This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Break the Bias, to raise awareness on the role that unconscious bias plays in stopping women from getting ahead. For ygap, this means breaking the bias of women in the business space by sharing the stories of the Founders and CEOs, Inventors and Innovators who face significant social and structural barriers to thriving in business, but who do it anyway.
This week, we’re speaking with Amber Boyers of Baiia on her journey as Director and Founder of Baiia, a swimwear company that is all about making women feel incredible in a swimsuit while honouring sustainable practice.
Watch the interview here or continue reading for a written version:
“I always knew I was quite entrepreneurial.” Amber tells us. “I wanted to start my own business and I wanted to take my values which were sustainability and empowering women, and couple that with my experience with marketing and my passion for fashion.”
With those values and that drive to start something, Amber can clearly trace back to why she settled on swimwear as her key product. “When I look back and I really reflect on how I came to swimwear it was really recognizing that the garment that had the most potential to change how a woman felt about herself was a swimsuit. I thought ‘that’s something that looked really challenging, and it’s something that I struggle with myself, and so I’m going to try and do it’.” The question then became “how can we take the equivalent of a power suit and put it in a swimsuit?”
It was an idea with legs — a swimwear line that was sustainable, and that empowered women to feel confident in themselves. But taking the step from idea to real-life was not an easy one.
“Entrepreneurialism is really quite difficult, you never know if it’s going to pay off at the end of the day, if you’re going to have a time where you can just stop and breathe and celebrate.”
Amber describes her start-up journey as a rollercoaster of courage, isolation, trying, failing, and trying again.
“You don’t know what you’re doing a lot of the time. You just have to be like okay, today I’m just going to throw myself out there and see what happens, oh it didn’t work, okay let’s try again tomorrow. You’re going back and forth and you don’t really know who to go to to access any kind of assistance.” This lack of certainty was not something that Amber let hold her back, and her entrepreneurial spirit is obvious in the way she speaks. “There’s a lot of challenges ahead.” she says. “But that’s what we’re in for, that’s how we live life, that’s how we grow.”
Now, in 2022, Amber has good reason to celebrate. Baiia is a growing force in the Australian swimwear market, and for all the right reasons. True to her intentions, Baiia is a brand that very clearly advocates for all women to feel empowered and confident in themselves. Their marketing shows rather than tells people that Baiia’s products are designed for all women to celebrate their differences.
“How can we take the equivalent of a power suit and put it in a swimsuit?”
“Using women from different countries, women of different shapes and different sizes, with birthmarks, different hair, different everything — it was really to normalise the fact that everyone is so different, and if you can accept all those different little parts of you, it just makes you feel like you can build that relationship with yourself that you’re always wanted to. That was really important that women felt like that when they stepped inside one of our swimsuits.”
This focus on self confidence is only matched by Baiia’s commitment to sustainability. “So the swimsuits are actually created out of recycled rubbish from the ocean. What’s really beautiful in that is that — you know, it’s not a beautiful topic the fact there’s plastic in the ocean, but a lot of the plastic in the ocean can be regenerated into a fabric that can just continuously be used over and over, so you can keep melting it down and create a brand new fabric out of it essentially.”
It’s an exciting and innovative product that resonates with people who want to align their purchases with their values. Amber explains why it was so important to take this route in her product development. “So what we’re doing is we’re collecting all of this rubbish that once just caused havoc in our oceans and our planet and regenerating it into something brand new and something really sturdy and high quality — again, like the durability of the fabric is really important to us because that again lends a hand to sustainability. How can we really go full circle with this, and take something that is otherwise hurting our planet and then creating something that hopefully helps women feel like their best self.”
This combination of sustainable practice and building self confidence has obviously struck a chord, as Baiia has experienced some very exciting business growth since 2019. Though Amber’s business journey hasn’t been without its challenges.
