, Summersalt Is Bringing Joy Back To Swimwear, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Summersalt Is Bringing Joy Back To Swimwear

, Summersalt Is Bringing Joy Back To Swimwear, The Nzuchi News Forbes

As a child, going to the beach or the pool was something fun or exciting. So was being in the water. But, somewhere along the way, culture and the pressures of daily life intervened, and it wasn’t fun anymore. Putting on a swimsuit became a challenge, stressful, and maybe even, embarrassing.

Summersalt, a direct-to-consumer women’s apparel company, wants to change that. They want to help their customers find joy, especially in the water, again.

Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin, Co-Founder and Chief Brand & Digital Officer at Summersalt explains, “Essentially, a swimsuit is the most naked we as women will be in public ever. So there’s so much that goes along with shopping for an item that is making you just completely vulnerable. We wanted to kind of turn that on it’s head and give an opportunity to just have fun with it again. Because we remember those times, all of us do, where we have sand in our toes, salt in our hair, completely and totally carefree. And, we wanted to inspire women to feel that.”

And that they have. Four years since their launch in 2017 with an angel investment of $625,000, – the St. Louis, Missouri based company is going strong. In the past year,  Summersalt has seen 100% year-over-year growth in revenue, a feat in a year that decimated traditional retail. They continue to grow at an accelerated pace and expect to surpass their projected revenue goals for 2021. They’ve also expanded offerings in loungewear, athleisure, and intimates.

The numbers, though, only tell part of the story. Their inbox is flooded with customer testimonials about their experiences with the company and it’s marketing, particularly the “Every Body is a Summersalt Body” campaign, which featured 24 diverse women, including model Maye Musk, soccer stars Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger, and Special Olympian Gold Medalist Chelsea Werner, in swimsuits to promote body positivity and self-confidence. 

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In their messages is the story of the woman who described sitting on the sidelines for a long time, then decided to finally try a Summersalt swimsuit, and felt able to “participate in life again.” Another woman wrote how she felt she missed out on events and celebrations, like vacations and swimming classes, because she did not want to get into a bathing suit. Summersalt changed that for her. She has now has gone to the beach with her family and it makes her so happy. 

Reading these emails, and sharing them over Slack channels helps to reinforce the hard work that they do in their company. It also almost always brings tears. Lori Coulter, Co-Founder and CEO at Summersalt says, “It is about making a difference in the lives of our consumers by doing something even bigger than we are individually. The commerce part of it is, you know, really important, obviously, but it’s’ about impact and making a difference in the lives of our consumer.”

However, joy is not the only emotion that they lean into. As a company, they are acutely aware that all emotions come with swimsuit shopping, particularly during a global pandemic, and want to support their customers in any way possible through them. Chamberlin emphasizes, “It is not about meeting her where she is just physically or where she’s digitally shopping, but it’s also meeting her where she is emotionally.”

One incredibly unique way that they have done this is through the creation of the Customer Happiness team, or the team of women who respond if you write their support email address ([email protected]). Instead of an automated response or impersonal reply, you might get an answer from someone who used to be, or even is training to be, a therapist. 

Anna Kate Arnold, team lead for the Customer Happiness Team who is based in St. Louis, Missouri, is one of those women. She is getting her master’s in counseling currently and really enjoys the cross-over between her jobs, even though she had never worked in retail before.  She explains, “You get a lot of situations where someone is hurt or frustrated, and identifying where the customer is emotionally helps us disarm with kindness. That is so important so you can start to understand that they aren’t just mad that a product was delayed or a carrier lost their package, but they also might be nervous and scared about something more. It’s about not just seeing them for face value or for their words on a screen.” 

For example, over the holidays Arnold talked to a customer who was initially angry about receiving the wrong size and wanted to take it out on her. She thought about how Summersalt would want her to embrace the customer and through a conversation determined the customer was having a baby and getting the wrong size suit “made her feel like everything was going wrong.” Anna then was able to not just get her what she wanted, but help her through it. She also validated the customer’s experience and supported her in loving herself.

Of course, while the team started with 5 women who all had master’s in counseling degrees and has grown to about 50 women, they are not all therapists anymore. Still, new hires share the same culture. Coulter says they vet them for high empathy and emotional connection, their communication skills, particularly in writing, and their ability to be collaborative in a team. They also need to be a heavy user of technology, given that they are a digital brand.

Collectively the team represents the customer demographics in a way that helps them understand their needs and challenges beautifully. They are moms, students, and even farmers. The work model allows this diversity to thrive; All members of the Happiness Team work remotely about 20-25 hours a week, but given their lives when they are not working, they can dictate when their hours occur. Ginnie Clark, 34, who is a team manager for the Customer Happiness Team based in Atlanta, Georgia and a mother of three kids under Age 4, says, “They are flexible for people with families, those who enjoy certain shifts, and the role fits the stage of life we currently are in. They do a great job at caring about the whole team.” She emphasizes that the company allowed people to change with the new normal and to work remotely. In this way, they could still bring joy to customers, while also, at least for Clark’s example, being a good mom.

Sometimes team members also act as the mom for the shopper, or the best friend, or sister. They represent, as Chamberlin says, the trusted person that the shopper is willing to take into the dressing room with them. She says, “We take our moms, we take our sisters, we take our besties when we’re trying on a dress or a swimsuit or something fun, and we want their opinions and their thoughts. Those are those things that a consumers only vulnerable about if she feels comfortable, and feel supported on the other end.” Coulter added, “It is amazing how emotional these purchases can be for someone, and not everyone, but a lot of women.”

It is the awareness of and support for these emotions in their consumers that make Summersalt different. They want to hear about the difficulties and the victories. They want to see people re-experiencing the fun and joy of the water or postponed vacations finally materialized. And, they simply want to build human to human connection and community. That part they absolutely have covered.

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