For Rebecca Klodinsky, founder of swimwear brand Frankie Swim, the goal when starting the business was never to overtake the world, although she admits “it does look like that’s where it’s going”.
Klodinsky founded Frankie Swim less than four years ago after seeing the “crazy” prices of women’s swimwear and the business is already raking in $7 million in annual turnover with just five full-time staff. Having taught herself to code and build websites, Klodinsky expanded the business quickly through social channels such as Instagram and even received fortuitous promotion from TV celebrities Kylie and Kris Jenner.
Klodinsky spoke to SmartCompany about the rapid, yet organic, expansion of Frankie Swim, and how managing staff has been her biggest challenge yet.
I started Frankie Swim in November 2013. The inspiration for the company came from my sister telling me she had just taken a bikini off lay-by, which I couldn’t believe.
There was a serious hole in the market for reasonably priced swimwear. Why does anyone need to lay-by a bikini? That’s crazy.
I never set out to conquer anything or achieve a big career goal of mine. I had always done things on the side at uni to make a bit of money and I was always business interested, but I didn’t want to take over the world.
So after I got the idea, I jumped online, found some manufacturers, and went to Bali.
I was at uni at the time and working part-time, and I didn’t know anything about making websites. So I taught myself to code and design websites. I didn’t really have a choice otherwise because I had no money to reach out to any website designers.
I still do all the coding today and people even come to me sometimes to ask me to help out with their websites.
I’ve never really felt challenged in the business because I never put too much expectation on myself or banked too much on Frankie Swim. But now it’s happening it’s great and so rewarding, especially as I never really anticipated it to happen.
The business started in Australia but we quickly moved into overseas markets, and now we’re about 70% international and 30% domestic. We only operate through e-commerce because the way of the world is digital.
I’ve thought about bricks-and-mortar, but I’m just so into online so it’s not where I’m looking now. We have done one pop-up shop in New York.
We were able to expand internationally so quickly thanks to platforms like Instagram. Our growth had a great deal to do with our Instagram customers and influencers on the platform with that celebrity element as well.
Admittedly from the start, I didn’t fully grasp the concept of Instagram — I had to Google what a hashtag was. Now it’s everything, and it’s quickly become a huge part of the company.
Last year Kris Jenner posted a photo wearing our products, and the year before that Kylie Jenner posted a similar photo. Both times it just happened organically — they weren’t paid promotions, just orders that came to our website like any other.
It was absolutely amazing and so flattering to realise your product has such a reach, especially as an Australian brand.
The bikini Kylie posted the photo in is now a staple product of ours. Every time we get it in stock it sells out super quickly.
I like to remain organic with our social media promotion — we don’t do paid promotions with model photo shoots or anything like that.
When we started the market wasn’t saturated at all, but now it seems every day a new swimwear company starts up. I’m so thankful what happened happened when it did; we’re so well established now I feel nothing could challenge us.
Our customers are everything and without them we are nothing. I respond to every single Instagram comment because if you’re not listening to them, you’ll have no idea what’s going on.
It is a big job to stay connected. People advertise these days for a social media manager and that job didn’t exist 10 years ago.
I never really felt challenged in the business until I had to hire staff. Managing people has been the biggest thing for me to figure out.
It’s hard trying to understand multiple personalities at the one time and put them all together in one happy environment. It’s different and daunting; I’ve never had to be responsible for so many people at once.
They’re like an extended family you have both a friendship and a working relationship with. It has been a learning curve, and once I hired my first staff member it became easier and easier.
Right now we’re just working on steady growth. We’re not looking to take over the world but it does look like that’s where it’s going.
Growth in itself is daunting when you don’t expect it and when you don’t set out to do it. You don’t feel mentally prepared, but it all comes together with experience.
Stay focused and stay committed to what you’re doing; don’t get sidetracked.