Chasing the Sun: The Kulani Kinis Story | #208

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Dani and Alex chased the sun and ended up with a cheeky eComm business.

ep 208
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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

Dani & Alex are a wife & husband Co-founder couple who transitioned from their traditional careers (psychologist & accountant) to chase the sun & build a multimillion dollar swimwear brand.

You can contact Danielle Atkins at LinkedIn
You can contact Alex Babich at LinkedIn

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Dani Atkins and Alex Babich, the married founders of Kulani Kinis – a swimwear label inspired by Hawaiian life, summer and a love of colour. And they are taking the world by storm. Not only are they selling over $20m of bikinis with their team of 40, they are selling 80% of their product outside of Australia. In this delightfully honest and real episode, Dani and Alex talk us through the inspiration to create a new swimwear label as a side hustle and how they left their previous careers as a psychologist and a corporate accountant. We also discuss why they don’t pay influencers (despite their 600K followers) and their tips for surviving burnout in a very busy eCommerce world. 

“We just crossed over half a million followers, we’re now heading towards 600,000, which is incredible

Dani Atkins

Psychology to swimwear 

(Dani) “Alex and I were working in our own professions. Alex was an accountant and I was a practising psychologist working for New South Wales Health, so in the hospital systems. It was quite an intense job, and I worked in acute mental health. I’d been probably in that role for about seven years and looking forward to maintain my own mental health and longevity in that career, I looked around and saw that those that stayed most balanced and looked after themselves had a split role, so they worked something outside as well as something in the health department.

I was looking around for maybe what else I could do that could complement working and not doing full-time work on night calls and shifts and things. It was probably around that stage that friends of our started a jerky business, beef jerky, and we were asked to help them a little bit. That was my first time of helping someone, seeing something like a product go from nothing to something and selling it.  That was where I think I had the idea that maybe we could create something and potentially sell it.”

Insta success

(Dani) “We just crossed over half a million followers, or we’re now heading maybe towards 600,000, which is incredible.

(Alex ) I think a lot of people who have success on Instagram have to have some humility around the fact that there was an advantage to starting four or five years ago where there isn’t now, right? I think a lot of people kind of say, “Oh, yeah. Look, right, it’s all about the content. It’s all about the content. It’s all this.” Kind of, yes, but it’s also like, you do have to acknowledge that when you have momentum, it really helps, and the earlier you start, the more momentum you have, the easier it gets.

I think when you do have a sufficient kind of size and scale, you can put more resources into creating beautiful campaigns, beautiful content, doing paid ads, to doing a lot of stuff. I think it comes back to having a really good product. I think what we are so lucky as a brand is that we have a very visual-based product

“We actually don’t really pay many influencers or anything to wear our product. We consider ourselves lucky that we can basically send our product to anyone and they’ll want to wear it because, one, it’s really beautifully designed, so it’s a really pretty piece of fabric, and they’re looking for fresh content to make all the time. Especially everyone loves holidays, and our target audience, everyone in our target loves the beach, loves waves and sun. It’s a very natural fit.”

Self care

(Dani) “Something Alex and I try and practice is self-care. It’s very tempting to get stuck up late and then you end up going into lack of sleep, and so I think it’s really making sure we’re not having too many late nights, because the hours just disappear at 2:00 or 3:00 AM in the morning, and you can get really excited and energised by that.

You also have to learn if you’re running on that energy and excitement and adrenaline, that that will take a toll elsewhere, so it’s really about making sure you’re sleeping, walking when you can, maintaining your inspiration. Alex and I have listened to a lot of podcasts, so it’s finding things that really light your fire to keep you going, and staying on track with that.”

Questions answered in this episode include
  • When was the moment you realised your side hustle was a full time business? 
  • Tell us about the personalised size help you have on your site and how it works?
  • What’s your approach to gifting product?

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