We are all works in progress; even the successful women you see owning it on Instagram faced stumbling blocks along the way and continue to work hard to stay at the top of their game. In this series, we’re sitting down with the people that inspire us to find out: How’d they do it? And what is success really like? This is “Getting There.”

Lori Coulter and Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin are the founders of Summersalt, the direct-to-consumer apparel brand best known for those swimsuits you’ve probably seen all over Instagram. Their goal was to make shopping for a swimsuit a less miserable experience for women and produce pieces that their customers could actually move in comfortably. Since then, they’ve expanded to activewear and loungewear, too.

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Coulter and Chamberlin spoke to TMRW about starting a swimwear company in St. Louis — a city that’s not exactly known for beaches — and shared their advice for raising capital as female entrepreneurs as well as their thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the retail industry.

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TMRW: Where did the first idea for Summersalt come from?

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Lori Coulter: My mother and I were discussing her annual trip to Florida and she said, “If we could just make a swimsuit that fits, we’d have a gold mine.” That was the genesis for me.

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March 18, 202105:13

What was so problematic about swimsuit shopping?

Coulter: I think a swimsuit for many women, no matter their size, brings up all sorts of thoughts and insecurities. It shouldn’t be that way. Our goal all along with Summersalt has been to inspire joy in the lives of our consumers, particularly that childlike joy we all felt at the beach as children.

Swim so far has been done in this overs**ualized, antiquated way for so long. We thought it was really important to reposition around joy and engaging with life and playing with your children and diving in wherever life might be.

Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin: We were also seeing an empty white space (in the market). On the one hand, there was the cheap swimwear that would disintegrate after a couple of wears. And then on the high end, you have beautiful swimwear that we all admire, but it was very cost prohibitive for a consumer — $300 for a one-piece. Most of our swimwear is $95.

You raised over $600,000 in initial investments — and much more since then. What tips do you have for other female entrepreneurs looking to raise capital?

Coulter: Getting off the ground was really touch and go. It was hard to convince conservative, Midwestern angel investors as two women founders selling a female-oriented product out of the Midwest, with the closest beach being the Mississippi River, that this was an opportunity.

  1. Just paint the biggest picture of what you’re doing and make sure you’re not underselling. I think women founders tend to be a bit more realistic and it’s just not the right thing to do. You need to really show what (your company) can become.
  2. Don’t take the nos personally. It’s usually not about you; it’s about the investor’s portfolio. If someone tells us no, we almost always maintain a great relationship with them. And I can’t tell you how many people we’ve had come back to us and say, “You know, I really should have done your deal.” And we say, “Yeah, you should have.”

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