Camille and Jackie Brady Of CAMI & JAX: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be patient. Good things will come if you work hard and stay focused on what you want to achieve. I had been emailing a stylist for years getting little to no response and then finally got connected. He requested a suit for his A-list celebrity client and she ended up wearing it on her summer vacation. The recognition we received felt great.
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Camille and Jackie Brady.
Designer Jackie Brady and her sister, former pro-surfer Camille Brady, are lifelong water-babies who had sand on their toes and salt in their hair before they could walk. Deeply connected to the ocean, to this day the sisters can be found wearing their bikinis more often than not… The first CAMI AND JAX store opened in 2015 in the seaside beach town of Santa Monica on the upscale street of Montana Ave. The sisters now reside in Los Angeles spending their days surfing in Malibu, beaching it at home in Hanalei and traveling the world together as a team.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Hello Authority Magazine, it’s Jackie, the Jax of “Cami and Jax.” My sister Camille and I are very excited to share a little bit about who we are with you and your readers.
Jackie: Unbeknownst to us, the initial appeal of starting our own swimwear company began decades before we registered our name. We were two surfer girls who loved the ocean and bikinis and realized that the older we got, the more we longed for fashionable, luxury swimwear that would withstand the waves. I got my undergrad bachelors degree in fashion design and Camille in business marketing. Soon after, we decided to band together and start our brand CAMI AND JAX.
We knew that if we created a career path where we could highlight our strengths and talents and fuel our passions, we knew we’d be doing something right. We wanted to make decisions for ourselves and not have to ask for permission to take a day off or answer to anyone else. We wanted to be in control of our lives, so we took a leap of faith.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Jackie: I want to begin by saying that I have a ton of respect for any business owner, small or large, because I know how difficult it is to own a business and succeed.
Camille: One story that comes to mind was when we were getting our first run of swimwear samples made in downtown LA. We didn’t fully understand the sampling process and how many alterations it can take before your design is perfected. We were rushing the process and consequently a few of our designs went into production with fit issues. We learned quickly that getting that perfect sample takes time and it doesn’t necessarily happen on the first try. The sampling process is one of the most important parts of a business and should never be rushed.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Jackie: Today we are proud to say we’ve been in business since April of 2014. We have our lovely swimwear boutique CAMI AND JAX in Santa Monica and also a strong presence online. There have been countless mistakes incurred along the way but with each one, we learn and we grow.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Jackie: One funny story that comes to mind was in 2013 when my sister and I were on a surf trip in Bali and product testing our very first set of swimwear samples.
I was in a brand new tie-side bottom and ran down the path to a fun surf spot called Uluwatu and paddled out with pride and glee. I was wearing a swimsuit I designed and this was the beginning of something spectacular. On my first wave I popped up to my feet and the string to my bottoms was so long that it ended up between the board and my hand. As I stood up, my bottoms untied. I paddled in and as I was walking up the trail my Balinese friend was eager to show me my surfing photos. Sure enough, the photo of me fixing my bottoms was on his camera roll.
This is a perfect example of the importance of product testing. By doing so, we are able to intercept and alter any potential design flaws. We take pride in the quality and authenticity of our products and brand.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Jackie: Many aspects of our brand and company set us apart from others. We have had our shop for over 8 years now and quite often more than not, you will find either Camille or myself there to assist anyone who walks through the door. We like to meet our customers and create lasting connections with them. We back our product and know we can help you find the suit that makes you feel beautiful and confident.
One thing we do that is unique is we offer private fittings. You can book a free one-on-one private fitting with us through our website. We will honor your time slot, shut the door, and make it all about you. This is an enjoyable experience for all and customers leave with a pep in their step and a fresh swimsuit in tow.
Camille: What also makes us different is that my sister and I grew up as competitive surfers. We aren’t just two girls who love bikinis or went to design school, we are athletes who wear our suits in the waves. We test all of our designs in the water before putting them on the shelves.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Jackie: That quote “Slow yourself down” is a good one. If you go too hard, too fast, you might burn yourself out and tank. If you keep things in your ability and range you are more likely to set yourself up for success. It’s like a beginner surfer trying to surf a wave that is too big or too fast for them. A wave of that caliber takes years to master so it’s better to take small waves first and work your way up to the big ones. The same can be said for business… trying to do everything all at once, growing too big too fast, or acting on impulse can backfire. We are surrounded by the brightest and kindest minds and sometimes all it takes is asking someone who has already walked that path their opinion on the matter. It never hurts to ask and they might have some compelling wisdom.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Jackie: When business related ventures come to the table, our mother takes the cake. She offers advice that is concrete and insightful, understands the ins and outs of business, and is extremely savvy. Simple advice can go a long way. One tip she offered us early on was to be sure to have a separate bank account for each business. This way, your accounting stays organized and it’s easier to keep track of your profit and loss. If all of our business accounts and personal accounts were commingled then we wouldn’t have a clue how each company was actually doing.
