MANUFACTURED IN BALI
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How to Start a Business? (Part 2)
The first part about starting a business was about the challenges of finding a manufacturer. This part will essentially be about "bootstrapping". When I went to UCSD, I learned about this term in a Marketing class. "Bootstrapping" means to use the resources at hand - to not use funds that you do not have for things you do not need. If you are like me, there isn't much of a budget to work with when starting a business. A roundtrip flight to Indonesia was around $1000 when purchasing the ticket months in advance. My mom is super Christian, and told me that I would stay with a Christian family in Denpasar, Bali for free. It was a humbling experience to be in a local's home - where there were no tourists around. I shared sleeping in a bed with the family's mom and daughter. There was no AC and no mosquito nets. I got bitten alive by mosquitoes and there were nights I could not sleep due to the extreme itchiness. There was only one squatting toilet in the restroom, and to take a shower, you had to pour a bucket of cold water from the sink onto yourself.
I'm providing these details because people don't realize, entrepreneurship is NOT GLAMOROUS. It takes sacrifice, hard work, dirt, blood, and tears. I stayed with this family for about three weeks, and honestly I cried almost everyday. It was my first time away in a different country (at 21 years old) where I didn't speak the language. I was lonely and miserable. I didn't have any friends and it was a challenge getting around in Bali. At the time Google Maps had just updated directions in Bali - so the directions weren't that accurate or clear. I hired a driver who drove me around on his mo-ped for $5 American dollars a day. I did not tell my mom this because I knew she would freak, and so I just let her assume someone was driving me around in a car. This was an example of bootstrapping, because most other people would probably rent a hotel room or hire a taxi driver. These were extreme measures, but I could say it definitely changed my perspective of the things to be grateful for in the states. My first production order was roughly around $2,000.
After college, I did not know where I was going to live. I just knew I did not want to move back to Sacramento after living in San Diego for three years. My brother was nice enough to let me live in his... dining room essentially of his one bedroom apartment in San Clemente. My mom and he knew I wouldn't want them to buy me a bed, so they lied telling me that someone gifted them a used twin bed -- that was super sweet of them to do that. My brother moved his computer from the dining room into his bedroom and we tucked my twin mattress on the floor into a corner. I got plastic boxes for my swimsuits and so those surrounded me as I slept.. After about nine months of me living with my brother, he had to move to the east coast.
I was stressed because I didn't know where I could live and did not want to move back to Sacramento. Coincidentally my friend had a grandma that lived in the same city as my brother - San Clemente, near the pier. My friend's mom told me that I could live with this grandma if I helped take care of her three times a week. I got the entire upstairs which was essentially a two bedroom apartment with a view of the beach, dining room, kitchen, living room, balcony, and my own bathroom. My friend's grandma had dementia, so she needed help in the evenings going to the restroom. I was on call three nights from 7pm to 7 am a week as a caregiver. I would have to wake up in the middle of the night sometimes up to three times to help this grandma go to the bathroom. It was not an easy task. There were some nights she would wake up and then forget why she called me.. there were some nights when she'd wake up and we'd go to the bathroom, and nothing came out. These moments were not glamorous, but they really shaped me as a person and forced me to grow up quickly and learn that growing a company is not easy.
Here are photos of the living room room - essentially the living room became the "warehouse" of where I stored the bikinis. Mind you, this living room was much bigger than the little dining room area I had at my brother's apartment. I brought the little twin bed to lay on it whenever I wanted to watch tv.. and had a bigger bed in my bedroom :) (little upgrades that you celebrate in life)
Simultaneously, I was working at Hobie Surf Shop 4-5 times a week. I got Siempre Golden into their three stores, San Clemente, Laguna Beach, and Dana Point, by getting close to the manager at the store and then the swimwear buyer. While working at Hobie Surf Shop, taking care of the grandma in the evenings, I also babysat on off days...while trying to get Siempre Golden into stores.
I would arrive to stores unannounced, and try to pitch them on why they should carry Siempre Golden. Sometimes these efforts were successful, and other times they weren't. I got Siempre into Revolve by showing up at their HQ in Cerritos, The Shop in Laguna Beach, Diane's Beachwear, Spyder Surf in Hermosa, etc. The list goes on. Meanwhile, other places like Nasty Gal, Molly Brown's Swimwear, were not nice and actually pretty nasty to me.
I eventually moved to LA and got my own studio apartment because i could finally afford it. I worked part time as a sushi restaurant as a waitress and tried to be a Lyft driver. After my first six months of living in LA, I moved to a bigger apartment and I quit the sushi restaurant and decided to take on Siempre Golden full time without other jobs.
To be an entrepreneur means to work hard, make sacrifices, do things you don't want to do, in order to pursue your passion. Bootstrapping involves grit, there is no luxury to this. You can't waste money on simple luxuries, because you need that money to reinvest into the company - reordering more inventory, etc. Believe that you can do it, and don't give up! Hope this inspired you and let me know if you have any questions. My Instagram is @sophiasiempre. xx
Alyssa Miller —
I love it. It shows what you actually have to go through in order to be successful. Most businesses classes and courses sugarcoat things and then just let you figure it out. But this shows with passion and hard work , you can accomplish anything.
Hannah Reynolds —
Wow!!! I love reading people’s stories on how the first began. I am such a fan of your Instagram page, it’s crazy to think you started from scratch like that. I am about to start my own entrepreneurship journey and am learning to be content with what I have so I can bootstrap. Love this and what you do!!!
Tracey Nguyen —
This was truly inspirational !!! I love how REAL you were about the whole process of starting a business. Everyone loves the idea starting one but it takes so much sacrifice and commitment ! Glad to see that all of your hard work paid off !
This is inspiring! Thank you! Its awesome to read the real side of entrepreneurship vs most of the stories out there where we just hear about the success. It makes starting your own business seem more accessible when you’re willing to put in the hard work!
is amazing! So inspiring.