Swimsuits are May’s Sirena Magazine theme and since May is also mother’s day, we want to highlight a Puerto Rican mother and daughter micro-enterprise focused on the design and manufacture of swimsuits.
Here we share a bit of the history of Kiwii Swim, the business of Naida Ortiz and her daughter Daina Isabel Ramírez. Naida is a graduate of the first class of the Tommie Hernández Professional Certification in Design and Patterns of Clothing in Elastic Fabrics and works full-time as an Occupational Therapist. Daina Isabel, has been a model for Tommie Hernández and is a full-time university student. This, however, did not stop them and together they decided to start and launch Kiwii Swim, a swimwear line.
Join me to learn a little about Naida and Daina.
When did you become interested in sewing?
My interest in sewing arose from a very young age, in my middle school days. I was about 13 years old when I took the home economics course. There I learned basic sewing skills such as hemming, fitting, and handling the sewing machine. Later, already in high school, I was motivated by my mother, who on a special occasion bought me a commercial pattern. I learned to read it and use it. I remember it was a palazzo jumpsuit which I made and I was happy with the initial result. That pattern was a success because I used it several times creating pieces for myself, my sister and friends, modifying it to each one’s taste. As the saying goes, who inherits it does not steal it, because I have as inspiration aunts on my mother’s and father’s side who are seamstresses and I have followed in their footsteps with my passion for sewing.
Does Daina also sew?
Definitely it is in her blood. Being in elementary school, she chose Fashion Design as occupation for her Occupation Week project and was exposed to various tasks of the profession. Daina is more into creating and designing, imagining the idea and capturing it in a drawing. She leaves the sewing to me. But as in any business in its beginnings, it is important to learn its different aspects. So, it’s part of the business process for Daina to learn how to sew.
What motivated you to take the certification and start a fashion business?
Stretch fabric outfits fascinate me because of the variety of prints and patterns and how well they fit the body, in addition to the fact that they are easy to handle in terms of storage and care. Let me tell you this anecdote: “on one occasion I bought some stretch fabrics for my seamstress to make me some shirts and dresses and I was disappointed with the outcome. I realized that not everyone who sews knows how to sew stretch fabrics. She did her job well, but she didn’t have the right technique. That’s where my interest in learning how to sew stretch fabrics came from. One day, while I was with Daina at a fashion casting for students in Tommie’s courses at the School of Fine Arts, I met Tommie. Later, Tommie promoted her pattern making course for stretch fabrics and, hooray, that was a hit! I enrolled and the course met my expectations 100%. From there, already with the knowledge acquired in the pattern making course for stretch fabrics, I felt ready to level up and launch myself into something bigger, which was to expand my knowledge in pattern making, design and clothing manufacturing, and on this occasion making a mini-collection . The process was very enriching and from there my interest in launching myself into fashion entrepreneurship, apart from being an Occupational Therapist, arose.
How challenging was it to complete the process during the pandemic?
The communication mechanisms changed because everything was at a distance. The possibility of being in a room learning, clarifying doubts, and sharing learning and experiences with other classmates changed from a face-to-face mode to a virtual one, at a distance. But I always think that challenges or obstacles serve as inspiration to learn and improve. So we learned to communicate through other means such as video calls and Zoom meetings. Tommie was always available to assist us and thus we achieved the goals set in this new non-traditional way of learning. Despite all the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, spending more time at home was very productive for me. I was able to manage the confinement in a more pleasant way, creating and producing together with my daughter, what would be my mini-collection. . In the end, achieving the result gives you satisfaction.
What motivated you to start a business together?
Many things motivated us but one of them was the balance we achieve between one and the other in relation to each one’s strengths, skills, abilities and what each one can contribute in the process.
What do you like most about being business partners?
What we love most about this entrepreneurial project is that we complement each other, divide tasks and responsibilities in the process, share ideas and support each other.
What is the most challenging thing about being business partners?
The generational difference is the most challenging. My style is more conservative and Daina’s is more fashion forward, she is more daring and inclusive. Daina is more demanding, a perfectionist with a high sense of urgency. She instills me with her way of being and this benefits the business process.
In every mother-daughter relationship, as in every employment relationship, there are differences of opinion. How do you manage differences of opinion in your business?
The success of any business, family related or not, is based on trust, communication and respect. When differences arise between us, we have the ability to sit down and talk and focus on what we want to achieve with our business. We seek to solve and reach a midpoint where we both agree, it’s a win-win environment.
What advice do you give your daughter?
I advise Daina to project herself big, be positive, educate herself and learn more every day, to always be open to suggestions from those with more experience and to always trust her abilities and what she hopes to achieve with Kiwii Swim.
What would you say to other mothers and daughters who are considering starting a business together?
If you are thinking of carrying out some type of venture together, such as a micro-enterprise, take advantage of it and give yourself the opportunity to live the experience, to share the process together; be determined, and enjoy it to the fullest. We have gotten our relationship to a new level and we will enjoy success together, as a family.
Why Kiwii Swim ?
We focused on a name that could be easy for the consumer to remember and that when they think of Kiwii Swim they associate it with something refreshing such as going to the beach or swimming pool enjoying tropical fruits.
What do you want to convey with your brand?
We want to convey a message of empowerment and optimism, that doing decent and quality work is possible with persistence and effort.
Why did you decide to specialize in the design and manufacture of swimwear?
The idea came from Daina who, on one occasion, asked me to support her in developing her business idea and starting a business by creating a micro-enterprise. Daina has entrepreneurial and business sense from courses she has been exposed to. So in one of Tommie’s design classes, while I was working on my drawings and designs for my certification collection, Daina was motivated to create her designs for her swimwear line. From there, we decided to specialize in swimsuits.
Do you focus on any particular type of swimsuit?
We don’t have a particular type. The pieces are in standard sizes ranging from XS to L and are varied: bikinis, one-piece, strapless, trikinis, thongs. We want to provide diverse and inclusive alternatives to young women.
What are your future plans for Kiwii Swim?
We want to launch an e-commerce store and promote Kiwii Swim virtually. That the consumer can have another option in the swimwear market. In the near future, we would like to flirt with the idea of venturing into the Spanish market since Daina is studying there and through what she studies she has the opportunity to take Kiwii Swim to the next level.
Any additional messages you would like to share with our readers?
Yes, to please support the local market and especially entrepreneurial businesses such as Kiwii Swim. That they give themselves the opportunity to discover their talents through entrepreneurship, that they educate themselves and learn, what is necessary and more, about the type of entrepreneurship that they are going to carry out. Everything begins with an interest and a dream. Visualize yourself and give yourself the opportunity to work on that dream and you will be amazed at what you can achieve. Dare to do it, you lose nothing.
Thanks to Naida and Daina for sharing their story with Sirena Magazine. We know that Kiwii Swim will be successful thanks to the commitment and dedication of both of them and their beautiful mother-daughter relationship. Let’s support them by visiting their social networks.
We hope that this interview will inspire all our readers, especially those mothers and daughters who are considering starting a business together.
Article written by
María Enid Rosa, member of the Sirena Elite community