We spoke with Melanie Travis, founder of Andie, a swimwear company that makes quality pieces at affordable prices. She shared her vision for Andie, the ways the company has grown organically, and certain challenges she has faced as a female entrepreneur.
What did you study in college? How did your academic background influence your career pursuits?
I completed my undergraduate degree at Haverford College where I majored in comparative literature. Although I did not plan on becoming an entrepreneur in college, having a rigorous and broad liberal arts education made me a smart thinker and a good learner. This has been the most valuable skill for me as I build my career.
When did you develop the idea for Andie?
I always knew I wanted to start my own business, I just needed the right idea. After college, I began working at startups, including Kickstarter and Foursquare, where I was exposed to the logistics behind starting a company, such as learning how people are hired and how money is raised.
The idea for Andie came to me in the summer while I was on a work retreat. I couldn’t find a swimsuit that I liked – I struggled to find something easy to wear and to shop for. When I spoke with my colleagues, I realized that they were also all struggling to find a good swimsuit at a good price point. Everyone was facing similar issues in the swimsuit category, so I began putting one foot in front of the other, and eventually built out the brand as it is today.
Tell us a bit about the brand and the team.
Andie is a swimwear brand for women that offers classic swimwear staples. It’s easy to shop for, easy to wear, and easy to look good and feel good in. We offer 11 different styles that are timeless.
We are a small group of women in the Garment District in NY. We understand the struggles faced by women because we are all women. Our products are a high-end blend of nylon and spandex, sold at an accessible price point, and we are working to build a brand that women can really trust.
How did you grow the Andie team?
With a lot of time and patience! We made missteps along the way, but we kept growing. In the beginning, it was me and my cousin-in-law, the two of us working unpaid. After we raised our first round of capital and had the money to hire some people, we looked at the biggest areas where we were struggling, and where there was an opportunity to improve, and we began to hire people to fill those gaps. Now, we have people working in digital products, finance and operations, marketing, logistics, and customer support. Today, I think we have the best team in the world!
Did you face any challenges trying to get Andie off the ground?
Everything was a challenge— finding the right people who are good at what they do, who are creative and motivated, and trying to grow the brand when there is very little money to spend is very challenging. I always had high expectations for the brand, which have been met, but it was definitely challenging to learn about the fashion industry as I had no background in fashion prior to starting the company. I needed to raise money to hire designers and graphic designers and I had to find manufacturers. Every piece of the process was very challenging but it meant I was on the right track.
It has also been challenging to raise money for a brand for women, by women. Many investors do not believe it can be big enough, that it can be disruptive enough, that it can be a category leader. It’s ironic because men don’t think a women’s swimwear brand can be big, yet swimwear is twice as big as the mens’ grooming market.
How did you combat these challenges faced in the workplace as a woman?
It’s important to be confident, to be smarter and more creative than anyone else. Know your numbers, make sure you truly understand your business and what investors are looking for. You need to understand the business side of your product and company.
What are some of the most rewarding and exciting moments you’ve experienced at Andie?
Receiving positive customer feedback has always been the most rewarding thing. Hearing women tell us how they now feel confident at the beach or the pool thanks to Andie is incredible. Another rewarding aspect was when we successfully went through our first round of funding; it was such an incredible feeling to know that people believed in us.
Tell us about the podcast you launched with Andie.
We launched our podcast, Just Keep Swimming, in May 2019. Just Keep Swimming features interviews with female entrepreneurs on their process of building out a company. We wanted to show that Andie is about more than just swimsuits; we are a community of women discussing themes of entrepreneurship and female founders. We also launched our podcast because we wanted to make sure we were staying top of mind for women every day, discussing themes our customers enjoy. We knew we wanted to do some original content and, as a team, we all happened to enjoy podcasts, so we thought it would be a fun and unique way of getting our brand out there.
What are some next steps for Andie?
We are really focused on swimwear and serving the best products to as many women as possible. What’s exciting to me is the opportunity to build a generation-defining swimwear brand, with the hope that no matter who you are, you can come to Andie and find what you’re looking for. This is the vision, but we have barely scratched the surface.
What does it mean for you to be powerful and confident?
Being powerful means being humble. It means listening to the people around you. I think the more I’ve become a leader, the more I’ve realized that my role is to listen and guide but not to speak on a pedestal from above – that to me is real power and real confidence. When I first started Andie, I was nervous to be a leader (we all have imposter syndrome sometimes!), but when I finally shed that fear and fully accepted and embraced the role of being a leader, I was able to successfully guide others.