Carly Brown’s incredible business stats read like an overnight success story.
The former Senior Marketing Manager at Uber launched her self-funded “Sexie Rashie” swimwear line, UNE PIECE, four months ago and instantly created a highly coveted product. Over 500 women joined the waitlist to be the first to get their hands on one. When the website launched, the highly desirable one pieces sold out within a week.
Boom. That’s how you launch a brand.
The inspiration behind UNE PIECE started early. Carly grew up on the Sunshine Coast with a father who is an avid surfer, and spent many summers on the beach. A seven-year stint in London in her twenties helped solidify Carly’s love of the beach.
“Summer holidays in Europe are another level of planning and focus for women,” says Carly. “Women have a repertoire of swimwear that they take away with them, and this almost always includes a one-piece. I quickly became captivated by the elegance and simplicity of a one-piece compared to the Aussie obsession with bikinis.”
Given UNE PIECE’s success, it’s hard to believe the brand is such a new start-up. It was only a little over a year ago that Carly’s husband kicked things off by asking Carly what she would do if she could do anything, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. Early on, Carly was advised not to make a wide size range as it could hurt her cost wise and from a ‘brand positioning’ point of view. Blown away at the suggestion, she promptly ignored it and went on to create a size range wider than most start-ups. Double boom. We spoke to the Business Chicks Premium member about how she created the sell-out demand for UNE PIECE and what’s next for the brand.
What were the first steps you took in setting up UNE PIECE?
We registered the URL! Sounds silly but this little step was what propelled the rest to follow. My husband and I also had a fun brainstorm with a bottle of white wine by the water. The next step was working on designs and researching what women really wanted.
How did you gain the 500-odd women on the waitlist to buy UNE PIECE before they officially went on sale?
When I was developing the UNE PIECE range, I did extensive consumer research with lots and lots of women. As I was researching, people kept asking me when they could buy it. So I started a waitlist… When it hit 30 people I put it online so that it was automated. The more people that heard about it, the more that signed up. So that when we hit live on the online store there was a bit of a frenzy to buy as people had been waiting for it!
What were your marketing strategies in launching the brand?
I followed the same approach I would if I was marketing a big brand (like previous brands I’ve managed – Revlon, Coca-Cola, Uber, Domino’s). I started with a clear brand vision and identity. I researched my target consumer and then validated the product (over and over) again with the target. I then ensured we had a super strong strategy for launch with as many elements of the marketing mix that we could afford. Being a start up – this meant that a lot of this sat within digital, social and also having a clear brand message that would resonate with consumers and the press.
I also didn’t compromise on product quality. I was urged by many people to reduce the quality of the fabric and the complexity of the design – but I just knew I wanted the consumer to get something truly special that I hadn’t compromised on.
Interestingly, I was also urged not to make a wide size range – from a cost and a ‘brand positioning’ point of view. The cost bit I understood but the suggestion that extending to larger sizes could be damaging to my brand really upset me. Why should women who aren’t a size 8 or 10 not be able to get my product just because they didn’t fit the usual size range? So we landed on a size 6-16 size range, which is wider than most start-up brands.
What elements do you contribute to your brand’s success?
I believe that the product delivers to what a lot of women want when they go to the beach – something that makes them feel confident and empowered (and therefore beautiful). The product has been carefully crafted and tested with many women. I have been through over 11 rounds of samples to get us to the product it is today. I didn’t rest until I was sure women would love it.
Second to the product is the brand. I have a real passion for working with women. Both the consumer and also within an organisation. I was determined when I started UNE PIECE to create something that did good in this world. First of all by making women feel beautiful with the products that we created. But also to start to challenge the norms that exist in this industry about body image and visual aesthetic.
How do you think you were able to get the edge over competitors?
I think we offered something unique to the market – a new category of swimwear (with the Original Sexie Rashie) but also a new brand positioning/ attitude – UNE PIECE is a chic, sophisticated and aspirational brand with a beautiful aesthetic. But it is also inclusive and celebrates women; this is not a marketing tactic – this is the reason I launched the brand. I want women to feel good. I’m passionate about being a force for good in an industry that can sometimes prey on women’s insecurities to drive sales. I want to flip that and help empower women by creating iconic and beautiful pieces that they feel amazing in.
We have just recently launched #unepiecewomen campaign, which celebrates amazing women from around the world and seeks to encourage diversity of beauty and body image in an industry which is known to do the opposite. We have had an amazing reaction to the campaign to date, and this is just the beginning!
Has the success of UNE PIECE blown you away?
I’m absolutely thrilled at the reception UNE PIECE has had by women in Australia and all around the world. It truly is a dream come true.
Are you able to keep up with the demand now?
When launching a start-up, there are so many things you have to forecast for without necessarily having experience in a particular market – demand is one of them. I’ve worked with many big brands for a long time now – but for our first season, I didn’t have any benchmarks. We are hoping this year that we get our volumes a lot closer to the demand that is there!
What were the main factors that were important to you?
Number one is design and fit – I have literally researched and researched this and done over 11 samples to get the final fit. High quality and sun safe fabric are next – SPF50+ is a no brainer for me; it’s more expensive, but it’s so important, especially in Australia. Finally, both the packaging and delivery to consumers are very, very important to us.
What has been the most challenging experience you have faced in your career so far?
I would say navigating the complex world of manufacturing – this has been a minefield. I’ve launched many products and even brands in my career – but doing things at speed we did and in a whole new industry was an eye-opener. It has taught me the true value of amazing supplier partners. It can make or break your business in lots of ways.
What’s next for you and UNE PIECE?
[I’m] enjoying mum-life and learning all that comes with that. I can’t wait to be involved in all the fun things my amazing Mum did with me I’m really looking forward to teaching my baby boy to swim and surf on the Sunshine Coast.
From an UNE PIECE perspective. There is SO much to come in 2017. We have a super exciting pipeline coming. We also have our launch into Europe. This is very exciting for me as this is where a big part of my heart lies having lived in London for so long in my twenties. I’m also so excited about our Australian 2017/18 Summer campaign which is being shot at a very very exciting location this year!
Connect with Carly here.