time I heard the word entrepreneur – I was about eight, and my older sister casually dropped this big new word: “Dad’s an entrepreneur, Aryn.” I had always said, “My dad owns a sawmill and an auto shop and he’s a helicopter pilot in the National Guard too…” Entrepreneur, my sister said, meant a business owner. To me, it seemed a much quicker way of saying all the things a business-owner must do make life work. Or all the things they want to do.

These days, I think an entrepreneur is someone who finds a way to make the wants of life and needs of life interchangeable. We are all capable of creating our careers, as long as we have passion and talent. And I promise: Everyone has passion and talent – you just gotta dig for it sometimes.

What made you want to start Inspire(d) Media?

I was a senior in college when I read a biography (The Art of Life by Iowa City author Jennifer New) about a photojournalist named Dan Eldon, who was stoned to death in Somalia in 1993. His mother, Kathy Eldon, was an Iowa native, but Dan and his sister grew up in Africa. Dan was – by no means – perfect, but he still found a way – his way – to help people. I found this incredibly inspiring, and, surprisingly, it was one of the first times I felt really inspired.

I was no slouch of a gal – I did well in school, was involved in tons of activities, etc., so the fact that it took that long to feel really inspired seemed like a shame. It should be easier for people to find relatable stories that make them feel fired up to do something good. Thus, the idea of Inspire(d) Magazine was born. I wanted to create a local publication that features people in the community doing good things to change the world. Our audience can read the stories and say, “That’s my neighbor! They’re not any different from me! I can do something positive as well.” That’s the premise behind the name. Person one does something to inspire. Person two is inspired. Then person two inspires, and the cycle continues. So it’s a mash-up of the two words: Inspire(d).

What is the ultimate goal for your business?

Our ultimate goal is to change the world, honestly! But starting on a small scale, with small ripples. I’d love to see other communities with their own Inspire(d) Magazines eventually, so they, too, can start encouraging folks to volunteer, take notice of cool new opportunities, get involved in local government, support area businesses and entrepreneurs, etc. These are the changes we’re hoping to affect.

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What is/was your greatest fear about starting your business?

After every magazine is published (ah, the permanence of print!), I freak out that people aren’t going to like the stories. I don’t know why – I know the stories are good – but I guess it’s human nature to worry about being accepted and liked. The fear gets smaller and smaller, though, as the years pass. On year one, magazine one, I cried because the finished product wasn’t exactly what I imagined – that’s one of the hardest things about creative work: living up to your own expectations. On magazine 46, year nine (our current summer 2016 issue), there was only a brief “Will they like it?!” And then, pride after looking through the pages. It looks pretty close to what I want it to these days, and that’s certainly good for the stress levels!

How does your business impact the lives of others in your community?

I hope it inspires people. I hope it gets people out in our community, talking to each other, connecting, and creating a better place to live.

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What is the biggest obstacle you faced when beginning your business?

It’s tough being the boss, especially when the only other employee is your spouse! I love being the boss, but business and life can get really intertwined, especially when you work from home, as we do, and really love your work, as we do. So sufficiently compartmentalizing those things is a challenge. Plus also making time for yourself, to, you know…exercise and see friends. The priority pyramid has gotten clearer over the years, significantly so after having a kid.

Of course, there were other obstacles like the whole “decline of print” naysayers (which I never really worried about) and the logistics of it all –how do you actually design something (ha!), where do we print, how do we distribute, what will we do for racks, how often do we publish, etc? But you take one question at a time, and you figure it out. Then you get better at it, and you figure it all out again as the business changes.

How will your business support the community in five years? In 20 years?

I hope it continues to inspire people. Forever, really, even if the magazine isn’t around for all of eternity! It’s also a really great “community pride” thing. People living in our readership area are excited to share Inspire(d), and people visiting our communities really get a good snapshot of who we are from the publication. This is good for tourism, recruiting families to come live here, and for community and regional morale.

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What do you think will be the most challenging obstacle you will have to overcome as your Inspired continues to thrive?

The biggest upcoming challenge is figuring out how to grow. We’re kind of at that point right now. Do we hire employees? Do we find an office out of the house? We’ve done things really efficiently, and I think smartly, so far. So taking that leap to the next level is a little scary. But our daughter will start preschool this fall and Inspire(d) will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year. The timing to grow seems good. We could keep going as we are, but change can be pretty fun and exciting!

ArynProfilePicOnlineWhat words of encouragement would you give someone who is on the fence about starting a business?

Start asking yourself some questions: What do you really have to lose? Are you passionate about the idea? Do you think it will really work? Do you have the skills and talents you need? Believe in yourself and your ideas – if you’re making something worthwhile, people will buy it. In my work, you’d say, “content is king”. I know I publish good stories, so I know people will read them. But that notion applies to everything. Good product equals good customers. Be your biggest cheerleader and then get the heck out there and start!

What is the most rewarding part about owning your own business?

The flexibility! Some days I hang out with my almost-four-year-old daughter. Some days I mow the lawn at two in the afternoon. Some days I work, literally, through the night. But I get to choose how I do it, and that’s pretty awesome.

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Thanks for reading, friends! If you want to learn more about us, start here. Or just poke around online and let us know what you think!
XOX,
Aryn Henning Nichols