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Episode #101

Founder Revlysport

with Jordan robbins

11 Jan, 2023 · Swimming

On today’s special Entrepreneur Series, we are chatting with Jordan Robbins, Founder of Revly Sport. REVLY Sport is a swimwear brand designed for women with active lifestyles.

Transcript

📍 Welcome to our new founder series on the Voice and Sport Podcast. Over the next several weeks, we will be bringing more visibility to incredible women entrepreneurs in the sports industry. In this series, we highlight women athletes who started their own companies in the sport world and beyond. We will share their biggest tips for succeeding in the industry, their founder's story, and just how these amazing women built their c.

We hope this inspires you to build your own company or tap into your potential as a leader and build better products and services for women in sport. If you have any ideas on potential guests for this series, please reach out to us and send us an email with your pitch at info voice and sport.com. In this episode, we are excited to speak with Jordan Robbins, the founder of Reley Sport.

Reley Sport is a swimwear brand designed for women with active lifestyles. The goal of Reley is to take the stress out of swimwear so that women athletes who wear it can confidently live and enjoy their lives. Today, Jordan shares

How and why she started Revelle.

She explains the hurdles she had to overcome and the lessons learned along the way.

We hope you enjoy this new series, elevating Women Founders in the Sports Industry, and here we go. Welcome to the Voice and Sport Podcast, Jordan.

I'm so excited to be here. Thank you for having me. .

Well, this is a new series that we're doing to inspire young women, to start their own companies in the sports industry. So today we're gonna go deep into how you started it, why you started it and the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. So let's start with really understanding the why behind Revly so what is the mission of Revly sport?

Our mission has always been just to take the stress out of swimwear shopping. We're a luxury active swimwear brand, and always felt like there was nothing really out there on the market that could stay in place was super soft, durable, and could just last for years on end. So that was always the mission was just to make women feel confident in swimwear and that they can move around and be active and not have to worry about adjusting their suit all day.

And what is the vision of the brand?

The vision is to inspire women of all ages, to be the best version of themselves, whatever that may look like. And a portion of every sale is donated to Girls Inc which is an organization that has all these pro girl education programs and mentorship programs. And it's just all about inspiring the next generation.

So it's always the vision for our brand is just inspiring people, girls, women of all ages to be the best that they can be, whatever that may look like for them. .

how would you compare yourself to the competitors out there? What would you say is Revly's position?

So the swimwear market itself is so saturated and really daunting to get into, but we really separate ourselves by being a luxury active swimwear brand. So there's hundreds of thousands of brands that are popping up every day. And there's tons of luxury brands and there's tons of active brands, but there is nothing really in between.

And that's kind of like the void that we're filling, where we're using the highest quality products on the market. That the luxury swimmer brands are using, but then we have the designs and the durability of these active brands. So think of like your favorite sports bras that are super supportive and stay in place.

And you can always count on that. You can move around in. And then mixed with like your softest sweatpants. Like that's kind of where we position ourselves. We call it like elevated basics. So these are like timeless designs that will last you for years and you don't always have to be switching out. And they're just so soft.

I keep saying that, but like, people don't understand how soft they are until they touch them and everything is just self line. So it's the same high end material on the inside as on the outside. So that's kind of how we separate ourselves. There really isn't anything like that on the market right now.

So, if you were to get into an elevator with an investor today, and you wanted to pitch your company, what would be your 32nd pitch about why they should invest in Revly?

Because these suits rock . I think I would say that. We're a high end brand and there is a need for this in women's fashion where not everyone wants a super luxury fashion forward trend setting suit, and people don't just want an itchy, active suit that is gonna fall apart after summer, or that the seams are showing or.

It has itchy liner. People are looking for something that is high end, that they can invest in that they can always count on to stay in place and that they don't have to worry about anything popping out. One of our biggest demographics is young moms who are just chasing their kids around the pool or athletes who are training across the world.

And there is a need for this and people are responding really well to it.

Okay. So let's go back to the beginning of the origin story of Revly what was the initial moment when you first thought of the concept of Revly bring us back to that moment.

Yeah. So Revly actually didn't even start as an idea for a swimmer brand or a company or a way to make money or anything like that. I was still in college and two of my friends were just sitting around and we were just like bashing ourselves. And like, I hate this about me and I hate this and I like wish I had your legs.

And I wish I had your boobs. And it was just like, We just took a step back and we're like, what are we doing? Like, this is ridiculous that we like this is consuming so much of our time and energy that we are like destroying ourselves. When I look at my friends and they look at me and they would never see these things as flaws in me, and I would never see that in them and someone saying, I hate my legs.

It's like, I would kill for your legs. So that's kind of where this all started. And we came up with the idea to start like a body positivity, female empowerment blog, and kind of just open these conversations and these dialogues about why do we talk to ourselves the way that we do. And we would never say that about our friends.

Like, why aren't we, our biggest supporters and. Just kind of trying to knock this whole, like working out to be skinny thing. Like I remember in college, like running on treadmill or on the elliptical and being like, I'm not getting off until I burn 700 calories, which is just ridiculous. And this whole notion of like working out to be skinny and working out to lose weight and working out to boys like me and all that, like.

