Founder and designer of luxury swimwear brand Kinsman Swim, Joanna designs bikinis by the beach in San Diego, leveraging her marketing experience to run her business.
Click to tweet: Fire Nation, Joanna shares her incredible journey on EOFire today!
Worst Entrepreneur Moment
- Simply put, Joanna ran out of money. Did the world explode? No. She sold her stuff, moved in with a friend, and made it happen! Great lessons here, Fire Nation!
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- This is one of those lightbulbs we can all picture ourselves having, which is what makes it SO exciting! IGNITE!
Small Business Resource
- Streak: Manage your deals, support queue (and more) inside Gmail. … Streak connects securely to Google Apps. Use work, personal, and school Gmail accounts.
Best Business Book
- Kinsman Swim: Exclusive range of luxury swimwear, coverups and accessories by Kinsman Swim. Lingerie inspired designer swimwear, and seasonal collections.
Joanna: Red hot, baby.
John: Yes! Founder and designer of luxury swimwear brand Kinsman Swim; Joanna designs bikinis by the beach in San Diego, leveraging her marketing experience to run her business. Joanna, take a minute, fill in some blanks to that intro and give us a little glimpse into your personal life.
Joanna: Absolutely. Well, thank you for having me. So I am from Maine, just like you, and so we bonded over that. I’ve always been an entrepreneur. If I think about when I – if I first started I’d have to say, I guess it would have been when I was selling salads on the side of the road, and my crayon drawings, worked my way into jewelry, I had lemonade stands all the time. I always wanted to sell, create stuff and sell things. It didn’t matter that in my small town that there was only one other house on my road. So I’d set up my table out there.
John: And it was a dirt road, too, so that romaine got a little crunchy.
Joanna: It was a dirt road. Yep. So I actually wrote my report in seventh grade, this one of what do you wanna be when you grow up and mine was on being a fashion designer. My mom actually was a seamstress to a fashion designer before I was born and so she taught me how to sew and really taught me construction and helped me to create these – we made pillows, pants, shirts, and eventually my prom dresses in high school. And the things that we created were just absolutely beautiful, but I never really realized that that was a career that I could, in fact, follow. My parents were entrepreneurs, they had a bike part distributing company in Maine, but there was no fashion influence, really, anywhere near where I grew up.
So it took me a while to figure out that that really was my calling and so I sort of took a roundabout – where I went to University of New Hampshire. I was a college athlete and I went to school for entrepreneurship but wrote my business plan on an event planning company. So after that I moved to Boston. I was a personal trainer and then I knew that I wanted to move to California and a friend of mine told me that I would like San Diego. So I got a one way ticket, moved out here, and since then I’ve kind of moved in and out of San Diego. I was up in L.A. and now I’m back. And that’s been great.
So started out working in internet marketing, got a random job on Craig’s list and I am so grateful. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t turned that executive assistant position into a virtual assistant position. I started working for some big names in the marketing industry and that was what led me to realize that I also could start a business with low overhead, where before it was all very daunting to me, going out getting investors and coming up with a whole lot of cash to go into production. So I finally figured it out.
John: I love that story. I can say in all honesty I’ve never bought a salad from the side of the road, but now knowing that that’s a thing, that you’ve done it Joanna, maybe I will. I wanna see that entrepreneur on the side of the road and be like, “I’m gonna buy that salad.” You know?
Joanna: You know, I wouldn’t recommend these salads. It was like lettuce and raspberries. I don’t know if I invented the raspberry vinaigrette, but probably not.
John: So Joanna, now here you are in San Diego. I mean, I just love this tag line. You design bikinis by the beach here in S.D. A lot of people are into the physical product thing. I’m actually moving into physical products. I’ve recently just created, and I’m gonna be launching soon, The Freedom Journal which is an actual, physical book. So I’ve really been fascinated with this process and I know a lot of people are into fashion and into clothes. Take us just kind of through a little breakdown, revenue wise, how does somebody in that business generate revenue? I mean, I know there’s the obvious, which I would like you to speak to, but then there’s the not so obvious. Can you kind of break that down?
Joanna: Yeah, absolutely. I had a little bit of a tough time figuring all of this out on my own. When it came to swimwear it seemed as if the market was very highly saturated, I mean it is, and so I actually pivoted. And even since I sent all my information over to you, I’ve pivoted a bit in the way of creating accessories from the bikini strings and cordons from my swimwear. So that’s been actually my bigger revenue generator.
