“Relatable, wearable, and sexy on our own terms.”
When St. Louis-based startup founders Lori Coulter and Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin met over lunch in June 2016, they did not immediately envision or even discuss the possibility of starting a company together. Nonetheless, the co-founders launched their eco-friendly designer swimwear brand Summersalt on May 23, 2017, and together raised a remarkable $8.10 million in capital in a year and a half. The women have achieved exceptional traction in an impressively short period of time since the inception of their partnership and the company launch.
Both women are serial entrepreneurs. Chattaram Chamberlin ran a digital marketing agency with the aim of bridging the gap between design and strategy. After working with multiple digital first brands, she understood the direct-to-consumer playbook inside and out. Coulter, a ten-year veteran of the apparel industry, understood how to quickly turn around digitized design and manufacturing prototypes to production and sale.
The two parted with no specific plans to reconnect. However, the seeds had been planted, and Coulter left the lunch with new insight and the seeds of a new brand. Chattaram Chamberlin continued to build her agency. Meanwhile, over the next six months, Coulter researched the direct-to-consumer space, wrote a business plan, and developed the initial strategy for what is now Summersalt.
Perhaps timing is everything, or perhaps chance favors the prepared, but whatever the case may be, the pair met again serendipitously in New York in January 2017. Chattaram Chamberlin recalls, “Lori articulated an amazing strategy, and I agreed that we could create an unstoppable team and offer consumers a truly unique and cohesive brand experience.”
The two struck their deal in early March 2017 and raised $625,000 by April 2017 to open a bank account. In the blink of an eye following their May 2017 launch, the company closed a $2 million seed round in March 2018, and their momentum continued to build. The company just closed a $6.10 million Series A deal in October to position Summersalt in the elite class of venture-backed startups. San Francisco-based Founders Fund led the round, and Clayton-based Lewis and Clark Ventures, St. Louis-based Cultivation Capital, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, Dundee Venture Capital, Breakout Capital, Victress Capital, Amplifyher Ventures, and M25 also participated.
The Summersalt founders agree that their early successes are due in part to their blended expertise, their synergistic business partnership with each other, and the support of their investors – not to mention sheer hustle, an amazing product, a unique time in retail, and their laser focus on execution.
“When we founded Summersalt, we imagined swimwear that is sexy on our own terms…pieces that are stylish and durable at a great price point. We have been able to accomplish both quality and affordability in our product and scale quickly because of Lori’s experience in apparel manufacturing and the supply chain, and because we understand that production and marketing move hand in hand,” said Chattaram Chamberlin.
Coulter added, “We saw a huge opportunity to disrupt the swimwear market where there are established players that are missing the digital revolution. We speak directly to the consumer, react quickly, and cut out the middleman. On top of that, we are creating a brand for women like us. We design swimwear with a distinct aesthetic that is functional and wearable for women with active lifestyles who are on the go. Our swimwear designs are created with those fun memories and bucket list moments in mind…that could mean the backyard Slip ‘N Slide, a weekend at the lake, or a woman’s dream vacation to Bali. We’re inspired by the modern consumer and lifestyle, and we aspire to provide what we ourselves want in swimwear design, fit, and affordability. The Summersalt brand is aspirational and relatable at the same time,” said Coulter.
Coulter went on to say that, from a product and brand perspective, she and Chattaram Chamberlin “have not only created a product line for women like us that stirs the anticipation of summer, travel, and vacation, but one that is comfortable for all types of body shapes and sizes. We surveyed 10,000 women and obtained 1.5 million measurements – so fit is not a guess for us.”
Summersalt sells in all 50 states and continues to scale up rapidly. The premier swimsuit brand launched a travel wear collection in November 2018 that includes indoor wear and giftable items around travel.
The founders believe in leveraging a variety of perspectives and talents as they build their team. Early wins notwithstanding, the founders endeavor to maintain a high growth startup culture that is unassuming, even-keeled, and hyper-focused on execution.
“Running a startup has its unique challenges every single day…we are detectives and problem solvers all at the same time. But together we fix the issues and move on. We don’t view these as roadblocks, but as part of the journey. Our wisdom to other early-stage founders would be to recognize the stage-appropriate challenges, and to tackle them by implementing systems and structures that are appropriate for the business,” said Chattaram Chamberlin.
When asked how the startup community can stay engaged as Summersalt continues to scale, the founders said, “Spread the word, follow us on Instagram, and don’t be afraid to reach out. We are putting together the best ecommerce team in the Midwest and looking to connect with top tier talent in the region.”
Visit https://www.summersalt.com/ to learn more about this company and to purchase Summersalt swimwear and travelwear.