That's kind of where the idea came from in this blog. And we wanted to shift the conversation of let's work out because we love our bodies and because it makes you feel good and because it's good for your heart health and it's good to be healthy. And so we started like that and. I, I have really bad scoliosis and that has been like my biggest insecurity my entire life, since I was 12 years old and I was diagnosed and no one can see it.

Like, unless you're really looking, you can't see it. But to me, it's like, oh my God, I'm deformed. I have a hunchback. And. I always felt super insecure in swimsuits and would always wear a t-shirt at the beach. So you couldn't see my shoulder blade popping out and like stupid things like that, that looking back, it was like, I cannot believe this took up so much of my time and energy.

So that's really where the idea came from. It started as this blog and I was in all these digital marketing classes in college and was learning a lot about advertising through social media. Kind of had this idea, like why don't we make swimsuits, which is the most vulnerable thing that you can wear in public and your whole body's exposed.

And our first slogan was like, our first campaign was rock what you got . And it was just like, be who you are. Let's strive to be the best version of ourselves. Not we're working out to be skinny, but we're working out cuz we feel good and it's good for us. And we can always improve on being a better friend, a better daughter, a better person. And then. Also at the same time, filling this void in this swimwear industry where I was always playing in cotton sports bras at the beach, I played beach volleyball growing up and or had to wear a t-shirt. Cause if I was wearing my nice, cute swimsuit, that would gimme the great tan lines. If I dove for a ball, my boob would fly out.

So I'd always have to wear a t-shirt or a sports bra. And it was like, let's make something that. People will like and wear and can be a part of their like everyday wardrobe and it can be versatile. So it can also double as a sports bra and be a swimsuit. And then let's just rock what we got and be ourselves and not care what people are saying about it's because I promise you, no, one's saying anything about you, it's all in your head.

So there's a long winded answer.

No, it's great. It's so insightful. It's one of my questions for you is like, was creating this company a lightning strike moment for you, or was it a slow ideation process over time?

I think the lightning strike moment was when I was with my friends. And we were just talking about how much we hate our bodies and we were like, this is crazy. And that was the lightning strike moment of kind of me being able to talk to my friends about these insecurities that I had, which I never. I don't know this was before like the body positive movement too.

And no one really talked about that. Like, we are just like inundated with constant, like media of these super skinny models and all that. So this was before any of that was cool to talk about like, not being a size two. And I think that was the lightning strike moment of like, being able to say these things out loud.

Like I hate my back and I hate the way it look. And then my friends being like, you're psycho. Like you are crazy if you think that. And my friends saying like, I hate my legs and I'm like, you have amazing legs. And it was just that moment of like, whoa, everyone is insecure about something. It's not just me.

What can we do about this? How can we open up this conversation? And then in terms of like the actual product line, I always loved swimmer and I always loved being at the beach. I grew up in San Diego, so spent my days playing beach volleyball. And I think that was more of like a slow process of like, kind of getting into the swimmer industry, but not just being a swimmer brand, but let's make sports bras out of super nice swim, swim materials, and let's make bottoms that stay in place.

So kind of two-part process.

And did you always see yourself as an entrepreneur?

really, my dad is, so I grew up with him working from home, like not missing a single sporting event, play dance recital. And I, I love that, that both my parents were home full time. Didn't miss anything. But when this all started, I was finishing my last semester of college. So I wasn't even really thinking.

What I wanted to do. I had some internships, like in social media, I was working for the athletic department. So I always liked promoting through social media and being in sports. But I never even thought of this as a career. This was never like a lifelong dream of mine.

It was kind of like, we have this idea, we're building this community. We have a following, like, let's just roll with this and see what happens.

So, what is the story behind the name Revly? Did you start with that or did you eventually come to that name?

We are thinking of names and. I didn't want it to be like Jordan and like be super pretentious. I didn't want it to be about me at all. and it's a plan, the word revolution. So when this was all starting, we were kind of, we kept calling it like a body positive revolution. And so we were like, how can we like make this cute, but like also gender neutral, if we wanted to go into men someday.

And so that's where Revly came from was, and we were like, join the revolution and rock what you got.

Love it. Love it. Well, how many other names did you try to, you know, did you put on the table, before you landed on Revly any ones that you're kind of embarrassed about now?

Oh, I'm sure. I think it was like Jordan's bikinis like, I don't know. There was, there were no real names like this wasn't a real thing. Like this was just for fun. It was a passion project. We were doing this blog, it was me and my friends in college, having fun with it. So we played college volleyball.

So we already kind of had this following of like I played at Wisconsin. So like Wisconsin fans who just like loved. Just because we were there, they didn't really know anything about us. And then once this started, it was like actually being able to connect with these people. And my DMS were just filled with girls, like across the country being like, I hate this about me.

Like, thank you so much for opening up this conversation and making me feel that this was stupid the whole time. And you know, that was the coolest part about it, for sure. But there were no real names. Like we didn't know what we were doing. And then when we're like, this is actually real, maybe we should make t-shirts we need a name.

And then that's kind of where Revly came from. But there was real before Jordan bikinis.

I. Love it. Well, I love the name. Well, let's go deep on and talk about the process of actually starting a company on your own because you know, many people have amazing ideas, but what makes the difference between an entrepreneur and one that is just a cool idea is actually putting pen to paper, taking action and creating something.

So let's really go deep on that first year you started the blog. But what between starting that blog and actually creating your first product, a swimsuit, what happened in that first timeframe? Take us back to kind of how you actually got things moving.