John: You niched within the niche. You didn’t say I’m not just gonna do clothes, I’m gonna do bikinis. I’m not just gonna do bikinis, I wanna do things that hang off bikini strings. So let’s hear it.
Joanna: Yeah, what do they say? Niche till it hurts?
John: In the niches are in the riches.
Joanna: Ooh, I like that. So, yeah, they’re called Kini Bands and they are hair ties and headbands made from the same material that bikinis and bikini strings are made out of. So they look like bracelets and that’s how I started, to just make them for myself as my little reminder what I was working on. And I had extra time and materials. And people started – my friends started taking them off my wrist and they, “I want one of these.” I was like, “All right.” And finally realized that this was a viable product when I – my boyfriend, he wanted to wear them too, on his wrist. And I needed a hair tie and I was like, “Hey, can I use that for my hair right now?”
And then he kept telling me, “You should really sell these. You should sell these.” I’m like, “Oh, thanks. That’s so nice of you.” But I eventually realized that I could. It took me a little while, but so from there – so that’s been my bigger revenue generator. The other one has actually been consulting with designers because it’s almost like you don’t really realize how much you know and that you really are this expert until you begin sharing your knowledge with other people who – they’re in, I guess where I was four or five years ago. So that’s been really fun. I’m actually working right now, most closely, with a swimwear line to help them with all of their R&D.
John: Now, what I really want Fire Nation to be taking away from this, I’m gonna use a little NFL lingo here because it is during the NFL season, go Patriots. If you’re not in the game, Fire Nation, you can’t score a touchdown. I’m gonna say that one more time. If you’re not in the game you can’t score a touchdown. Now, guess what? Joanna, she got in the game. She said, “You know, this is a saturated market. Everybody’s telling me that everybody and their mother are doing swimwear, but I’m gonna do it anyways.” And she did it and it’s not like it took off out of the park, but from that came another idea. And then from that idea she niched down again. And then from that niche, now guess what?
All of a sudden she’s an authority figure in this pretty crazy niche that she almost developed herself and now she’s a consultant. And now she’s in R&D and doing these cool things. And now she’s a trailblazer. But none of this would have happened if Joanna hadn’t gotten in the game, Fire Nation. So just remember that. I mean, it’s all about being in the game. And Joanna, you weren’t always hitting things out of the park. I mean, none of us were. I mean, that’s the journey of an entrepreneur.
So take us to your worst moment. Bring it down to the ground level. I want to be there with you, whether it be in Maine selling salads, or here in San Diego hocking bikinis. What was the worst moment you’ve ever experienced? Take us to that moment and tell us that entire story.
Joanna: I’m happy to and this is something I have probably only shared with a handful of people. So I’m gonna share this with you and the thousands of people that’ll be listening right now.
John: Right. Fire Nation.
Joanna: That’s okay. So for me, I moved to L.A. to really dive in head first with the swimwear and I just figured I was going to show up and just go teach myself everything. I was in there with showrooms, with the manufacturers, pattern makers just learning everything and absorbing. It was awesome. Looking back I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything, but it came to a point where I had my savings, I had actually sold out of a startup company so I had some money to put towards the line at the time. And I eventually ran out of money. And my dad had told me before that I should get a job and work on this part time, but I insisted that this is what I needed to be living and breathing.
So I was living in Marina del Rey and in this beautiful apartment, had my beautiful things, and I literally couldn’t pay rent. So I had to sell my car. And that gave me enough money to pay the rest of my rent and move out and move in with a friend for a while actually, just because I – man, looking back I just can’t even believe that I went through that. And that was only a couple of years ago. So if I look back at the lessons learned there, I’m not really sure that anyone still could have convinced me to get a job and not work on the swimwear full time. But if I could have done it differently I think I would have probably hired somebody to help me to really cut out the cost and the time that went into it on my end.
John: Joanna I wanna talk about this for a second because that was what you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment. And Fire Nation, I want you guys to listen to this and actually think about the words that Joanna just said because she had to sell her car. She had to move in with a friend. Listen, none of those things I would wish upon anybody for sure, but guess what? She was still here in California living, she was living with a friend, I mean it wasn’t like life was great and things weren’t working out well, but it wasn’t like it was the end of the world. And that’s one thing that we just put in our own heads that stops you from ever starting.
