Hi, I’m Susan, the founder of Sun Fun, a start-up women’s footwear and handbag company from Los Angeles. We create eco-friendly and water-friendly products that mix high fashion style with the function for the beach or pool. We are inspired by downtown NYC streetwear and the LA beach vibe and want to minimize impact on the environment and maximize fun. We are for the beach, the street and the planet.
I stay motivated by… believing in myself as well as reading about other young entrepreneurs making it happen.
If I could have dinner with one person it would be… Kevin Systrom because right now I’m thinking a lot about the influence and benefits of social media, Instagram in particular, and would love to pick his brain!
The most exciting innovation to me is… all of the new options for eco-friendly materials and components for the fashion industry.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur? Is having your own business something you always wanted?
Since I was a little kid I have been enamored with fashion, design and retail, and have always wanted to have my own store “someday”. It was just a gut feeling of wanting to find great things, display them in a visually cool way and then have the enjoyment of selling them to other people who would like them too. But, I knew that I needed training, so after college I went to work in NYC where all of the brands that I liked seemed to be head quartered. I spent many years there enjoying learning and working in the business in many different areas. That thought as a child faded away for many years as I immersed myself in other brands. It was not until I worked for a young, small company in the meatpacking district a few years ago with young, open minded, founders where my childhood thought of owning a store came back into my mind. I was inspired by the founders’ laser-sharp vision and accomplishments, and especially with them being at a young age. I began to realize that the time was right for me to start something. I realized that I could, too, create and develop a brand, and age and # of years of experience didn’t matter. And from there, the spark was ignited to start to think about what that company would be.
How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?
I moved to Venice, CA a few years ago and bought a one-piece neoprene bathing suit for the beach. I just loved the wetsuit-inspired style and material. It was not girly, but sexy with a sport twist. It was sophisticated and well made. I instantly thought to myself, I would love a shoe in this material. There are no high-end sandals that I can take to the beach and get wet and they won’t get ruined. And then everything just became crystal clear to me. I will create a footwear and handbag company that is a mash up of beach and street. Sophisticated, sexy, with a sport influence. Functional. And because I had been reading a lot over the years about the environment and companies were starting to think about the impact that fashion was having on it, I knew that I also wanted to make sure that all the products were eco-friendly.
What were you doing before this? How did it prepare you for the entrepreneurial life?
Before starting Sun Fun, I spent over 17 years in the fashion industry working in areas of buying, planning, wholesale sales and merchandising for brands such as Gucci, Prada and rag & bone.
I spent the majority of my time working in the footwear category, but also handbags and other accessories. I loved working with these products, studying the trends of what sells and doesn’t at retailers, working with internal design and product development teams to formulate merchandising plans for future style ideas and also creating sales budgets and plans for continued growth.
These roles and companies have definitely given me many tools and resources for help with starting my company, but certainly not all. They did not teach me how to start and launch a business from scratch. I don’t think that you can ever be fully prepared when you start a business for the first time. You can make all the plans and budgets you think are needed, but they will change as you begin to dig in. You have to immerse yourself in every kind of role and learn how to do it. You have to be a thinker and a problem solver. A jack of all trades. You need to have a strong vision, be resourceful and learn from everything that you do. It’s not easy, but I find it very interesting—trying to figure out all the pieces to the puzzle. I have learned so much more about marketing now, for example, by doing my own research, speaking with people in the field, and teaching/training myself. You have to become a student again.
What is your biggest dream? Why? Describe your biggest vision for your business.
In the short term, I would just love to see some smiling faces on the beach or street wearing our products! In the long term, I would love for Sun Fun to become a full lifestyle brand that you can wear head to toe and find in both brick and mortar as well as online. I would love to be able to express the full essence of the brand through full looks and the vibe not just online but via our own stores so that you can touch and feel what we feel and hopefully be as inspired and excited as we are with the products. I also vision for the brand to expand from our surf inspired roots into our turf collection ideas as well.