Kansas-raised Kami Darnell, founder of Simple Sarongs, was born a farmer's daughter, and had dreams of life in big cities and exotic destinations. Growing up on the family farm probably gave Kami the no-brainer approach to take matters into her hands to start her own business, after her son was born prematurely and changed her life and work schedule.
We chatted with Kami to learn about where the idea for Simple Sarongs started, why it works, and what gives her the business sense to keep it successful.
What inspired you to get started?
I had unexpectedly become a stay-at-home mom after my son was born 3 months premature. When he was healthy and happily enrolled in preschool, I started looking around for home-based businesses I could start. I just didn't expect my inspiration to hit me while at the pool! After countless trips in and out of the pool, I found that the cover-up I kept reaching for was a terry sarong that I had purchased overseas. Inspired by other sarongs that sat unused in my drawer because I didn't know how to tie them, I set out to make transform the beach towel into a wearable and fashionable swimsuit cover-up that was easy to use. Again, I was inspired by other products purchased overseas, and added buttons and buttonholes - and Simple Sarongs were born.
What was your background? Was it in what you were doing now?
My background was 10 years as a sales rep - just never in the fashion or retail world. I am also a licensed esthetician, and worked in skin care clinics for 7 years. I currently manage long-term rental properties that I own, so I have had moderate experience running a business. I knew a little about a lot of areas, researched the areas I had no experience in, and have been lucky to meet the right people at the right time to fill in the gaps.
What challenge have you had to face that led to a big growth for your company?
The biggest challenge when developing my product was manufacturing. Common sense said to purchase ready-made towels, and sew the buttons and buttonholes on myself to sell on Etsy. But I knew the exact dimension of the towel that I wanted, plus I wanted the print designs to be fashionable - not just cabana stripes or solids. I also needed the towels woven to be as thin as possible, yet still have a luxurious feel. The only way to get exactly what I wanted was to look overseas - and it was either go big, or go home! Being forced into a large minimum order, and large initial investment, has made my focus be "all in." Therefore, my marketing and PR efforts are on a grander scale, and I'm hoping for a bigger pay-off!
What do you have going on in your business right now that you're excited about?
As of today, I am most excited about the response from the press that I have been receiving. I've responded to about 7-8 PR leads, and have had positive responses that have lead to current press, or future press, with 4 different publications. I have also taken advantage of the Tin Shingle Pitch Review - so now am armed and ready to target even more publications.
Where would you love to see your business in 5 years?
I would love to have Simple Sarongs be in coastal swimwear boutiques all around the country, and be launching 2 new collections a year.