The Inside Story: Jess Williamson – A Business for Female Adventurers

Ete Swimwear (pronounced et-teh) was founded by Jess Williamson at just 22 in 2016. After feeling unfulfilled in her 9-5 she pursued her love of design and the beach to launch what is now one of Australia’s most coveted swimwear brands. With a background in online marketing and advertising, Jess has no formal design training; just a business degree and a keen eye for fashion. After only a few weeks of launching her label, Jess was invited to showcase Ete Swimwear at New York Fashion Week in September 2016.

Based in WA, Australia, Ete Swimwear heroes luxurious, unique designs with hand painted watercolour prints that are exclusive to the brand by a local WA artist. The inspiration for our designs is all about celebrating and inspiring other girls and women to be confident, happy and live their best lives.

Can you give us an overview of your business? 

Ete Swimwear is a Perth-based swimwear label made for Feminine Adventurers with designs as beautiful as they are comfortable to wear.

What ignited the spark in you to start your own business venture?

When I began Ete Swimwear, I was just 22 and uninspired by my job and needed something more. I have always had a strong connection to the beach and the ocean, and noticed a lot of brands were moving toward athleisure and a more minimalist aesthetics which just wasn’t me, so I set out to create designs that were not only comfortable, but beautiful. With feminine prints, boho details and pretty colours, Ete Swimwear was born! We are made for the Feminine Adventurers of the world. I decided that my brand HAD to inspire other girls to be happy, explore and push themselves to live their best lives.

Initially, what difficulties did you face?

Seeing my designs being ripped off all over the internet is definitely a challenge for me. When I put in so much hard work to create something that is unique, just to see it on other websites, where they are actually using my images (without permission) to sell my stolen designs, its crazy!

Who or what was integral to you overcoming these hurdles?

The first time I found a brand stealing my designs, it broke my heart, I did have a little breakdown and messaged them to remove it asap. But usually they won’t, and its a hard battle to fight so I have learnt to not focus on others, stick to my brand and what I know to be true and hope that my customers will stay loyal and support designers like me.

What was your initial marketing strategy, and how has it changed?

When I launched, it was the easiest route for me to use Instagram as my main marketing tool and just grow it as fast as I could. I use to create Instagram accounts and just grow them to learn what people liked and the best ways to build an account. I grew the Ete Swimwear account to about 5,000 before launching, and within a few months I had up to 20,000 followers. In the beginning our marketing plan was 100% Instagram, which was amazing for us as an online business without having too much budget to start off with.

More recently I have opted for a more rounded approach to our marketing. I always had an email database but have focused more on growing that, PR presence and utilising other social media platforms as well as more online digital marketing.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Hmm… I think skills can be learnt but I think its more in your mindset so I would say you need determination, perseverance, and an open mind! A lot of people launch a business and keep it only local. When I began I launched worldwide first! I had never put any limits on what I could do with Ete Swimwear, and so we made international sales within the first week and now have customers in 46 countries. There are also plenty of easier things to do in this world but I have always wanted to run my own business so this is where the perseverance and determination come in, because things will get tough and sometimes it is lonely but you have to just push through!

What was the best advice that you have been given?

Run your own race. To me this is something I remind myself of daily. I think its so important to focus on what you are trying to achieve, what your goals are and what your mission is. Staying true to this will help you stand out from the crowd.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start an online?

Do your research and get people to help you where you may be lacking in certain skills. I was lucky that my background was in digital marketing so starting an online business came naturally to me, but finance was not my strong point so I got myself a bookkeeper and accountant for that.

Describe/outline your typical day?

Is there such a thing? Haha! Normally I check all emails from the night before (most our customers are overseas) and reply to as many as I can before getting out of bed, I also check Instagram and usually post something. Once I get up, I make my smoothie and sit down at the computer to get stuck into some work. This could be anything from designing a new collection, liaising with suppliers, accounting, marketing, graphic design, Instagram, etc. I literally do everything in the business at the moment and my mum helps with packing orders each morning.

What is your favourite app for business?

I love Instagram, and just about everything has an app these days so our whole back end of the website (customer database, products, orders, etc.), mail chimp, Xero and so much more are all on an app so its great for me who’s always on the go.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?

We are expanding into worldwide wholesale and have already secured the Iconic, PacSun and Lulus to name a few of our main stockists Internationally. I am hoping to continue to grow our online audience and build a strong community of feminine adventurers. Not sure what else to put here? I don’t usually plan too far in advance haha! I just keep an open mind and remain flexible.

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