Don’t like the way swimwear fits you…
Catherine Zhao started designing her own! The Florida native went from full-time student to creating her own pop-up shop, patterns, and outlines in her collection of swimwear. With amazing quaintly, reversible suits, and handmade content–Cat’s Kinis has something for every beach gal!
1) Meet Catherine Zhao…
Hello everyone! I’m Cat Zhao and are 21 years old. I studied marketing and management at the University of Miami—Class of 2018. I’ve lived in South Florida since I was 2, so, I’ve always loved going to the beach and being in the water. A lot of other bikinis I owned weren’t made with quality fabrics, didn’t fit exactly how I wanted them to, or didn’t retain their shape/color– which was frustrating!
2) When did you start Cat’s kins and why?
I started scuba diving my sophomore year so I was buying a lot of bikinis. There was always something about the bikinis that I wished I could change. My junior year at UM, I decided to start building Cat’s Kinis. So, I could make bikinis and one pieces exactly how I envisioned them!
It took about 8 months to create the designs, source the fabrics, find a manufacturer who could hand-sew every piece of initial inventory, design a logo, get the website up, order materials, and build the social media pages—while simultaneously keeping up with schoolwork and internships!
3) What is the overall mission / message your swimwear brands sends?
The overall mission is to make women feel confident in a high quality bikini that’s designed to flatter different body types, while also vouching for fair labor and sustainable practices.
4) What are the UPSCALE sides of creating your own swimwear line?
My favorite thing about creating my own company is the ability to decide exactly how I want to position the company! For example, from the logo design to the way the bikinis are manufactured! They are all handmade, ethically sourced fabrics, and fair labor. One of the biggest things for me was the fabric itself, since a lot of other bikinis I owned didn’t meet expectations.
Building my own bikini line allowed me to travel all around South Florida to find the exact blend, texture, and stretch of fabric that would allow me to bring my designs to life! It’s also really exciting to network with other entrepreneurs in the community. For example, I offered a free pop-up space on Sunset Drive during Art Basel week. This was from a relationship I had made with a commercial property owner.
5) What are the DOWNSCALE sides of creating your own line/company?
I love having control over every aspect, but I should have paid more attention to areas related to finances. I launched Cat’s Kinis right before going abroad to Barcelona. I ended up spending almost everything made on traveling without even realizing because I’d never opened a separate account or really kept track of profit and lost. Also, being abroad didn’t allow me to be as hands on as I wanted to be during the first six months of launch. For example, I wasn’t able to plan a pop-up on campus because I wasn’t physically able to be there.
6) What advice would you give others who want to start a line/company on their own?
I would do a personal evaluation of strengths/weaknesses in terms of business!
This will help pinpoint where outside help could be beneficial. For example, I would’ve gotten help with accounting! I’d also say that while it seems nice to take on everything yourself, having complete control but it really helps to work within a team and bounce off each other’s ideas.
7) Anything else you would like to tell us about Catskins!
Building my own company was definitely the best growth experience I had in college between my other jobs and internships.
I was able to apply concepts I’d learned in class to “real life” situations, and it taught me to become more responsible with time and money management.
Shop Cat’s Kinis: https://catskinis.com
Follow Cat’s Kinis: https://www.instagram.com/catskinis/
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