Well, I had no idea what I was doing. I had zero business background. I think I took one business class in college and barely passed. I had no idea I was doing, I had no design background. Like I can't draw. My handwriting is horrible. So I am not the person. That you would think to start a swimwear brand.

And it's actually hilarious that like, people are like, oh, a swimmer designer. Cause I do not think of myself that way at all. And I initially thought I was so naive. I was like, this is a great idea. Like I'll just dictate to someone that this is what I want my swimsuit to look like, and then they'll make it and then we'll sell a billion dollars worth of it and it'll be amazing.

So I was super naive. In the beginning, but when I was first getting started I just started talking to people and talking to people that like my professors, I was lucky that I was still in college and had all these resources of the university. So I had some great professors in digital marketing, kind of in that space who helped me put my first website together.

I'm super fortunate, where my dad has a friend who has an e-commerce business and he helped, he told me what a tech pack was. I didn't even know what that was. And so I just got on Google and started Googling, like how to make swimsuits, what is a tech pack? What do I need? And there's this amazing thing called Makers Row, which is basically LinkedIn for manufacturers.

And I just started calling people like swimsuit manufacturers in Southern California pattern makers in Southern California. And I was still in Madison, Wisconsin at this. So I was like designing swimsuits out of my tiny apartment in Wisconsin in the middle of winter. And I was just calling people and weirdly getting connected to different people.

Like I would call someone and say like, Hey, I wanna make swimsuits. And they're like, who are you? Like, do you have a pattern? Do you have a marker? And I didn't even know what these things were. And then they would put me in touch with another person and then. Somehow I got in touch with the pattern maker at O'Neil and she's like, well, I have 80 pieces in my line this year, but like I went to fashion school with someone 40 years ago.

Maybe you can try her. And I called her, she's like retired working from home freelance. And she was a pattern maker who lived 10 minutes from my parents' house. And it was just so serendipitous how the whole thing came together. And she really like held my hand and walked me through the whole process of this is what a pattern is.

This is where you source fabric from. This is what rubber is and what size you need. And so she kind of gave me a full education on manufacturing and finding a reliable manufacturer because swimwear is so specialized and you can't just walk into any factory and say, make me some swimsuits use the people that we work with now are only swimwear manufac.

And we had to learn that the hard way for sure. But I think that was like the first year was just figuring out how to make a swimsuit. And then after that it was like, we'll just figure out the rest. They'll sell themselves.

I love it. Well, you, so you are one woman show for quite a long time. So working alone can be really hard, staying motivated, especially when you know, you don't know what you're doing, and you're kind of trying to rely on a lot of different people to bring things together for you. How did you stay motivated in those early years?

Especially when you, you really didn't have a path for yourself and you were sort of charting a new one. What would some tips be for young women today that might be starting out on their own.

Yeah, it is really hard. And luckily I did have a friend who was still in college who was kind of helping me out with the blog and helping me just like, be like a person to talk to and bounce ideas off of. And she was super great in the first year. But yeah, working alone is very hard and very lonely.

And so many people are gonna tell you no, and that you're going to fail, and this is stupid. And this industry is so saturated, like what makes you different? But if you have a passion and you really believe in your product and you believe in the mission and what you're trying to sell and how you're trying to make people feel, which I think is the most important.

That has to be your motivation and you have to be self-motivated. That is definitely the most important thing, cuz I don't have anyone telling me what my hours are. I don't have anyone telling me when to go to work or when to stop working or what tasks I need to do. There is no blueprint and you kind of, you have to be self-motivated and you have to find that within and that drive within.

And there's been so many times where I'm like, this is so dumb and I'm just looking at shelves of swimsuits and like wanting to light them on fire and. I think for me, it's been like our mission and how we're making people feel and how we're changing the way that people feel about swimwear that's what's kept me going.

So if you really believe in your product and your brand, that's gotta be enough for you.

I love it. Well, you know, it's incredibly challenging also for women entrepreneurs to get VC funding. So what was that process like for you and what challenges did you face before your product was even really.

So I'm super lucky where I have not needed to seek outside funding yet. We've been completely self-funded this whole time. I had some leftover funds in my college. Fun that my parents posted aside from me and they said, this is your master's, this is your business degree. Like you can do what you want with it.

And I invested it into our first line of product, and luckily we've been profitable since the first suit we sold. So we have not needed to seek outside funding yet. But when that time does come, I'll let you know.

So at what point do you think you're gonna make that decision?

It's hard because right now we, I mean, I'm looking at our account every day and like making decisions based off, we're just constantly buying new inventory and all the money basically goes towards inventory and our ad spend and everything like that. So I think maybe in a year or two, when we're really trying to scale and we're really trying to grow, but it makes me nervous cuz you see all these brands to just get like insane amount of outside funding and they scale super fast.

And then. Crumble. And that's what makes me really nervous. Like I'm interested in scaling this responsibly and slow and steady and making sure that I am in charge and can touch all parts of our business right now. And I just don't trust anyone else to be doing that.

It's interesting because, you know, I I've, self-funded voice and sport as well. And you know, there's a lot of positives to self-funding. If you can do it, you know, you can have control over your own destiny. You can really stay sharp on your vision and your mission. But then it comes with challenges of scale and quickly scaling.

