Ashley Alexiss had one prevailing problem she wanted to solve when she decided to launch her own swimwear line.
"For a lot of women, trying on new swimwear before the summer … it almost makes you want to hit the beach in a snowsuit," she said. "So I want to try to change that for women."
Enter Alexiss Swimwear, a line that "embraces curves, big or small, helping women find confidence with a touch of style and flare."
Since the company's launch a year ago, this new CEO has found success in her supportive and stylish line, but only after some initials bumps in the road. Here she shares what she has learned, what keeps her inspired and how she has learned to use social media as the ultimate megaphone for business.
1. Have a mission
"I want it to truly make women feel better about themselves and I want them to know that 'Beauty is not a size.' That is our tag line. Alexiss Swimwear caters to all sizes. A lot of times you will find swimwear that either caters to smaller women or larger women, but not both. And more times than not, the swimwear that caters to larger women is not very flattering or stylish. It does not really bring out the confidence that women deserve to have. So I chose to create a line that is US made and would make women feel proud to wear, no matter what size they are."
2. Recognize the great idea right in front of you
"I am a plus-size model and do a lot of swim and lingerie shoots for clients. Many times I’ll have people who follow me on social media ask, ‘Where did you find that bathing suit? I can never find one that fits my chest.’ So that was the original idea: If I make this swimwear for me, why not make it for everyone who has the same problem that I do?"
3. Partner up
"I’ve had to learn that not everyone who says they can help me will actually help me. My original partner sold himself as fully understanding my vision, but he really didn’t. We didn't agree on many things, including price point. I wanted to make sure my line was high-end but still attainable. My new partner and I met through a business venture five years ago. He owns his own business separate from this so I’ve been able to see how he operates and manages things. He’s smart savvy and trustworthy. I don’t want to jinx myself, but it is really going great now. It’s smooth sailing as compared to the craziness of the first year."
4. Have goals
"In five years, I want it to be a known and recognized brand. I want women to see an Alexiss swimwear store front and go in and be excited about trying on new swim."
5. Be social
"I have a fairly big following on social media: 3.1 million on Facebook, 189,000 on Twitter, 651,000 on Instagram. My secret is to just put everything out there—good and bad. I find that a lot of people relate to problems I write about on social—whether it is a breakup or just being in a bad mood. People relate to it, and share it, and their friends see it and share it. It is a domino effect."
6. But not too social
"How much you post is important. Facebook’s algorithm prevents your posts from stacking up in people’s news feeds, but not Instagram. If you post 10 times in a row, you’re going to start annoying people. I say two or three times a day maximum. It’s a good way to break up 24 hours. I believe quality over quantity is more effective."
7. Timing is everything on social
"The times that you post are so important. Peak times in the U.S. are around noon and a little after work, around five. If you want to be international, you have to remember that when you are sleeping, a lot of your audience is wide awake and looking to know what’s going on with you. So the great thing about Facebook is that you can schedule. There are third-party scheduling tools for Twitter and Instagram, but I like to do things directly on the platforms to make it easier to respond to customers. I’m basically 'Team No Sleep.'"
8. Know your limits
"I’m a public figure on Facebook, so on one photo I can get 4,000 comments. If I tried to respond to every one of them, my fingers would fall off. So I will respond to some comments, like if a young girl writes something nice about me being an inspiration. For the Alexiss swimwear page, I check the comments and messages every hour. They’re there to buy swimwear, not to support my modeling career. It is important to respond to comments if you are a business."
9. Keep learning
"I’ve learned a lot about the manufacturing side of the business and I have a lot to learn still. I’m going to graduate school for this, but I do believe that there are some aspects that school just can’t teach you. School can’t teach you to have the drive to take this all in!"
10. Success is all up to you
"Like any human being, I have moments where I think, 'Oh my god, did I bite off more than I can chew?' And I get really stressed out. But you go through it, and you learn and you become more realistic about your goals. You can’t live in a fairy tale land when you own a business. You can’t just say, “I want this to happen” and sit back and wait. The only way it is going to happen is if you do it and do it right and if you are willing to learn through that process."
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.
Photos from Alexiss