This week we chat with Tara Jane, the owner of the swimwear boutique TJ Swim. Tara started the business with $10,000 she had saved for an overseas holiday, answering emails and packing orders from her parents’ laundry. In the three years since then TJ Swim has grown to such an extent that they have moved into a spacious warehouse to keep up with worldwide demand for Tara’s bikinis and swimsuits.
ISB: Why did you decide to start a business rather than go on a holiday as you originally planned to do with money you had saved?
TJ: I found myself struggling to find a good quality, brazilian cut bikini that would last longer than a season so I decided to launch my own label. I invested the $10,000 that i had originally saved for an overseas holiday into starting TJ Swim. I still had the travel bug so I decided to travel later on once I got the business to a point where it was able to run itself.
ISB: Tell us briefly about the early days of the business, I understand you had to keep working elsewhere as well in the start-up phase to make ends meet.
TJ: I launched TJ Swim in December 2015 when I was 21 and for the first two years I was running the business out of my parents’ laundry. In the early days I was working part-time in the fashion industry and studying full time at uni.
ISB: Funding aside, what was the biggest challenge you faced on your journey from being a student to an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
TJ: We were invited to showcase our SS19 collection at Miami Swim Week 2018 whilst I was in my final semester of uni and preparing for final exams. At this point I had to make the decision whether or not I should focus on uni and dedicate all of my time to studying for my finals or if I should accept the invitation to Swim Week.
I was almost going to decline the invitation to focus on uni, however, I ended up making the last-minute decision to participate in Swim Week as I felt that it was such an incredible opportunity that couldn’t be missed! In the end I was able to undertake both my finals and participate in Swim Week which has been my biggest challenge so far!
ISB: What is the secret to TJ Swim doing so well in the US when so many Aussie start-ups struggle to get a footprint over there?
TJ: We’re really lucky that TJ Swim has been popular in the US since launch. This is probably because Australia is known for its beach culture and Americans love Aussie swimwear brands. We also feel that TJ Swim has been so successful in the US because we’ve worked with a lot of US social media influencers. The majority of our social media followers are from the US and we’re always engaging with them on Instagram.
ISB: Where do you see TJ Swim five years from now?
TJ: In five years’ time we’re hoping to have grown the TJ Swim team and brand within Australia and to have opened up a warehouse in the US and the UK. The end goal is to be an internationally renowned swimwear label that caters to all body types.
ISB: Finally, what was the best piece of advice you have received you could pass on to others with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?
TJ: My advice would be to make sure your product or service is something that you’re passionate about. You can basically sell anything online these days however the difference between being successful and not succeeding will be how much you believe in your product. There’s no reason why you can’t succeed if you’re passionate.