This Swimwear Designer is Transforming Her Passion Into Her Career
B+C Studios in COLLABORATION with SamsunG
Jessi Taylor is probably a lot like you. She has a day job that keep her super busy during normal working hours, plus bills to pay and a human need for regular sleep… but she also has dreams to pursue her creative passions outside of the office. With an adapted sleep schedule, a willingness to jump on the ‘ol learning curve, and some hi-tech help via her Galaxy Tab S3, Taylor has successfully built Horizon Swim, a bikini line “for the fun-loving and free-spirited girl who spends her time following her dreams and staying true to her heart.” There’s nothing about that sentence that we don’t absolutely love.
We’ve teamed up with Samsung to learn more about Taylor’s entrepreneurial journey. Keep reading to hear her personal side hustle story.
Brit + Co: What inspired you to start designing swimwear?
Jessi Taylor: I worked in the surf industry with two well-known beachwear brands while attending fashion school at FIDM and did the fashion design program there. When I got out of school in 2007, I started with an idea to create a full surf brand, but I quickly realized that I really loved the manipulation that you can do with swimwear. It’s such a fun thing — you can do so much with the material, and I love mixing and matching prints. I ended up focusing in on swimwear five years ago, and that’s when I started Horizon Swim
B+C: What are your must-have items for entrepreneurial success?
JT: For scheduling, I’m a personal-planner person. For sketching, I use my Galaxy Tab S3. I’m definitely leaning more and more towards the digital side of things. I used to draw everything with pen and markers, and now that I’m starting to work more with the factories, they want everything digital. So I’m constantly using my 2-in-1 tablet.
B+C: Can you talk more about how you use the Tab S3?
JT: I bring my Tab S3 around with me when looking for design inspiration — I take photos with it, even videos sometimes. From there, there’s a feature on it that allows you to sketch over images that you take on the camera. I’ve used that a lot. If I see a cool shirt that has a great detail on the back, I take a photo of that. When I get home, I can use the sketch element and the S-Pen to go over that back detail and actually create the [similar] design that I want to use, and transfer it into the swimwear. The Tab S3 helps with your flaws a little bit. If your line isn’t perfectly straight, it will make it straight for you.
“I always knew that I wanted to have my own company, but I also knew it would be a process.”
B+C: Take us back to the moment that you decided to take the leap and get started on this business, even while you were working a full-time job.
JT: Before my current day job, I worked for a denim company. I was in a fashion studio every day, and I had the fashion bug. I always knew that I wanted to have my own company, but I also knew it would be a long process. The inspiration of being in the fashion industry and continuing to see other people grow their businesses was motivation for me to keep going, even on the days when I wasn’t as excited to do it.
B+C: What challenges did you have as you got your new side hustle off the ground? How did you overcome them?
JT: I definitely came in and out of feeling motivated. With swimwear, in the winter months, it’s somewhat rare that women buy bikinis — unless they’re going on vacation. About three years ago, I decided to take a little break with the company because I could just tell there were things that I needed to refocus my attention on. I took a three-month break from designing and sewing swimwear to restructure and get the backend of the company (SEO, website, marketing) as perfect as it could be. Taking that time off gave me the boost I needed to keep moving forward.
B+C: In your experience, what are the keys to success for starting a business or other creative endeavor?
JT: Having a mentor has helped me a lot. I have a business mentor, who started the denim company that I previously worked for. He’s someone I always looked up to. When challenging moments come up and I start having doubts, I reach out to him. In entrepreneurship, people say that after three years, you either make it or break it. I also take a lot of advice from my Dad, who has owned his own business since 1970. When I hit the three-year mark, mentorship was something I needed and it really helped a ton. I think that even if it’s a friend or family member who has started a business in a different industry, it’s just great to have someone to talk about the actual business side with.
“In entrepreneurship, people say that after three years, you either make it or break it.”
B+C: In a year from now, what would you like Horizon Swim to be?
JT: I would like to be able to show at Miami Swim Week next summer and to be selling Horizon Swim in stores. Right now, everything is only sold through our online store.
B+C: What does a day or week in your life look like? How do you juggle your day job with your swimwear business?
JT: Currently, I work my day job from 9am to 6pm, so I get home around 6:30 or 7pm. At about 8:30 or 9, I dive into my swimwear business. I’ll usually work on it until about midnight — sometimes later, depending on whether I have an order or not. Right now, I’m making about ten swimsuits a week. Usually, Saturdays are dedicated 10-hour days to the swimwear. Sundays are the one day that my husband and I have together.
B+C: What would you say to someone who says they are hesitant to start a side hustle because they don’t have enough hours in the day?
JT: Honestly, it’s true; there are only so many hours in a day. There are definitely days I come to work and feel like a zombie because I was up until 2am the night before. I really think that dedicating the days off from your day job to your side hustle is key — that can be 16-20 hours of time! I’ve certainly given up some simple pleasures too. I don’t get my nails or hair done, and I only go shopping one day a month with a strict budget. I’ve given up certain things so I can put the majority of my money, time, and energy into the company.
“I don’t get my nails done, and I don’t get my hair done. There are certain things I’ve given up on the weekends…”
B+C: How do you stay organized?
JT: I have a dedicated space for my swimwear business at home. This really helps. When I first started out, I did everything all over the apartment. I did my work while watching TV and quickly learned that it’s a terrible distraction. I now only do my work in my office, and if I need a break, I take 15-20 minutes to watch a show or read and then get back to the office. Organization starts with the space and time management. My day job is as an executive assistant, so I’m comfortable with minute-to-minute organization, and I’ve brought that [aspect] into my swimwear business.
B+C: Is there anything about having a side hustle that is different than what you imagined?
JT: The biggest surprise for me was the customer service element. When I first started, I imagined that it would just be me sitting there, making bikinis, putting them in cute little packages, and sending them out. The reality is that packages get lost, packages get torn, girls get a bikini and it’s one size too big. There’s a lot of customer service that goes into my business that I’ve had to gradually learn and create processes and policies for. It’s been a learning curve for me.
B+C: Is there anything else you wish you’d known before you started your business?
JT: When I first started, I listened to too many people, and I decided to go into the business in an old-school way. I sold my car, and I used that money to get samples and patterns made, and I had someone make a website for me. This ended up costing me a ton, and while I had everything to get started, I didn’t have the funds to actually produce the first collection. If I could go back, I would have realized that taking a couple of hours to learn to make patterns for swimsuits on YouTube was a much better idea in the long run than just spending money to have someone else do it. There are things that are great to spend money on, but you shouldn’t have to spend a lot to get things off the ground in the beginning.
B+C: How do you define success for Horizon Swim?
JT: I define success as following through with my dreams, so in my eyes, Horizon Swim is already successful. I would just like to continue building the brand until it is well-known, and I can financially rely on it as my full-time job.
B+C: What pep talk would you give someone who was wants to pursue their dreams and launch a side hustle?
JT: Focusing in on what the dream is first is the most important part. Starting with a broad vision of what the company is going to be in five years is really hard compared to just thinking about what the company is going to be in five months. Get to that first hurdle at the three-to-five-month mark, and figure out what the dream looks like then. Understand what the important parts of your business are. What really matters is what you’re creating.
Author: Alli Hoff Kosik
Production + Styling: Vanessa Beletic
Photography: Kyle Reyes
This post is a collaboration with Samsung
For more tools and inspiration on pursuing your passion during the five-to-nine, visit Brit + Co’s all-new destination, The Art of the Side Hustle.