Kelley: This is a longer story but necessary for me to tell because Manakai Swimwear manifested in the most magical way!
Four years ago I was hired as the General Manager for another swimwear company and learned many skill sets in regards to running a small business. I like to call it my training wheels into the world of business. It turns out I excelled in the swimwear/retail realm; opening up new stores, expanding the online sales, doubling the yearly revenues, finding new production teams in foreign countries, and creating a social media presence. I found myself designing swimwear for the first time in my life. It was rewarding for me to take a small company with one flagship store, operating out of their home, and turn it into a company having three store fronts, a successful online store, and an organized warehouse within a year and a half.
There were several missing key factors during my employment. The branding and exploitation of the female body that is used…not just for that company but also across the board, for the most part, did not resonate with me as a woman. There is a lot more to a female or a young girl than her chest or her backside. After being in the fashion realm, I wanted to dive in deep and learn all the ins and outs, quickly learning that fashion was one of the top pollutants on Earth. It was a tough pill to swallow, but I soon learned about amazing companies turning repurposed plastics into beautiful stretch fabrics. This practice was when I first had the vision of creating something special of my very own.
Soon after I had that vision, the company teamed up with an investor, and I am sure you know what happen to me, I was the first to be laid off. The owner of the company walked around the warehouse singing: “Today is the day! Today is the day," over and over again until she sat me down to let me go. There were lots of emotions that day, but I held my head high and trusted that my path in the swimwear industry was just actually beginning. I said to myself, “Today is the day I trust in myself as a woman,” “Today is the day that I trust myself as a leader,” “Today is the day I become an entrepreneur.” “ TODAY IS THE DAY!”
From the moment I walked out of the meeting after being laid off I was inspired to create my brand that represented integrity on all levels. The very next day I wrote out a list of key components that would outline my company; use recycled fabric, set up production in the USA, support family businesses, ethical and sustainable practices. Create branding that inspires women to be self-assured, empowered and has free will to express themselves while honoring their body, and to bring awareness to ocean conservation. I focused all my energy on building a new path for myself and the Universe provided. All my past life experiences and the will to carve my path inspired me to stand up and work for myself. Six months later I owned my swimwear company called Manakai Swimwear. I know first hand that to build something great you need a Tribe. Anna came to me interested in creating a partnership, and we have been a SOLID TRIBE since day one. We are both passionate about the ocean, women empowerment, and of course creating exotic eco-conscious swimwear.
Anna: The past couple of years in my life were spent traveling the world in a mini-quest of self-exploration and adventure. I always found myself returning to Maui but did not want to go back to the company that I had worked at for nine years. While their vision of ocean conservation and creating awareness aligns with mine, they have lost a bit of the Maui family vibe that I find incredibly precious. While working in Washington state for a wonderful family-run business, the opportunity of creating a partnership with Kelley presented itself. Although it was extremely tough to make that phone call to my boss and tell him that I was leaving early and moving back home (I think it took me about a week to make that call), it was the opportunity that I had subconsciously been waiting for for the past several years. To build a company with the mission of ocean conservation, women empowerment, and to delve into the fashion industry while creating something that others emulate; well, it was just perfect.