“Going in on a business on your own is an incredibly isolating experience.” she reflects. “There’s so much uncertainty that you’re entering into. It’s a lot of pressure for one person to just wake up every day and deal with uncertainty after uncertainty, and sometimes not quite knowing when the light at the end of the tunnel is going to appear.”
Apart from the usual long hours and late nights of starting a business, Amber also noted that getting from a space operating to a space of thriving was a difficult process. It wasn’t for a lack of resources available, but a gap in her ability to access them based on where her business was at. “I experienced having to wait until [my business] was a certain size where I could actually fully take advantage of the resources that were available. If you are a small business or a one woman team — you actually just don’t have the time to find the resources.”
“I experienced having to wait until [my business] was a certain size where I could actually fully take advantage of the resources that were available. If you are a small business or a one woman team — you actually just don’t have the time to find the resources.”
Many women don’t have the opportunity to push through this period and get to the kind of success that Amber has found with Baiia. Looking back, she identifies that this crucial stage is where support is most needed. “I know that there’s definitely a disparity in terms of what size you are and how seriously you’re taken. And it’s really difficult because it’s almost like those guys need it the most, really, because then they get stuck in a hamster wheel of not having access to the resources that they need to grow to then be taken seriously, to then have access to the resources.”
Though her journey has been challenging as well as rewarding, Amber recognises that she has a lot to be grateful for in the resources she was able to tap into, especially compared to women who are starting businesses in spaces that are not designed to support them.
“I look at myself and I think yes, I’m very tenacious, yes I’m driven, a lot of my success it was a lot of my actions — but so much of that was just right place, right time, and some people in some countries will just never have that. My hat goes off to them tenfold, because of how far behind they have to start out of reasons completely beyond their own control; not only for having the lack of access to the right resources, but also for being a woman.”
When we asked Amber what it was that really helped to propel her to the next phase of her business, she emphatically spoke to the importance of surrounding herself with people who supported her.
“[It’s] just knowing someone is there that you can talk to who kind of understands what you’re going through.” It is this sense of community, this found start-up family that has really helped Amber in her business journey. “I don’t think my business would have gone where it is today, in those few short years, if it wasn’t for the connections I had, if it wasn’t for the people I just happened to meet.”
For Amber, developing that community was just as important as developing personal resilience. “It’s one thing to have mindset and try and get yourself into the zone in a state where you’re ‘okay this is what’s happening to me right now, I’m just going to try and observe and not react too much, but it’s very hard to do if you don’t have a community around you. Just having someone offer their support to you — whether that’s a friend, whether that’s a business community, whether that’s a mentor if you’re lucky enough to find one.”
Amber has come a long way but there is still a lot more that she wants to do with Baiia, to share her success and support other women in their own journeys. “We didn’t grow up with a lot of money,” Amber says. “ I grew up with a single mum, and I just knew that money meant opportunity. And I thought, if I could make a lot of money, I could create a lot of opportunity for me, for [women like] my mum, and all the other women out there who don’t have [a lot of] opportunity.”
Through Baiia’s success, Amber is certainly delivering on this intention. Along with the focus of empowerment and sustainability, the growth of the business over the last few years has provided multiple opportunities for employment. “I started alone, working a few jobs for a few years, just trying to get the business up and going, working in a one woman team. In the space of the last two years, [we are now] a team of 15. It’s grown a lot, I’ve just last week hired an Operations Manager which was such a celebration for me.” It means Amber can focus on the direction of the business and building its future, rather than needing to focus on the day to day.
And the vision is clear: “backing women entrepreneurs is the best thing we can do for the world at the moment.” At its heart, supporting women to succeed as entrepreneurs is about equality, but it’s also about the economic and social and environmental implications of doing business better.
To recognise International Women’s Day, Baiia is offering a special 10% off their sustainable swimwear range when you use the code YGAP10.
This is part of a series of gender-focused content for International Women’s Day. To learn more about ygap and what we do, head to www.ygap.org