Gold Coast beauty Karina Irby began her entrepreneurial story seven years ago when she pioneered reversible cheeky cut swimwear company- Moana Bikini .
Seven collections, one fitness program and close to half a million followers later, vivacious and down-to-earth Karina Irby is one of the most influential figures on Gold Coast’s fashion designer scene – not to mention her strong national and global presence within the world of swimwear. Just as determined and dedicated to her mission of sending a body positive message to all women, Karina had a chat with Readcity about her long journey to small business success.
Tell us a little bit about your business Moana Bikini.
“First and foremost, I just love bikinis. I have always lived, travelled to and wanted to be, at the beach. Bikinis are my favourite item of clothing. Throughout my teenage years, I always had a huge interest in cheekier-cut swimwear, and especially those with bold, unique designs. Unfortunately, there weren’t many brands producing the styles I wanted, or my friends wanted, or at least not in Australia at that point in time. I would be endlessly hunting, either online or in retail outlets, trying to find the perfect cut bikini with the perfect pattern.”
Karina is a self confessed fish, having always gotten her kicks from visiting the beach. Photo Credit: Richard Kotch
“It wasn’t until a holiday in Hawaii where I started to see a few more brands heading in the direction I was interested in. One thing led to another and I began wholesaling for a Hawaiian company that attempted to satisfy the growing demand for cheekier cut, eye-catching swimwear. This only lasted for a short period of time as I began to grow confidence in the designs that I had in my head and desired more and more control of the business model. The company I was wholesaling for actually wanted me to become their exclusive Australian distributor, but I felt, more and more, that I wanted total control of the design, marketing and sales process.”
“After many late nights and many trips back and forth to visit manufacturers overseas, I had a product I was happy with, separated myself from my wholesaling relationship and began producing my own cuts, designs and prints under the Moana Bikini label. Fast-forward seven years, and seven ranges, and here I am!”
“My timing couldn’t have been more perfect and, luckily, I rode the Social Media wave – specifically Instagram – as it grew in popularity, and as a marketing tool. [Instagram has helped to] build Moana to a position where our consumer-generated marketing activities almost match our own internal activities. We have a huge, active and really supportive following that push and market the Moana brand for us. It’s really quite amazing. We love our Moana Babes!”
“At this stage, everything I do in my business and public life revolves around making my customers happy. I just want to continue to create products, and a community, that helps to make girls around the world feel comfortable, confident and carefree in their own skin.”
Moana began as a way to create swimwear that I personally, wanted to wear, but wasn’t being manufactured by the major brands in the industry. However since it began, seven years ago, it has become so much more than that; it’s a lifestyle choice for females now and the brand embodies so many positive, empowering values.
“There are so many bikini brands on the market, more every day! But Moana is truly different. We feel that we represent far more than any, single, product category. We create products that allow girls to feel comfortable, confident and carefree in their own skin. Our ‘Moana Babes’, from all around the world, support and empower each other and are part of a global community. By buying a Moana Bikini, they’re not just buying a product, they’re joining our ‘Moana Army’; girls that smile, laugh and live life to the full!
It’s that differentiation between Moana and the rest of the market and that has truly helped Moana reach the position it is in now.”
Moana Bikini’s girl gang
What do you find most rewarding about running your own business?
“Obviously being my own boss and working with people that I choose and providing opportunities for people that I love, are all amazing by-products of running my own business. But in a broader sense, the greatest reward I get from Moana is heavily anchored in making girls happy, comfortable, carefree and confident in their own skin.
That’s the reason I started Moana Bikini and it’s why I continue to design, produce and market our ranges in new and exciting directions. It’s also a huge part of the reason behind starting Bikini Body Burn
. Every single girl deserves to feel happy, comfortable, carefree and confident, just by being themselves. That’s what makes it all worthwhile and that’s what helps me to feel like I am doing something that’s worth doing.”
Karina builds strength on Gold Coast beaches with her Bikini Body Burn program
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
“Moana were truly one of the first companies to really nail the reversible, seamless, 2-bikinis-in-one design – which made us unique from the start, and continues to make us unique. Our print designs never follow trends and each range is created from scratch and from the brains and talent of our small design team. I have always wanted, and will always want, Moana to be a trend-setter, not a follower.”
K hard at work drawing up some new designs
“Moana stands strong and proud in the design choices we make and the knowledge that they’re unique and catering to the individual desires of our army of Moana Babes. It might sound like a cliché, but I am truly inspired by everything around me – my close friends and family and the natural environment – I am very lucky to live in a beautiful beachside location (The Gold Coast in Queensland), which makes finding motivation and inspiration a very easy thing, day-to-day.”
Moana Bikini’s Karina Irby kicks back after building her empire. Photo Credit: Richard Kotch
What is your number one tip for other entrepreneurs entering the world of business?
“I’ve got three tips for budding entrepreneurs and business owners.
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 2017, 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.”
Business is anything but boring for Miss Irby
What do you get up to in your spare time?
“In all honesty, I’ve never been a hugely social person. I’m an only child and I’ve always been very comfortable in my own company and in entertaining myself. I have a small circle of close friends on the Gold Coast, but we don’t live in each other’s pockets as we’re all very busy.
I don’t drink, and because of that, I’ve never had a great time going out to bars, clubs or festivals surrounded by drunk people or people taking drugs and so on.
So, to be honest, I’m really content spending the majority of my time relaxing with my partner, Ryan, and my puppies, Billie and Barnie, either at the beach or at home… taking time to relax and chill outside of Moana and Bikini Body Burn!
I always try to utilise my spare time to provide a great balance to my work/business life – getting out into nature, specifically the beautiful coastline around our home, is really important to me. Sunshine, sand and saltwater are my natural revitalising tools.”
Follow Karina’s journey on Instagram and Snapchat (karina.irby), Bikini Body Burn’s program here and give Moana Bikini’s website a peak as well as their Insta while you’re at it!