Having almost a decade-long career in a radio industry might already be a dream for some. But for Holly Spillane from Melbourne, Australia, it was just a growing ground and a learning experience that pushed her to chase a true dream of hers – building her own swimwear brand.
Elka Swim now has over 7,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram (and growing). It’s been featured in such major fashion outlets as Tatler, Vanity Fair, and GQ and has recently been announced as one of the sponsors for the National Reality Televisions Awards in the UK. Its first collection is called Stevie and features multiple multifaceted pieces that have a “mix & match” concept where you can match any bottom with any top. But most importantly, the brand promotes “a happy, healthy, and balanced lifestyle,” just like its founder, Spillane. “We want every girl who wears Elka Swim to feel comfortable, confident, and happy.”
The choice of such a vibrant message comes from Spillane’s own strive to live a life in which she, not someone else, is in charge of her future, which wasn’t easily done in her 9-5 radio job.
Spillane was a full-time Radio Announcer at her local radio station, 919 SeaFM in Queensland, Australia (before she moved to Melbourne to pursue her fashion dream). She was the mornings announcer and the Group Social Media Manager for the company’s three radio stations. “And as if working full-time, and building a swimwear empire on the side wasn’t enough,” Spillane jokes, “I also had my own part-time social media business where I would run social media workshops and do private coaching to small business owners.”
Elka Swim: The good vibes swimwear you’ll live in this summer. Shop now!
The idea of Elka Swim was born at the end of 2017, but it didn’t launch until October 2018. It was Spillane’s side-hustle for 14 months straight. She doesn’t regret the long wait though. It gave her time to accumulate all the social media skills that she now actively uses to promote Elka Swim. Plus, the organizational and time management skills she gained while working in the radio industry “have proven to be vital in the fast-paced world of fashion.”
The 14 months of hard work, leading up to the launch were used for thorough business research and careful preparations. Staying in her full-time radio job also helped to invest money in the startup.
Her then-boyfriend, now soon-to-be husband, Steve Roberts, became the co-founder of the brand and worked together with Spillane on their future fashion startup. They wanted to make it right. “I actually bought an online pdf about starting a swimwear business. Then reached out to the author who became a bit of a mentor to me. Before I even thought about a name, design, and website, I tracked down manufacturers and got some samples sent out.”
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As Spillane recalls, she and Roberts had to “spend many late nights on the lounge room floor planning and prepping.” The startup also took their savings. “We didn’t want to get a bank loan as we didn’t want that pressure, so we worked hard in our full-time jobs and put all that money into it as well to launch Elka Swim,” Spillane adds.
Feel confident, feel comfortable, feel happy in Elka Swim. Shop now!
The team of Elka Swim is still small. Just the co-founders, accountant, bookkeeper, and a business coach. All the skills Spillane has accumulated before Elka Swim, means she is able to keep overheads & staff costs down as she can wear many hats.
“And as if working full-time, and building a swimwear empire on the side wasn’t enough, I also had my own part-time social media business where I would run social media workshops and do private coaching to small business owners.”
Judging by their current results, the team’s hard work does pay off. This spring, Elka Swim got featured in such fashion outlets as Tatler, Vanity Fair, GQ, and numerous Australian publications too. In some of them, the brand got featured twice. Spillane says it must be the result of their hard work on social media and the content they put out there. “We got picked up via our Instagram page because we are very active there. You need to hang out where the big guys are hanging out, and that is online,” she says. Staying consistent with branding and standing out of the crowd are some other secrets to success, according to Spillane.
The features increased the company’s sales, brand awareness, and gave them international credibility and recognition. But most importantly, it was the “sign” for both founders that their decision to turn a side-hustle into a full-time business was right. Their other sources of sales are social media and online store.
In the future, Spillane wants to make a collection that features vintage vibes but stays true to the “mix & match & multifaceted” concept. This is not just a marketing move. “As a girl who has lived by the beach most of her life and in a bikini, I was always wearing two different bikinis. I found that I was wearing a top from one brand because it fit well and a bottom from another brand because it did the same. But they looked completely different and didn’t match.” Spillane decided to solve the issue of many girls around the world. “We made sure that pieces in our collection were adjustable so you could customize the top and bottom until you got the perfect fit. No matter what piece of the collection you wore they would all match one another.”
Mix & Match to create a set as individual as you. Shop now!
To many of its customers, Elka Swim is more than just a swimwear brand. It can help them be themselves and be bosses of their own lives, just like Spillane is. “At Elka Swim and in my own life, I love to work hard and play hard. I go to the gym every day and have a healthy balanced diet. I’m healthy without the obsession. And when it comes to the weekends, I enjoy wine, pizza, cheese. I believe everything is healthy in moderation. To me, that’s living a happy, healthy, balanced lifestyle.”
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