She has also instilled in us that happiness is the ultimate key to success and doing something we love triumphs additional dollar signs. You can’t put a price tag on happiness, love, and health so don’t even go down the road to greed because it’s a dead end.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Jackie: Making the world a better place is very important to us. We try to spread Aloha wherever we go. We try to minimize our footprint and we like to give back when we can. Little things to us, can be big things to someone else. I was recently on a surf trip to Nicaragua and I became friends with a local surfer girl who was born and raised in the region. She loved my bright orange one piece surf suit so before I left, I gifted it to her. I said “welcome to our CAMI AND JAX surf team!” She was over the moon and messaged me that it’s the best swimsuit she’s ever had and wears it every day.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Jackie: Never over extend on your upfront purchasing. It’s better to buy small and sell out than to over extend and be sitting on stock that isn’t selling. If you have a design, color, or print that sells out in a week, you can always reorder it. Selling out is better than sitting on dead stock.
- Jackie: The customer is always right, even when they are wrong. Haha. Good customer service goes a long way. A funny story relating to this happened when a lady came into my shop and purchased a white swimsuit for her honeymoon in Hawaii. She posted a video of herself rolling around in the sand with the waves washing over her. A month later she came in and demanded a refund because there was sand embedded in her suit. I brought it back to a positive and mentioned seeing all the amazing content of her in the suit playing in the sandy shore break. I calmly shared an analogy of buying a white wedding gown and wearing it all night through dancing, spilled wine, and all that jazz and expecting it to be: A. Still white and B. Returnable. The last thing we need as a small business is a poor review so I empathized with her and ended up showing her a trick to remove the sand and offering her a discount towards a new suit. What could have resulted in a bad review, a lost customer, and tainted reputation turned into another sale and a good laugh. Good customer service goes a long way.
- Jackie: Don’t take anything personally. People will always donate their two cents about things you should have done differently or ways you can do things better. My dad always says, “Kill ’em with kindness.” When any sort of negative feedback comes my way, I take it with a grain of salt and sometimes even thank the person for voicing it. Most of the time they are so caught off guard with a response of graciousness instead of a combative one they shift their entire approach.
- Camille: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be patient. Good things will come if you work hard and stay focused on what you want to achieve. I had been emailing a stylist for years getting little to no response and then finally got connected. He requested a suit for his A-list celebrity client and she ended up wearing it on her summer vacation. The recognition we received felt great.
- Camille: Appreciate and celebrate the little wins. Even if you get one order from a new customer, a response from a stylist, or a compliment from a window shopper, these are all positive things that should be celebrated.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
Camille: We are strong women with a solid support system. We have learned that business is all about who you surround yourself with. We are lucky to be uplifted everyday with all the incredibly beautiful women we get to meet in our shop. Like every brand or company, you cannot please everyone. We have definitely had some tough critics with our designs and brand. We have learned you can’t take things seriously because if you do it will crush you. Rise above it and understand that everyone is different and your brand won’t be right everyone and that is okay.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Jackie: I always go back to my core and my roots when thinking about making an impact that is feasible for me. I am from the island of Kauai and its people and lifestyle hold a tender place in my heart. I have my masters degree in elementary education and always imagine creating an enrichment program for the keiki (kids). I would introduce different topics such as cooking, fashion design, Hawaiian culture, and ocean safety. My curriculum would be inquiry based and everything would be hands-on. I want to inspire the minds of our keiki at the foundational level so they feel confident in reaching for the stars. Our youth is our future and working with children is a way to create a ripple effect of good in the community that will impact the world for years to come.
Camille: If I could start a movement that could bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people I would start a school for children. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Jackie: My sister and I have a website, www.CAMIANDJAX.com. Check it out and read our “About” page to learn more about us. We also have a CAMI AND JAX shop in Santa Monica located at 1525 Montana Ave. 90402. You can stop by and say “Hi” or schedule a private fitting with us. We’d love to meet you and suit you up for Summer. If you have any questions, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!