So, you know, it's one of those core decisions that we're all faced with as entrepreneurs is when do you do that? Do you do it? if so, who do you bring on as investors? And so, you know, I've, I've also heard from many successful entrepreneurs myself is if you can build it for the first couple years sustainably without investors at the very beginning, you can set yourself up for a long term situation that's really strong for you and your company. So it's harder though, you know, when you're not taking, when you don't have all of the resources right away at the beginning, it can be really challenging. So when you reflect back on your first couple years, what has been your, you know, one or two biggest challenges?

I think like the biggest challenge has just been getting it in front of people. Like I know I have a great product and we have such a high repeat customer rate and it's just getting it in front of people. And I didn't know what Facebook or Instagram ads were. I thought I had all these digital marketing class experience, but they don't teach you that in college.

And this was also new and it was first starting. So I think like now we're in a position where we have really good advertising. We have great testimonials from professional athletes and we are able to get a return on our ad spend. But that was definitely a struggle in the beginning. And now it's like, I have no graphic design experience.

Like when we're making email templates, I'm like, I have no idea. This all looks great to me and it's fully crooked. So I work with a lot of college interns who get college credit and they come like semester by semester. And I always look for graphic design people, cuz I it's such a huge part of our funnel is our email marketing and I need someone who's very good at that.

So that's a huge struggle. And continuing finding reliable manufacturers. Like I am super involved in the manufacturing process. There is no production manager, it's me and I'm going there and measuring and making sure our fit is right and making sure they have all the materials they need. And I'm driving around downtown LA picking up rubber and like random things that you don't even think of.

So I think just staying on top of our manufacturing and making sure that we're working with like the best manufacturing partners that we can. and as we grow, finding new ones and expanding

I love that you mentioned, like I am the product manager, right? Just that comment. I feel like I have said that about 10 times myself, like I am the head of finance. I am the accounting manager. I, I am the receptionist. And that's kind of what you do as an entrepreneur. You put on like all these different hats, especially at the beginning.

And so, you know, being an athlete yourself, do you think that that has helped you. Be a great entrepreneur. Like what has been transferable from like the volleyball player that you were to the entrepreneur that you are today?

Definitely time management. You know, being a college athlete, we always joke about how crazy our schedules were, but our schedules were crazy and being able to balance a full course load and travel and practice and film and everything that has definitely helped me like. Be able to keep on top of all these things that I'm doing now, I have five different to-do lists going at once.

One is for marketing and my interns. And then one is for graphic design and production is just like keeping on top of all those things definitely comes from my experience as a college athlete. And then I think by people skills like being able to play with and work with people from across the world and connect with them and communicate with them and relate to them has definitely been helpful in this process of just working with a ton of different people from all different walks of life.

What are some like surprises that you've had so far in your first couple years that you almost like look back and say, wow, That was a surprise, you know, like one or two of those things, what would they be? What would you call out to other young women maybe who are about to graduate college and they're considering to go the entrepreneur route?

I think just being a woman in general and being young in this industry how rude people can be and how they wanna take advantage of you and that was really shocking to me because I, for the most part in my life, everyone's been super nice and super helpful and accommodating, and then like getting into the business world and especially like male dominated positions and just being talked down to, or even women who have been in, it's an older industry for sure.

Like these women have been in it for years and just people that own their own shops or manufacturers or whatever it may be. There's definitely like an ages thing and being a young female where people can be super rude to you. And it's just like, don't take any of that personally. So that was kind of shocking.

I was like, whoa, I've never kind been talked to like that, but yeah, just know that you're fine. It's going to be okay and they don't mean it.

Yeah. I mean, look, I've been in the sports industry male dominated industry for, you know, now 20 years. And it can be really hard sometimes when you walk into a room and you're the only woman, or you're the only young woman and discrimination comes in a lot of different forms, right? So I think you called out something that I also experienced in the sports industry.

It's also why we're doing this, this series because we want more young women to kind of go for it. So if you had advice for those women that are gonna start out and maybe go through the same experiences that you went through in some of those moments, how do you go through that and still stick with it?

I think you have to have tough skin in anything just being. All generally have to have tough skin and know that no one is actually being rude to you personally, or it's at a personal attack. Like people are just doing business and people are out for themselves and you just can't take anything.

Personally, and I think definitely as an athlete, you learn that very early, but yeah, just don't take anything personally. And this sounds super lame, but believe in yourself, believe in what you're doing and know that you are okay and you're doing fine and it's gonna be, it's gonna work itself out. So I think just don't take things personally.

Amazing. Okay. Well, let's go into product a little bit because you know, I have a huge passion for product. I spent many years building products at Nike. Both for women and men globally and working with a lot of these manufacturing partners all across the world. So I wanna go a little bit deeper into your product specifically.

And just talk about like, what was most important to you when you were creating this product? Was it the material and creating a specific niche within the sustainability zone. Was it really important for you about where you made the product or was fit the big thing? Like if you had to prioritize what you were focused on here at Revly what would you say is like the core priority for you when you're designing the product?

Yeah, the number one priority is fit and feel like being able to feel good in it. It's super soft. And just knowing that it's gonna stay in place. So our whole thing is designed to move with you. And there's so many swimsuits that are moving against you and that are digging in and just squeezing in all the wrong places.

