One of the biggest joys of working on NotSuchAModelMum is not only discovering brilliant brands that have been set up by mums, but also meeting those ‘supermums’ behind the businesses. We have always dressed our kids in Sunuva Swimwear, as we love both the cool designs and the UV protection in them, and, now, thanks to NotSuchAModelMum, we have been fortunate enough to meet both Sabrina Naggar and Emily Cohen, the brains behind Sunuva.
Emily and Sabrina are two friends who set up a business together – a collaboration between two best buddies that resonates with our own story – and as such, they have proved a huge inspiration for us. We managed to grab Sabrina for a chat and a cocktail, and ask her some questions about being a mum and running a business.
Tell us about yourself:
I’m a mum of four (almost) teenagers aged 12-16 and co-founder of Sunuva, a sunny holiday lifestyle brand for kids. I’m fitness crazy and love travelling to discover new places and draw inspiration.
You and Emily set up Sunuva together. How did you meet and how did the concept for Sunuva begin?
We met on holiday nearly eleven years ago when we were introduced at the pool by our kids who knew each other from nursery. With six very young kids between us, we were very aware of the impact of the harmful rays of the sun on young skin, but as fashion conscious women we couldn’t find any UV protective swimwear that we liked. Sunuva started with our redesign of the basic rash vest, giving it more of a fashion edge – and the rest of the collection grew from there to include matching and co-coordinating swimwear, beachwear and accessories. We’ve also just launched our capsule women’s collection of easy to throw on beachwear and accessories.
With knowing what you know now, would you do it all again?
Although both of us had already had our own businesses before, neither of us had a background in fashion, garment production or ecommerce and the learning curve was huge at the beginning. Would there be things we would have done differently in hindsight – of course! Would we do it all again – yes, but perhaps with less of the stress thanks to all the knowledge we have gained!
What goals do you have for the company for 2018?
We would like to continue our rapid growth of the last few years with a particular focus on increasing our presence in the American market and e-commerce – and of course we will continue to push our own design boundaries so that hopefully each collection is better than the previous one.
What’s it like running a business with a good friend?
Our friendship was very new when we started the company so it actually evolved with the business. Now I see more of Emily than I see my husband – and we have worked at it like a good marriage!
What inspires the designs for Sunuva?
We both love adventure and discovery trips and we take great inspiration from our travels whether it be for prints, trims or embroideries.
How did you come up with the name?
It evolved from one of many lengthy brain storming sessions which included the discussion of the name of a beach in Indonesia which Emily had visited. We liked the fact that it included the words ‘Sun’ and ‘UV’ which are very relevant to our brand and we created the font ourselves from letters that we saw on the side of an Italian life boat.
Any recommendations for others wanting to start their own business?
Never underestimate how much commitment it takes to start your own business. It will be a rollercoaster of a journey. Make sure you have a strong USP (unique selling point) to differentiate yourself from your competitors and really focus on having a solid, realistic business plan to start out with to make sure that your idea is sound before you jump in!
What made you expand into accessories and womenswear? What do you have in store for the future of Sunuva?
Our customers are very loyal and they have been asking us for years, so we listened and voila!
How do you juggle motherhood and a business?
I find the juggle between work and the four kids enormous. I try my best, but I definitely don’t claim to be brilliant at it! I do have help at home which is a HUGE help but there is still always so much to do. I try to save time by doing as much online as I can – shopping, banking etc. I’m extremely organized, with spreadsheets for everything. For example, when we travel I give the kids a tick list of what to pack (no. of tshirts etc) and they do it themselves.
Top mum tip?
Don’t forget to look after and make time for yourself – that’s my new year’s resolution.
Top business tip?
Try not to drown in the nitty gritty of the daily grind and remember to step back and look at the bigger picture so that you can see your strategic direction.
What hurdles did you face setting up a children’s swimwear company?
So many!! Trying to find factories who would manufacture for a fledgling business with no experience, launching in a recession, building an e-commerce site with a business that went into administration so that we lost everything, raising money to keep the business going in the early years and the list goes on!
What or who has been your biggest support and source of advice this whole journey?
We have taken advice from so many people over the years. At the beginning of the journey, we turned to our family and friends but as we grew bigger we approached business leaders and other entrepreneurs who had been down a similar path. Now we have a great chairman, Peter Kenyon (formerly CEO of Umbro, Man United and Chelsea) who keep us on the straight and narrow!
What is the most rewarding part of setting up your own business? And the most frustrating?
The most rewarding is seeing carefree kids running around in our collections on beaches around the world. We were warned what a nightmare production can be and all I can say is it lives up to its reputation!
What did you feel was missing in the children’s swimwear arena that Sunuva can offer?
Initially it was fashionable UV protective swimwear, but Sunuva now offers everything your children need for their sunny holiday wardrobe. We are the expert in kids UV swimwear and beachwear because that is all we do. We design all our prints in house, so you won’t find them anywhere else in the market.
Which brand would you like to emulate and why?
We don’t aspire to be like another brand, we aspire to be different to other brands!
Let’s talk fashion….
Who is your favourite designer? I don’t have a favourite designer, but a few that I like include Isabel Marant, Diesel, 1234 Cashmere and Tibi and I wear a LOT of Zara!
What is your go-to outfit? My work wardrobe is jeans and a t-shirt or jumper with white leather trainers. At night I’m often still in jeans but maybe I’ll throw on some heels and a pretty top.