In an effort to shine a spotlight on some of the brilliant and hard-working entrepreneurs in our region, the Reno Tahoe Young Professionals Network proudly shares the inaugural edition of our blog series highlighting locally owned businesses.
Ali Conway started her business, Strange Bikinis in Reno Nevada after realizing a severe dichotomy in swimwear: quality or great design. Then she realized she didn’t have to choose – she began making suits for her friends and family who brandished them with confidence and pride. Thus, the Strange Bikinis journey began.
- Tell us about your business? Strange Bikinis is a women’s designer swimwear label that was created with the intention of inclusivity for all body types. We have grown over the years and are now a leading swimwear label in sustainable practices. We are the first to have biodegradable fabrics. Beyond the fact that we are apparel manufacturing, we are a brand that strives to build community. We host several events a year and encourage outdoor lifestyle and adventure!
- What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? I never thought I would be an entrepreneur. I always envisioned myself being a designer at ___________ fill in the blank company. I moved to Reno and didn’t see another option for me – I had my AA in design and wasn’t going to work for someone else in a field I wasn’t passionate about. I felt this was the only option and also a huge opportunity within my field.
- How did you get your idea for the business? Stick to what you’re good at – I was good at making my own swimsuits so I just started making them for anyone who would wear one.
- What are some hurdles you have faced along the way? There are many hurdles. Many, many hurdles. Cash flow is a typical hurdle that many or even all businesses face. It’s hard to manage that and keep growing I frequently have setbacks in production. I mean, seriously major issues and bad things happen but I just keep going. Applying for loans was a big roadblock when I decided to scale… I did everything to grow – except apply for money to pay for all the growth that was happening. I got lucky and figured that out too.
- If you could go back, what advice would you give yourself before starting your business? I would say go to production right away. I waited 4 years to manufacture it with a factory. The year I did my business grew 300% and has grown each year since.
- To what do you attribute your success? Honestly, myself. I work hard. I grind, I put in a lot of work. I worked 1-2 other jobs for the first 5 years of SB. I sacrifice my health and my family time to make sure my work gets done. Thankfully I was a workhorse like this in my 20’s and now that I have put many things in motion – I am able to step away a little.
- What is your favorite thing about Reno and the local community? Reno is such a supportive community for small business. Everyone here is down to try new things and tell their friend as well. It’s easy to start a business here. I love how small it is at times – word of mouth is how I grew so fast locally. But it’s still big enough that I know there’s potential customers out there that haven’t heard of SB yet.
- Tell us about your event on March 21st, 2020? The Big Dip is an annual polar plunge charity event I started in 2018. It’s a perfect way to get together during the colder months and do something rad for the community. It brings together our followers and customers and even real strangers for a fun day of plunging!
You can register on eventbrite. Our charity this year is Walker Basin Conservancy dedicated leading the charge on restoring and maintaining Walker Lake and protecting the environment. It’s at Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort at 11 am on March 21st. Men and women welcome, but dogs are not allowed. You don’t have to wear Strange Bikinis.