And then you have a role that you didn't even know existed. And that is definitely the most important thing. Feeling really confident in your swimsuit and having the product just be super high end, the nicest luxury fabrics that are on the market that are available, and making sure that it stays in place so that when you're chasing your kid around the pool or you're diving for a ball or you're going surfing, or we use these as sports bras too, and you're lifting, then nothing's popping out or everything's staying in place and you don't have to worry about pulling up your suit or constantly adjusting. So that's definitely like number one priority is that these feel good and that they stay in place. And then two it'd probably be making in LA . We make everything in Los Angeles and that's important to me because I'm there all the time doing quality control.

Like we check every suit and make sure that it is up to standard. We don't wanna sell anything at this price point that doesn't feel like luxury. We wanna make sure people are getting a high end quality. And yeah, just making in LA is definitely really important. I pick up everything in my car and bring it back to our facility and ship everything myself.

So that's definitely important.

You are head of logistics and supply chain

and manufacturing.

I wish everybody could see right now, the video, because if you could see behind Jordan, you could see like inventory, like materials lined up. It's amazing. Okay. Well, when you were thinking, when you were thinking about setting up manufacturing in LA , talk to us about that process and how did you end up landing with your current partners today and any sort of watch outs maybe that you have for other women that are in the LA area that wanna start manufacturing there locally, too.

Yeah. So, like I said before, when we first started, I was on maker's row and just trying to find manufacturers and was able to find someone in orange county originally. Who made swimsuits, I asked for a lot of references and they made lots of swimsuits. And weirdly enough, the woman that worked the front desk at my mom's tennis club, she got all of their skirts made there.

So she had used him before, too. It just like was all very weird things, how it all came together. So she had used him and he was great. And he did a lot of swimsuits before. So that was our first experience and our prices were insanely high. And I had no idea, like, I didn't know what pricing should look like.

I had nothing to compare it to. And I think that is definitely a situation where I got taken advantage of being 23 years old. Never doing this before, having no reference for anything. But in terms of finding a manufacturer, make sure that they can do whatever it is that you are looking for. So make sure if you're making sweatshirts, they specialize in sweatshirts, or if you're making joggers, they only make joggers or they only make active wear.

Luckily the guy that we worked with did a ton of swimwear and our product line was great. Something that was shocking or not shocking, but I didn't know of was that these timelines are not real timelines and they'll say everything will be done in six to eight weeks. And it was more like 10 to 12 weeks.

And when we were first starting, we like had our website up and we're sending emails or we're doing pre-orders and we're like, we're launching on whatever date. And we were like, Five weeks past that. And there's nothing that you can do about it. You're not physically making your product. So for any timeline, you have always add three to four weeks on it because it's never what it appears to be.

And something will always go wrong. And especially for me, where we didn't go to like a full service place, there's a lot of places in LA and around the world that you can just give them an idea for a design and they will do handle everything. They'll do all of your tech packs, your markers, you're grading everything and give you a finished product.

And those, the pricing is just crazy, but you, that you get what you pay for when you don't your hands off, you don't even have to worry about it or look at it. And we went the, all the cart route, and we were working with a different grader and a different marker person and a different fabric supplier.

And I was picking up everything and bringing all these pieces together. And this guy was just cutting and selling. So along this chain, things are gonna go wrong and something is gonna be missing here or printed the wrong way here, or we're out of this and it's outta stock. And so always give yourself way more time and definitely get references and make sure that they're good, reliable references because.

Even after our first year, when we did in orange county, we then moved up to LA because prices were just a lot better and more favorable to us. And we started working with people that claimed to have made swimwear and gave me one reference, which in looking back, I think that may have been his mom who emailed me and he was so bad at swimwear and he had no idea what he was doing and it cost us a ton of money in materials and time and reputation. So definitely make sure that they are specialized in what you're looking to do, get a lot of references and be extremely involved in the process. Like I don't leave anything up to chance anymore, and I am there every other day, checking on things.

Now we are so fortunate where we're working with some amazing manufacturers who only do swimwear and they are making swimwear for the top brands right now. And then somehow they took me to, I slid right in and they're great. So I'm a little bit more hands off now. And now that we have our products lined down and the manufacturing process down, and I know what's going on it's much better, but in that first year, you need to be very involved and not trust anyone.

Well, I love that. You mentioned like there, there is a spectrum, right? Of when you're starting an apparel business, you can do the, like you said, LA car and really bring together all those people yourself, or you can go to an agency essentially and have them do pretty much everything from the design to actually cut and sew and ship your product to you, and then you just handle logistics. So there's a lot of different ways to do it, but if you do that, the latter it's more expensive, right? You have less control over where the product is made and how it is made, which you know, more and more today, consumers care about where products are made, how they're made, if they're ethically made in the right factories and with what material.

Specifically, because this industry, that apparel industry is one of the biggest pollutants in our economy. So it's important to really think about all of those things. And I think consumers are starting to wake up to the fact that they should probably pay attention to what they're buying . Where is that product made?

How is it made? So, you know, now that you've been up and running for a couple years, I'm curious to kind of understand how you think about yourself compared to like the bigger players out there. So, you know, in the swimsuit world of what Nike is doing, what Adidas is doing also what Roxy and like all these surf brands are doing, you know, what really, I guess, makes you guys different that you're thinking about when you're thinking about those competitors and your growth strategy.

