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Swimwear mogul’s one piece of advice for starting a business

Candice Rose-O'Rourke and Karla Rose are Zulu & Zephyr's founders - here's their advice on starting a business. Source: Beauticate, Zulu & Zephyr

Candice Rose-O’Rourke and Karla Rose are the definition of Aussie power sisters.

They’re the founders, directors and current designers of swimwear and resort-style clothing brand, Zulu & Zephyr.

They’ve amassed an insane 332,000 followers on Instagram since their inception in 2012, are stocked in hundreds of stores globally, and have recently opened their first bricks and mortar in California - right next to cult sustainable fashion brand, Reformation, and skincare label Aesop.

Zulu and Zephyr is an Australian swimwear label. Source: Zulu and Zephyr

From the beaches of Byron Bay to the streets of LA, it’s safe to say Zulu & Zephyr is an international success - but how did these sisters do it?

“Be prepared to make sacrifices,” Rose-O’Rourke tells me.

“It was a long 24 months of noodles at home on a Saturday night.”

But even if you’re prepared to do the hard yards, that doesn’t guarantee you can do it alone.

“I think you are either cut out for running your own business, or not. If you are not, consider partnering up with someone who is more business savvy than you and learn all that you can.”

Knockbacks are a-plenty

On top of making sacrifices for your business, you need to persevere through knockbacks - and Rose-O’Rourke is no stranger to those.

“We had our first loan declined, we took the wrong advice sometimes, we hired the wrong people,” she reveals.

“We have personally had to find our place in the business.”

But if you’re willing to keep going, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Today however, we have built a world with people whom we trust and rely on everyday to continue the brands journey.”

Keeping up in a changing landscape

It’s no secret that marketing these days looks a little different from Mad Men days.

There are nano, micro and mega influencers on Instagram. There are brand affiliates, celebrities who promote your products - and it’s all through social media.

But it can be a little difficult to keep up Rose-O’Rourke says, because today’s market landscape has changed and shifted into an online space.

“Our most recent challenges are staying relevant in a now oversaturated market and claiming our piece of the market.”

“Instagram is a wonderful business platform and we are lucky enough to have a loyal, engaged following that are close to our product.”

Zulu & Zephyr works with influencers on exclusive promotions, an affiliate program, and they use Instagram shopping to connect with customers.

There is value in bricks and mortar

While they’ve been a predominantly online space, the sisters opened the doors to their first ever bricks and mortar store in California earlier this year.

“We believe that humans still want and need something tangible - product to touch, feel and be inspired by,” she says.

“We wanted to invite our customer into the ZZ [Zulu & Zephyr] world - not just an IP address.”

“In our store, we welcome you to explore, be creative and feel a part of our journey.”

What’s next for Zulu & Zephyr?

The sisters wouldn’t be the moguls they are if they didn’t forward plan.

“Our ongoing goals are to continue to create original content and diversify our audience to include a wider demographic culturally whilst using our platform to encourage shopping sustainability.”

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