Did you know that 95% of women have lost their swimsuit while in the water, and the other 5% sit on the sidelines for fear of wardrobe malfunctions? Pretty dumb, right? For years, women have had to choose between fashion and function in swimwear. MI OLA is here to change that and revolutionize beachwear for women around the world. This ethically and locally made brand makes wardrobe malfunctions a thing of the past by providing women around the world with high quality, trendy bathing suits that fit properly for an active lifestyle.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and Founder Helena Fogarty about how she is launching a global brand to redesign the style and functionality of a swimsuit.
Tell us about MI OLA’s product.
MI OLA is a premium line of sexy, chic performance swimwear that allows active women to do more of what they love with less stress and look amazing doing so. MI OLA is the only swimwear that combines high fashion, high function, and high quality into suits that stay put.
MI OLA is the only swimwear that combines high fashion, high function, and high quality into suits that stay put. And the press supports our claims. We’ve been featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (3x), Outside Magazine’s Summer Gear Guide, Cosmo, Elle, NYTimes, NY Post and others. More importantly, we’ve got customers in 35 countries raving about our extraordinary fit, function, style, and service.
We sell direct-to-consumer exclusively at our website, which allows us to own the customer relationship and an 80% margin. We aim to delight our customers at every interaction, and, so far, it seems to be working. We’re focused on customer acquisition right now, and yet 33% of our revenue comes from repeat purchases. We get emails from customers around the world telling us that from this point forward, they will only wear MI OLA. Like, Louise in Norway, or Jiamin in Hong Kong, or Janna in France.
What market is MI OLA attacking and how big is it?
MI OLA is made ethically and locally in the USA, and the US. Women’s luxury swimwear market is $3B.
What is the business model?
MI OLA operates as a digital-first, direct-to-consumer e-commerce swimwear brand. The cost of a suite ranges from $180 to $215.
What inspired the business?
I started MI OLA because I have 20 years experience in high fashion, an MBA from NYU Stern and I’m a surfer who wipes out way too much.
I moved to Costa Rica 9 years ago to surf and become fluent in Spanish. When I was surfing every day in the tropics, I realized just how flimsy, bad-fitting, and low quality most of women’s swimwear is.
After surveying 1000 random US women, I realized that the need for better swimwear is a universal need, not just for surfers, and so we started MI OLA.
Your company recently participated in Peak Pitch. Would you tell us about your experience?
I am still smiling from that day. What a great combination of fun and business.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
Raise our seed round of $1.5M and hire a staff.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Raise much more money than you think you need.
Why did you launch in New York?
By being based in NYC, in the Rockaways, we’re able to produce extraordinarily high quality, great fitting swimwear with rapid turnaround and small lot size. Also, the Rockaways are a surf spot of NYC, so we’re able to use our connections to grow MI OLA fast and attract great talent. We are creating an amazing company in an area that needs help, as Rockaway is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Casa Enrique in LIC