Yeah. In terms of product itself. I think these bigger brands and bigger companies who have this footprint and have been around forever, they weren't really making the product that I had envisioned where it was this super nice sports bra made out of the nicest materials. It all kind of felt like fast fashion or not using really high end material. So that's kind of what gave us like an opening or a reason to even exist in this market. That is so saturated. So that is definitely a struggle that we deal with is that people go, I mean, swimsuits suck. I don't know why I thought swimsuits it's so seasonal. So people buy like for the most part one swimsuit a year and they go to Roxy, cuz they've been going to Roxy for the last 10 years and they get a great suit every year and it's great.

And I'll just buy one next year. So I think a huge struggle for us is getting in front of these people and being like, Hey, you don't need to buy a swimsuit every year. Like this swimsuit will last you forever. It is so nice. It's going to stay in place. That's gonna do all the things that you want and it doubles outta the sports bra, but it's just getting in front of these people and not just being like this, no name startup, small brand that no one's ever heard of.

Greatest thing for us is word of mouth and organic growth. And like building this community of repeat customers who just love our product. And it's the only swimsuits they'll buy now. So I think that is definitely a huge issue for us. We don't have a massive marketing budget. You're looking at the marketing team and like just trying to differentiate ourselves and like tell this story and tell this story and be like, you wanna be a part of this

I gotta tell you this story. There was this brand that we're working with, that I won't name, you know, multibillion dollar valuation. And and that one meeting, they said, like, we gotta remember. We're really small team and , and I was. Turned around at me and my husband sitting next to me.

We're like, you have a small team you're telling us that you have a small team, like it's so interesting. The mindset, right. Of being an entrepreneur and like kinda just going all in and like thinking there is no job too small. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I, I feel like sometimes being an entrepreneur is glorified in a lot of ways, but then, you know, the realities of it is like you are doing literally like things that you could have done as like an intern before you're an intern.

Oh, yeah. That's my biggest thing. When I'm hiring interns and I'm interviewing, I'm like, this is not your typical internship. Like you are going to touch all parts of this brand and you are going to work hand in hand with me. Like I am gonna be doing the same things you're doing. So the worst part for me right now is exchanges and returns and cleaning these swimsuits.

When we get them back and people don't realize how labor intensive that process is. Cuz when we get something back, we have to inspect everything. Make sure it is. Perfect and ready to sell to the next person. And that takes a ton of time and manpower of going through everything and cleaning repackaging, re hygiene, stickering, and like making it perfect.

So that is definitely taking years off my life but a super, super important part of our business. And it's like crazy that I'm still doing that like four years in, but that is how we maintain our customers. And we make sure that when someone does believe us and does see our ad and think like, yes, this could be for me that we're setting them a suit that they're gonna like, and that's not dirty.

So I think customer support is so hard and exchanges are so hard and it's like tasks for an intern, but that is one of the most important parts of our business and maintaining those customer relationships and having people build trust in us.

Cut off

Okay. So what are some of the pieces of advice, I guess you would give to other women in the vis community that are in high school or college and they're seeking out internships today, like what makes a great intern in your opinion?

In terms of being an athlete, people love hiring athletes. And because you have these built in skills that all employers are looking for. So if you're able to articulate why these skills are transferable and why this is going to make me an employee that is invaluable, I think Because, especially when you're looking at two candidates and one person played a sport all four years and had no internships, but this person was in a sorority and had internships.

Like you have same skills, you need to be able to articulate. I dedicated all my time doing this, playing a sport. And this is what I learned. And X, Y, and Z is going to be beneficial to you. So that is definitely. Something that's really important is being able to get that across in an interview. And then just in general, we're just looking for hardworking people and people that are passionate about what we're doing.

I've had people come in who are just looking to add something to their resume and just looking to get college credit. And they don't really care about what we're doing. And when we're doing exchanges was just the nitty gritty part of it that sucks. Like they don't care. Your employer is going to see that.

And that's not really gonna get you far in anything, because if you're not passionate about what you're doing and passionate about who you're working for, even if it's something that you didn't start yourself, that's so easy to see in the beginning, and you're not gonna get very far in your career, whatever that may be.

Yeah, it's such good advice. I mean, you can kind of tell right away, right. From work ethic and maybe they don't have as much passion as you because they didn't start the company, but that sort of work ethic is transferable to any company. And I'm sure you're giving like really strong recommendations of girls and guys that come in and, and work for you.

And how I think at the end of the day, people show up every day to work hard is one of the most important things, especially when you're in a, a small startup, like you have going at Revly. So let's talk a little bit about, about building that community, cuz that is so important to like what you need to do next in your next chapter of your company.

So what support have you received so far from building this community. And let's talk a little bit about athlete sponsorships. I mean, that's one of the biggest ways that you can drive, you know, awareness to your brand. So how have you brought in athletes and how are they an important part of growing your community and your brand?

Yeah. So being a volleyball player and having roots in this volleyball community is definitely where we started and just the overwhelming support that we have gotten from my teammates and people that I've played with are people that I've played against. And just people wanting to support women owned business has been amazing, but definitely in the volleyball community is where we started and going to my old club that I played at and making uniforms for their beach team and doing popup shops at different youth tournaments and things like that.

