Moana Bikini is an Australian owned and based swimwear brand founded by Gold Coast girl, Karina Irby, that celebrates female empowerment. Known for its bold prints and reversible designs, Moana has created a following of loyal customers who share the belief that every body is a ‘bikini body’. Following on from the success of Moana Bikini, we’re excited to share that Karina has recently launched Moana Smile Club — a vibrant activewear brand. In recognition of International Women’s Day, we caught up with Karina to ask about her new brand, and chat about her experience as a female eCommerce entrepreneur.
Why did you start Moana Smile Club?
Here at Moana we are ALWAYS listening to our customers so, so carefully. We have a variety of private Groups, Chats, and Forums where we can engage directly, and it provides us with such valuable feedback and guidance.
For a number of years, our audience has been requesting an activewear brand from us that communicates the same values and produces the same quality as Moana Bikini.
So, throughout the entire COVID period, we committed to designing and producing activewear with a strong commitment to quality and durability, as well as vivid, vibrant and exclusive prints.
Personally – aside from the desires of our audience – I just wanted to launch something that didn’t take itself too seriously.
There are so many brands out there that look and feel like they’re ignoring the FUN part of being active and the JOY that can be found in being part of an active community. That’s our goal… to get everyone moving and SMILING.
What are you most proud of at Moana?
I’m so proud of our small but passionate Team Moana finally launching this brand after years in development! Running one brand and launching another, throughout COVID with limited resources definitely wasn’t easy… But we are all so in love with our brands, products and audience, and I really feel like the hard work has paid off with how beautiful our site looks and how incredible our product looks and performs.
How do you empower your customers?
We empower our Customers and Audience by involving them directly in the brand. We give them the opportunity to provide guidance and feedback on current and future products and the direction we take. Not only that, but for our Campaign and Studio Shoots, we actively select girls from our local customer community to get involved and experience what it’s like to be a model for our new brand. This can be seen in the Athletics Track content from the Moana Smile Club Launch — at least 50% of the talent in this Campaign were Customers! The Moana Smile Club literally was born because of customer suggestions and feedback… so our Customers should really feel like this is their brand.
We love the diversity of your models. Tell us more about this!
Related to the above point, we just want all of our audience to feel seen. Our motto has always been that everybody has a bikini body… and the same can be said with our Moana Smile Club activewear. No matter your size or shape, you should be able to feel comfortable and confident wearing your choice of swimwear or activewear. That’s why we select models and talent who are reflective of the real variety, diversity and beauty of the female form.
How do you create an inclusive and fun work culture?
Even though our Social Media might tell you otherwise, we definitely work very hard at Moana HQ! 😉 I think the best way that we have kept things fun and inclusive is just to be sure that we’re hiring people who ‘get it’. That is, people who understand, believe and live our values of inclusivity, respect, humility and not taking yourself too seriously.
There are so, so many talented, skilled individuals out there that could easily perform brilliantly at any number of our roles at Moana… But if they don’t connect with these values then it’s going to unbalance the work environment. We spend a lot of time, when hiring, ensuring that we’re selecting on the basis of organisational / cultural fit… just as much ( if not more than), skillset.
What’s your advice to other women who want to be their own girl boss?
Do it! I have always had the same advice for women – or anyone – looking to start a business.
Firstly, do it for yourself. Don’t do it for profits. Don’t do it for the image. Don’t do it because someone told you to. Don’t do it just because you don’t like working for someone else. There are going to be incredibly long hours, soul-destroying hurdles and long periods of time before, or during which, you might not turn a profit. If you aren’t personally and internally motivated, then you won’t make it through these struggles. Find a problem that you,,personally, want to solve, or a gap in the market that you, personally, have experienced… and go and solve it, for you!
Secondly, know your customer. If you don’t truly know your customer, then you can’t effectively market to them and, in turn, you’ll have trouble selling to them, or anyone. Thankfully, in 2023, this has never been easier — with real time metrics across all online eCommerce and marketing platforms, if you don’t know your customer and how their product, marketing or media consumption works, then you’re not doing your job properly.
Thirdly, have fun. Isn’t that why you wanted to be your own boss in the first place!? Enjoy it and make it your own, and it’s true, you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life.
What challenges have you faced as a female business owner, and how have you overcome them?
I would think that all of us business owners struggle against quite similar things! For me… it’s been a whole variety of challenges: unsupportive friends, work / life balance (hot tip, I don’t think there is such a thing), self-funding, managing staff, society’s expectations / norms of you as a ‘woman’ and your stages of life. If anything, running a business has taught me far more valuable lessons through these challenges. They’ve definitely been more than worthwhile!
Who is your female role model?
As a self-confessed and unashamed Reality TV fan, I have to say that I definitely look up to serial restaurateur and Reality TV mogul, Lisa Vanderpump.I just love the way she balances her incredibly successful businesses, with managing a huge and diverse Team, all while looking fabulous!
We’ve worked with Moana Bikini for a number of years at Andzen and are so excited to have been involved in the launch of Moana Smile Club.
Thanks for being part of our International Women’s Day series!