See Joanna started, she failed, she ran out of money, she did what she had to do to survive and to keep going and to give herself another bat. She did that. But so many people never even get to that point of where Joanna is because they think that something so much worse is gonna happen when you do run out of money or when your business does fail. We just picture this bridge at night when it’s pouring out and there’s a garbage can that’s on fire and we’re roasting rats or something. That’s what we think we’re gonna – no, Joanna moved in with a friend and it wasn’t ideal, but she did it and she made it through and now she’s here in San Diego on another adventure.
I mean, Fire Nation, it’s scary, you might fail, but believe me, whatever visions you have of what that failure is, is worse than the reality. It absolutely is worse than the reality. So Joanna, that’s my takeaway. What do you wanna make sure, in just one sentence, that Fire Nation gets from your story?
Joanna: And I have to say that was very well put.
John: What, the roasting of the rat part?
Joanna: I love that. You’re absolutely right that you’re never mentally prepared for these things. But hindsight’s 20/20, if I were to go back and they said – someone told me, “By the way, you’re gonna run out of money, you’re gonna have to move out of your apartment, sell your things.” I mean, I sold my car but I also sold all my furniture and everything and moved into this tiny little room. “But in the end it’s gonna be okay.” Then that would be okay with me. I probably would have enjoyed the process a heck of a lot more.
John: Yeah, there’s a reason why Jay-Z says it’s a hard knock life.
Joanna: It was a hard knock life for a little while. But enjoy the process, absolutely, and know that it always – it will get better with persistence and perseverance and it’s not that bad.
John: I love that you say enjoy the process. I mean, that’s such a great phrase. Fire Nation, enjoy the process. And one thing that I’ve done now for over 1,000 episodes, Joanna, is my $500.00 question about how if you had to start all over again essentially, and it’s strange how many of my guests kind of say, “Man, John, that question,” and this is after the interview is done, they say, “That question, man, gotta be honest, that kind of sounded appealing. I like the thought of going back to square one and just starting with nothing.”
That’s kind of what it is to be a human. I mean, we just take it and we do something, we create something from nothing. And so enjoy that process Fire Nation. Now, Joanna, move us into your aha moment, your epiphany. You’ve had a ton of these; we’ve already heard a couple of them today. But what’s one that you know is gonna resonate with our listeners? Take us to that moment, tell us that story.
Joanna: Well, I know I touched on this a few minutes ago, but my biggest aha moment that I’ve experienced was when people started finding me on my website and asking me to be their consultant when I wasn’t even really putting that out there at the time. So that, to me, I mean it made me realize just how much value and knowledge I had to share and also having gone through – when I had moved to L.A. and taking on some great advice, but also some really bad advice, spending tons of time and money that I could actually cut all of that out, or a lot of that out, for these people and really provide this immense value.
It’s just been a total shift for me and I’m actually vamping up my business more to do more consulting to help more designers because I’m just loving it. And I’m still, I think, every day wrapping my head around the fact that I am an expert in that.
John: And Fire Nation, it’s all because she put herself in the game where she could potentially score that touchdown. You can’t score a TD unless you’re in that game. And Joanna, I resonate with that. I mean, when people started coming to me, six, 12 months after I launched my podcast and they were saying, “John, can you give me some podcast advice? How do you launch a podcast? How do you grow your audience?” And I was just like, “Whoa.” I barely know how to podcast myself, like I am stitching things together day by day, but they’re coming to me for advice.
I was like, “Oh, well, I may not know much at this point, but I know more than the person that is coming to me so to them I am a subject matter expert.” And that is a reality Fire Nation. And that led to the launch of Podcaster’s Paradise, which we’re coming up on two years and over $3.5 million in revenue. So don’t look away from those signs when they rear their beautiful heads. Joanna what’s your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Joanna: My biggest weakness is probably my patience. I want it to happen, I want it now, you know? So when I’m spending hours working on something on my website and things just don’t come together the way that I hoped that they will, and that they very rarely do, that’s something I need to take my own words of advice and just enjoy the process.
John: Joanna, there’s a reason they say patience is a virtue.
Joanna: Yes, and sometimes I have said patience is a virtue that I don’t have, but I’m getting more of. So that is something that I am working on.
John: Joanna, what’s your biggest strength?
Joanna: Probably my persistence. If I look at the ups and downs, the downs, the downs. I’ve gone through so much in just a short amount of time and it seems like anything that could have gone wrong has, but I’ve overcome it and I haven’t given up and it’s paying off. So that’s been wonderful.
John: I mean, Fire Nation, sometimes our entrepreneurial journey is gonna sound like that song, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, and perseverance and persistence critical. Now Joanna, what is the one thing that you are most fired up about today?