Like we've gotten tremendous amount of support within the volleyball community. And in terms of working with athletes, It is such a beneficial relationship for us. We sponsor a lot of professional beach volleyball players on the AVP tour who get to play in great swimsuits that they really like, and that stay in place and are amazing.

And then. In return, we get amazing content from them having these awesome athletes, diving for a ball and you see the suit staying in place and it still looks perfect. Like that is invaluable to us. And yeah, it's just a really beneficial relationship. And it's also been great since the NL deal went through that we can work with college athletes too.

So I just remember the day that it passed, my inbox was just blowing up with girls the beach volleyball world across the country being like, can I work with you? Can I work with you? And like, we don't really care if you're a name athlete or if you're a star or anything like that, like we just want our product out there.

And we want girls who are in line with our values and being active, wearing our stuff and posting about it and telling their friends. And I mean that, that whole partner process has been great for just growing our brand organically and through word of mouth. And just having a picture of my old teammates who are all the models on our website are all my old teammates, which is hilarious.

And just having them playing volleyball in the suits like that has been great for us.

Well, athletes are so important when you're building a sports company. And you know, we just announced Allison, Felix, as one of our first founding athletes at voice in sport last week. And it's so important. Yeah, totally amazing. She's an incredible human and aligned with the values of voice and sport.

So it's so important when you're thinking about the type of athletes you wanna bring into your brand. What is your criteria? So for all the girls out there, cuz we have a lot of young women in college that are either swimmers or volleyball players. What is your criteria for choosing who is gonna represent Revly?

We look for people. I mean, I immediately look at your Instagram and I don't care if you have 500 followers or a hundred thousand followers, like if you're posting. Inappropriate pictures, or if you're posting pictures with alcohol and it just doesn't look like you would be a good brand representative for us, then we're not really interested, in working with you.

We're looking for role models and. You don't even need to be posting bikini pictures. Like that's not important to us at all. We want people who are role models within their own community within their own following. Like this whole micro influencer thing is way more effective in my opinion than influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers.

If you can get your 500 friends who follow you. To believe in our product. That that is way more important than someone with a million followers just tagging us in a picture. So people that are just influential in their own community and are in line with our brand values. If that makes sense.

Yeah, I think that's so important. Right? Also thinking about storytelling. What is some of the most important content that these athlete partners have created? For you, do you have any success stories in terms of how like the content created from an athlete has actually provided increased sales?

Yeah. So we have, we've had some people do like Instagram story takeovers, where it's like, come with me on a day of training and they just take you through their day of, this is what I ate for breakfast. Now I'm at the beach training now. I'm. Doing recovery. And I think that is so cool for our followers who aren't in Southern California have never even like been around beach volleyball or something like that and get to see like what a professional athlete does in a day.

That's been great. We've had girls that take you like behind the scenes of a tournament, like here's me at the AVP and I'm warming up and here's my partner and this is what we're doing. So that has been super cool. And just in terms of growing, like within the AVP, we started just outfitting various girls.

And then people just started calling me like I saw. So and so wearing your stuff, she loves it. Can I try it? And that's been great too. Just getting these girls, wearing it and being photographed in it when they're playing and getting these action shots of them diving and of them competing and like real tournaments with real fans, like that has been awesome.

Cause it's like, this works for her. You can wear it by the pool.

Amazing. Okay. Well, when you take a step back, Jordan, and you look at, you know, the last couple years of building this company. What are the biggest lessons that you have learned along the way that you can share with other young women out there?

I would say. Don't compare yourself to other brands out there or other people out there in general. When I first started and I was graduating and all my friends started getting jobs and then they started getting promotions and they started traveling for work and going into like really cool things.

And I was alone in my garage, packings two orders and was like, what am I doing with my life? So like comparing yourself to your friends, we're all on different paths. We're all on different journeys. And then also comparing yourself to other brands like, oh, they just launched 10 new styles. Like, how are they doing that?

Or they just did this and, that just took up way too much of my time and my energy and head space where that's not productive at all. So I think something that I've learned is just to worry about yourself and going back to way before of just trying to be the best version of you and the best version of your brand.

And I think that is definitely something that I'm still working on. But at this point, like I don't look at what other brands are doing. I'm not looking at what other people are doing. We're all kind of on our own path doing our own.

Well, what advice would you have to a young girl who is dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur someday. How do they get started?

I would say, just go for it. Like I had no idea what I was doing. I had a half idea in a blog post and I was in Madison, Wisconsin, sketching, swimsuits. Like you can just do it. It's hard. And it's gonna take your heart and soul and your blood sweat and tears, but you can totally do it. And I think just asking a lot of questions and being okay, looking stupid.

It's okay. Like you are not supposed to know these things. And I had no idea, like what a profit margin was. I didn't know anything and you'll learn as you go and just be okay looking dumb and connect with the right people and just go for it.

What has the role of mentorship really been for you in your entrepreneurial path? Have there, have there been people that you have leaned on and, and how do you create that sort of, you know, support system around you? So that even though you might be a one woman show for the first year, you don't feel like you're alone.

Yeah. I mean, the people that have mentored me and have helped me along the way have like, have been so tremendous in this entire thing. And I would not be where I am today without them. And even my college volleyball coach, shout out Kelly Sheffield has just been such an inspiration of just telling me that you can do this.

