Brazilian Bikini Maker Finds Out Exporting Is the Answer

The daughter of a seamstress, Ielra Viter, then an 18-year-old, decided to take a chance on a dream: owning her own business and making money. That was 12 years ago.

She saved up US$ 300 and, in a partnership with her mother and sister, who chipped in with another US$ 700, she established a small bikini factory in Cabo Frio, a city in southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro where the beach is enjoyed all year round.

In a short while the store, which covered an area of only 3 square meters, became the embryo for a successful business. "Without any planning, we started opening new points of sale and ended up with six," says the businesswoman.

She ended up being awarded the 2006 Retail Label Honorable Mention, granted last week by the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae) in the city of Rio de Janeiro (capital of the state by the same name).

In 2000, though, Enseada da Praia almost went out of business. "I used to think I knew it all, and did not have the humility to learn more about the business," says Ielra, who held a degree in Languages, the only graduate level course available in her town.

Her sister gave up the society and Ielra went on a quest for knowledge. She enrolled in management college. With support from Sebrae-Rio, she joined the Cabo Frio Beachwear Hub and participated in all editions of Fashion Rio/Fashion Business, a fashion show that provides room for small companies to showcase and sell their products.

Aided by a group of Italian students, Ielra obtained her ‘passport’ for entering the international market. She exported her first box of bikinis to Italy. Nowadays, 35% of her production is turned to the United States, Portugal, Greece and Italy.

The company, which employs 20 people – a number that doubles during high season -, is now opening its third point of sale, this time in a much more structured manner, and capable of facing the challenges of an increasingly globalized and competitive market.

The company decided to invest in its employees: it offers language courses (English and Spanish) and training for its personnel twice a year. The image of the brand, patented 10 years ago at the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), is another constant concern. This led to the decision of investing in design, revitalizing the shape and color of its logo.

In order to increase its visibility in the beachwear market, the company listed its website on Google, one of the world’s largest search engines. Presently, a large share of exports is via e-commerce.

Frequent marketing actions also help reinforce the Enseada brand. The company hired a press office, and recently promoted a fashion show at the Cabo Frio port docks for 400 VIP guests to celebrate the 60 year anniversary of bikinis, in style. The party attracted the Rio de Janeiro specialized press, and established the brand for good.

The company focuses on developing its business without losing its social commitment. In addition to employing local models in its fashion shows and to having created a network of 20 embroiderers, who work from their own homes, Enseada is a partner of Progissol (Sunflower Project), which provides support to 130 children in nurseries.

The mothers of the children assisted by the institution make clothes using patches left over from bikini and swimsuit production. These clothes are either sold by Enseada or distributed as gifts to journalists and opinion makers.

As Ielra prepares to represent the Beachwear Hub in the January edition of Fashion Rio/Fashion Business, where she will present the 60 years of the history of bikinis, she watches as her new point of sales blossoms, in a building at Rua Santa Clara, 75, which houses dozens of brands from the city, in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Copacabana.

Enseada da Praia
Telephone: (+55 22) 2644 4092


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