Joanna: My consulting. That’s the stuff that I’m working on. I’m actually on a workation right now in Palm Springs, or Palm Desert rather.
John: Ooh, what’s the temperature like out there now?
Joanna: Probably 90 I wanna say today. But you know what? It hasn’t really been very sunny and that’s okay with us. We’re just cranking out work, yeah.
John: It’s dry heat. It’s not as bad as the mugginess.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. So I came out here with a list of everything that I wanted to accomplish as far as – mainly focusing on the Kini Bands and the consulting. So pretty fired up on getting things knocked off my list right now.
John: Yeah, San Diego can get distracting sometimes. Ain’t gonna lie.
John: So Fire Nation, speaking of distracting, we’re about to enter the lightening round. But before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors. Joanna, are you prepared for the lightening round?
Joanna: Yes, I was born ready.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Joanna: For me is was clarity and not really understanding that I could become a designer. So I kind of think about the series of events as being all these loops and turns and ups and downs and a roller coaster. Whereas if I had known from the start, then I probably – I mean, I would have had a completely different story.
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Joanna: Build a list. That the money’s in the list.
John: Money’s in the list, Fire Nation. Now Joanna, you have some bad habits, we all do, but what’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Joanna: One of mine is I’m naturally a networker and a connecter so I can talk to anyone and say, “Oh, I should introduce you to this person. You should look up that, look up this. You need to meet this person.” And I think that just serves me well as far as maintaining my network and it builds great karma, too.
John: Do you have an internet resource like Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
Joanna: Yes, Streak for Gmail. It’s an app. Have you used that at all?
John: No, explain how you use it and why.
Joanna: It actually allows your Gmail account to work like a CRM and it’s incredible. I can send out small little email blasts and everything. So that’s how I actually started everything with Kini Bands with connecting with my buyers. And I would follow up for anybody that hadn’t responded and you can tag them and schedule out your emails. It’s pretty incredible.
John: Awesome. Streak. And if you could recommend one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Joanna: I heard Freedom Journal is a great one.
John: That’s why I had you on the show. Now I remember. No, just kidding.
Joanna: Words that Sell.
John: Words that Sell, awesome.
Joanna: It’s not really a – I mean, it’s a book if you hold it in your hand, but it just helps so much with if you’re doing your own copyrighting, just to really get your brain going as far as using more exciting words and really getting under people’s skin, if you will.
John: Yeah, well, if hey, the money’s in the list, you need to know what to put in those emails to send to that list Fire Nation. Words that Sell. And I know you love audio so I’ve teamed up with Audiobooks and if you haven’t already you can get an amazing audiobook for free at eofirebook.com. Joanna, this is the last question of the lightening round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Joanna: You know, when I first – I was picturing myself in a bikini on an island somewhere, but I guess that doesn’t need to be that extreme.
John: Hey, it’s your world.
Joanna: I would focus on writing my book because that is something that – right now it’s just an outline and it hasn’t been given the attention that it needs, but yeah, I would get my book written and get on Amazon and just work on building up a new platform.
John: Know your 80/20, Fire Nation. Joanna knows hers. So let’s end on fire by you sharing a parting piece of guidance, the best way we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Joanna: To take imperfect action. That’s something that I have – in my consulting I’ve heard from a lot of emerging and aspiring designers is, or just business owners in general, is that there isn’t enough time or enough money and they’re waiting for this or waiting for that and there’s never going to be enough time or money. And you may not ever be mentally prepared for the pitfalls, but just do it. Do something and get your intention out there.
If I look at how I started alone, getting my first round of bikinis out was because I had told another designer that I wanted to do this and he knew that that was a dream of mine. So he said, “Well, hey, if you can just get a couple bikinis out for this event, then I’ll launch you that day.” And it’s been my life every day ever since. So don’t be scared to share your ideas and your passions and just get it out there. Your website doesn’t have to be perfect, all those things.
John: I love that Reid Hoffman quote, the founder of LinkedIn, “If you’re not embarrassed, embarrassed, by the shipment of your first product, you waited way to long.” Joanna, how can Fire Nation find you?
Joanna: I love that. So I am on joannakinsman.com. Also my swimwear is kinsmanswim.com and Kini Bands are kinibands.com. It’s K-I-N-I.
John: Kinibands.com and Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with JK and JLD today. So keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com, just type in Joanna in the search bar. Her [inaudible] page will pop right up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. Kini Bands, her book, recommended resource and all of the above. Joanna, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Joanna: Thank you.
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