Like you're doing great. Go for it. So he's been great. And then in terms of like actual mentors in like the e-comm space or apparel space or anything like that, I got connected through friends of friends and my parents, friends who have done this before and people like to help people. That is definitely something that I learned and people like to feel important and like, to feel like they're adding value and share their experience and share their advice. And so that's been amazing for me in like for the manufacturing part of it, having someone walk me through that, my pattern maker having helped me through that entire process. The woman that worked at my mom's tennis club, who used to work in the swimwear industry and was making tennis skirts.

And she helped me through manufacturing and my dad's friend who has this online stock business, who has helped me tremendously in terms of advertising online and making a tech pack and. It's just so nice to have people that you can text and be like, is this normal? Like, does this sound right to you? And just bounce ideas off of, and the entrepreneur world, like, there are a lot of people out there and it is easy to connect with people now in this day and age, through social media, through LinkedIn. So yeah, it's been amazing to get the help from all these different people in all different industries who just wanna help you. Don't be afraid to ask questions and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Cause you're not supposed to know how this all works. No one does, I don't think.

That's right. I mean, even myself, 14 years at a pretty big sports company, Nike, and then a CEO of a fashion company. And when I went to go start my company, I still didn't know everything. You know, there's always pieces that you're not gonna know. So don't let that really distract you from starting something that you really are passionate about.

So let's end on, every guest that's gonna be part of this series. We're gonna to ask them a couple questions all the same to kind of see what we hear at the end of this together. What are three words that describe building a business as an entrepreneur?

I would say self-motivation. Perseverance and passion are definitely my three. You have to be self-motivated to make it happen. There's no one to get you up in the morning and do your job. Perseverance, you're gonna be told no a million times. You're not gonna get sales. You're it's not gonna be successful at first and it's not going to be working.

So being able to have the stick twoness to stay with it and to persevere through that and believe in your product and believe in your mission and passion, you have to be passionate about what you're selling. I see all these people doing like drop shipping companies that they'll just sell, like whatever they can on their website.

And then onto the next, I don't think that's sustainable. And I don't think that's, you're gonna be able to grow a business responsibly. So being passionate about your mission and your why and why you started it in the first.

And what is one myth or misconception about being an entrepreneur?

That it's glamorous and that it's amazing. And oh, you get to make your own hours. That's so fun. Like what do you do all day? It's like, I am in here sweating and packing swimsuits and cleaning deodorant off things and trying to make this work. So I think that is definitely a misconception. Like people are like, oh my God, you have a swimmer brand.

That's so amazing. That's so cool. And like, you have no idea. It is so hard and it is time consuming and grueling and you wanna quit at all times, but. That's definitely, I think a misconception is that entrepreneurs like have it all figured out and it's easy and it's super cool.

I love it. So real, so honest. Okay. And why do you think women athletes will make great entrepreneurs?

I think we have all the skills. I think we've been told no a million times in our life. And I think that we've gotten through that and I think we're tough as hell. And we are able to build things from that nothing and like I said, we have all the skills. You have time management, you have work ethic, you have like team building and collaboration skills and you want it.

I just remember like being so competitive in college and it was the most important thing to me was to start or to play or to win a national championship or whatever. And you can transfer that into the business world, which turns out is way more competitive than college volleyball but so I think that is definitely why women athletes make such great entrepreneurs.

Amazing. Okay. Well, let's end on this last question, which is really, what is the future for Revly? What do you want everybody out there, especially young women athletes to know about Revly?

The next thing is that we're gonna just keep growing and we're gonna get in front of more people. And I hope to be a household name soon. And when you think of luxury swimwear and you think of being active in swimsuits, you think of Revly so. Definitely that is hopefully what's next for us and moving into activewear a little bit and just expanding our product line and reaching more customers, working with more athletes across all sports.

I. 📍 Well, we still have some incredible athletes here at biz, so I'm sure they will be hitting you up after this episode. It's so, so wonderful to meet you, Jordan. I'm excited to see the future of your company and also to see the future of where you grow as an entrepreneur and leader.

Thank you so much for having me. This was fun.

This week's episode was produced and edited by Viz Podcast, lead producer Soja Bull Hawk, a cross country and track runner for the University of Houston. We are so thankful that we got to hear Jordan's founder story today and learn all about her journey with Reley, and we can't wait to see the future of Reley and encourage all of those who are interested to look into their swimwear.

You can follow along with Jordan and Reley at Reley Sport on Instagram. Please subscribe to the Voice and Sport Podcast. Give us a rating and review on Apple Podcast and definitely send this episode to a friend that you think might enjoy the conversation. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok at Voice and Sport.

And if you're interested in joining our team as a vis creator on the podcast writing graphics or marketing team, send us a DM on Instagram at Voice and Sport. Our next class starts June, 2023

and if you're interested in joining our community, sign up for free@voiceandsport.com to get started. When you join Voice and Sport, you gain access to our exclusive content exclusive podcast mentorship sessions from our professional athletes and access to the top biz experts in sport psychology and nutrition.

Check out the next two episodes coming in January and early February for this founder series, and please send us your feedback to let us know what you think. See you next week on the Voice and Sport Podcast.

On today’s special Entrepreneur Series, we are chatting with Jordan Robbins, Founder of Revly Sport. REVLY Sport is a swimwear brand designed for women with active lifestyles.