Hippie Kids: The Coolest Swimwear Line Ever Sold Out of a Bus
It’s the story every aspiring millennial entrepreneur dreams about. Two teenagers create an Instagram account, get thousands of followers, decide to start a bohemian Hawaiian swimwear apparel line and travel festival to festival selling it out of their ’70s Volkswagen bus. How hard could it be?
The thing about Morgan and McKenzie Smith, though, is that they’re not dreaming about it. They’re doing it. The sisters, who were 18 and 16 when they started their Instagram account Hippie_Kids, have slowly but surely built a business they believe in. Now they have 230k Instagram followers, an impressive website and a trademark pending for their logo.
Instagram and Daisy
Initially, the girls created Hippie_Kids because McKenzie needed a place to share her photography and inspiration. According to Morgan, their following grew pretty organically, and soon brands were reaching out to be promoted on their page. That’s when they started to consider doing business. “We were promoting all these other people, so we just decided it was time to give our followers something more tangible.”
They took their love of the beach and interest in fashion, bought a 1977 Volkswagen bus, named it Daisy, and started selling clothes and jewelry out if it at local festivals.
“We Just kind of jumped right into it. Us being so young and passionate helped us in the long run because we were so excited to try to make our dream happen.”
The old axiom ‘don’t do business with family’ doesn’t apply to the Hippie Kids — Morgan says they’ve never really had any trouble running a business together. “We’re best friends…ever since we decided to get serious about the business, it’s been great.”
Their parents and older sister have helped with administrative tasks, and they’re also close with the owner of Dream Beard, who has mentored them along the way.
Morgan says her two year internship with designers Abbey Glass and Megan Huntz helped familiarize her with the business side of fashion and apparel. “The journey has been awesome,” said Morgan, now 23. “It’s been a learning process. We had to teach ourselves graphic design, coding and website building.”
Occasionally the girls will hire temporary employees to help with festivals or big orders, and they’ve done a bit of outsourcing for the swimwear. Aside from that, they do everything, including design and production. McKenzie takes the photos and posts on their Instagram pages (they now have three, including one for their swimwear line, along with their other social media accounts). Morgan does the styling and picks the models, along with more of the functional pattern work.
Hippie Kids operates out of Atlanta, but the girls love to travel and have considered doing pop-ups elsewhere. “When we first started, the goal was to go to Hawaii at some point and see if we do well,” said Morgan. “We saved our money and went to Hawaii this past January.”
While it was a great experience, they’re realistic about expenses and immediate priorities. A brick and mortar would be ideal, but right now, they’re focused on producing good social and web content and running shophippiekids.com. The next thing they’d like to do is get picked up by a few of their favorite brands, all while attending as many festivals as possible.
In fact, it was at a festival where they learned an important business lesson. “We didn’t realize how important a trademark was,” Morgan said, recalling the time a guy came up to them at a festival asking about their brand. “It was just sketchy,” she said. “He was asking all these questions, and we both had a feeling something wasn’t right.” That’s when they knew they had to protect their company.
They’ve had a few other lessons along the way, what Morgan says were “stupid mistakes” that taught them to pay closer attention to the details. More than anything, though, she says they’ve learned to listen to what customers like, and to believe in themselves.
“If you really think that something is going to work, keep with it,” she said. “It’s going to take time. If it’s something you’re really passionate about and can stand behind, you can make it happen.”