How do you reach a point where you have over 100k followers on TikTok, your luxury swim brand is featured in the pages of Vogue, Sports Illustrated and Cosmopolitan, and worn by celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Gigi Hadid?
Those attending the ICMS Fashion Start-Up Masterclass held at the ICMS campus on 27 February found out the answers from candid and inspiring American entrepreneur and influencer Sophia Kim.
Sophia is the owner and founder of Siempre Golden, a luxury swimwear brand from California and Sydney. Now based in Sydney, having moved over from the United States, Sophia’s signature style is forthright and charming. In the masterclass, attended by over 100 ICMS students, Sophia shared how she turned her bikini brand dream into a growing and profitable business.
The seed of her luxury bikini brand Siempre Golden were sown while Sophia was in Hawaii and noticed the growing popularity of “cheeky” swimwear (Brazilian style). As a beach lover, she noticed these weren’t being sold extensively in America, and decided to take advantage of the gap in the market.
While still a student, she started designing swimwear and is proof that there can be successful low cost entry into the business world: her logo cost $5 from Fiver.
Impatient to get started with what would become Siempre Golden, Sophia accelerated her studies and graduated a year early, with a BA (Communications and Media Studies) from the University of California (San Diego).
Sophia was only 21 years old when she started Siempre Golden, armed with aspirations and an intense work ethic to make a success of her entrepreneurial dream.
* She worked three jobs so she could live in Los Angeles which is where she believed she needed to be for the swimwear market, to make ends meet and to help her achieve her business goals.
* To solve the problem of actually manufacturing the swimwear she designed, Sophia found her solution to patternmaking and fabric procurement in Bali.
* While in the beginning stages of her own start-up, to build resources Sophia took on roles as diverse as being a model, photographer, campaign manager, funds manager, website designer and editor, sales representative and administration manager. The benefit of this was the different skills and talents she developed along the way in pursuit of her goal of making Siempre Golden her primary focus.
To get Siempre Golden’s brand noticed, Sophia started sending gifts to celebrities, pictures of which they would then sometimes share on Instagram. This helped her get the name out. For example, Gigi Hadid wore one of Sophia’s tops to Coachella, which was all over Instagram.
She cultivated and maintained relationships with celebrities, influencers, models, and celebrities’ stylists, including Gigi Hadid, Shay Mitchell, Chantel Jeffries, Miley Cyrus, and more.
Over time, Sophia developed a wide network within the Hollywood entertainment and fashion industry, and styled models in Siempre Golden for a Drake and PartyNextDoor music video.
She even brought swimsuits to parties and gigs in her handbag and if she met a celebrity or influencer, she would gift them!
Being a young start up entrepreneur had its challenges, Sophia found.
“At first, I felt invisible in the market. I was humbled by rejection from some big players in the market, but I was determined not to let it get me down.”
Another challenge for young entrepreneurs is that there are few contemporaries in the same space.
“One of my biggest challenges was loneliness as I didn’t have many friends who were on the same life path. I had to push myself every day when I doubted myself.”
After a holiday in Greece and meeting a group of fun-loving Australians, Sophia was inspired to move to Sydney in February 2020 with the dual purpose of adopting the Aussie way of life and expanding her brand down under.
Her TikTok account went viral in Australia during the Covid-19 pandemic thanks to her candid observations about Australia and the sharing of her life. On a personal level, this helped her to feel less lonely and to stay connected with the world, but on a professional level – the greater visibility of her brand meant media houses picked up on this and she started to be invited to events and places in Australia.
While initially hesitant to use her own personal TikTok account to promote Siempre Golden, Sophia believes people connect with her, and it is a platform of expression for her as both the founder of Siempre Golden and as an individual.
Expanding her presence in the events industry, Sophia has launched her another new venture called Butterfly Chapter Mixers, with a vision to foster meaningful connections amongst women. The inspiration behind the idea stems from her own personal struggles of feeling isolated in a new city.
With a keen eye for inclusivity, Sophia ensures that everyone feels valued at her events – especially the shy ones. Her mixers are designed to keep attendees entertained and engaged with a variety of activities.
Looking ahead, Sophia is contemplating the possibility of organising mixed gender mixers.
She is even considering pursuing an ICMS Master of Event Management – watch this space!
* Be resilient, you will get rejected along the way
* Be patient, nothing happens as quickly as you might think
* Be so passionate about your idea that you can see yourself working on the business for 5-10+ years
* Be confident enough to give your business idea a go
* Be brave enough to finding a mentor who can give you advice and share connections
* Find your Ikigai – the Japanese philosophy that refers to a person’s reason for being or their purpose in life, the elements of which are the intersection of what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.
The ICMS Masterclass featuring Sophia Kim highlighted what goes on behind the scenes of building brands, from designing and manufacturing through to networking and employing social media for that extra edge.
ICMS Masterclasses feature industry experts and those who have succeeded in their chosen fields. Panellists or featured guests share their experiences, lessons and secrets to success, inspiring students to follow their dreams.
Sophia’s Masterclass was the second Masterclass in a week to focus on Start Ups, and was especially popular with ICMS Bachelor of Business (Entrepreneurship) and Bachelor of Business (Fashion and Global Brand Management) students.
To view footage from ICMS Masterclasses, and other career-focused material featuring industry experts, visit ICMSTV here.
Sophia Kim on TikTok
Sophia Kim on Instagram
Siempre Golden Official Website
Siempre Golden on Instagram
Your Butterfly Chapter on Instagram
Sophia Kim on LinkedIn
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