By Léo Azambuja
Just six years ago, Taryn Rodighiero invested her life savings on a swimsuit-manufacturing business. She had never sewn before, but decided she wanted to make bikinis because she was frustrated with what was in the market.
“I wanted something that stayed on … that wouldn’t fall apart, that would last longer than a few times,” said Taryn, owner of KaiKini Bikinis. “So I decided to make them myself.”
Today, KaiKini Bikinis is a leading swimsuit manufacturer in the state of Hawai‘i, with a 20-percent annual growth. The Kapa‘a-based company was one of only three Hawai‘i businesses featured in Google’s latest Economic Impact Report. Additionally, the U.S. Small Business Administration picked Taryn for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Kaua‘i County in 2016.
All this is not by chance. KaiKini is known for its “super high-quality” swimsuits, designed for the beach, hiking, yoga, pretty much anything active, according to Taryn. Most of their fabrics are high-grade performance spandex, which holds its shape a lot longer than other fabrics and won’t stretch out. They’re also designed to be worn all day; the liners are anti-microbial, dry really fast and are very comfortable. The elastics are made to withstand salt water and chlorine.
“Everything I do, I make it so that it’s made to last,” said Taryn, adding the sewing techniques use lots of lockstitches so nothing will ever fall apart. “Comfort and functionality is kind of our big thing.”
The swimsuits are all designed by Taryn herself, and include many different cuts.
All the bikinis are 100 percent manufactured on Kaua‘i and shipped to pretty much every continent. About 80 percent of sales are on the web, where KaiKini has a massive presence through social media — more than 100,000 likes and followers on Facebook and nearly 55,000 followers on Instagram.
When Taryn first opened KaiKini, she made a bold move buying five commercial sewing machines from a Mainland company. When the machines arrived in pallets at her garage, she had no idea what to do. Luckily, her husband is good at putting things together, she said, and set up the machines for Taryn in a spare room in their house.
But the hardest part was yet to come. Taryn said she pretty much locked herself in that room, and sat down at each machine until she figure them out. It took her about eight months.
“So it was by trial and error that I learned how to sew,” she said.
From there, the business just kept expanding. She hired an employee, then somebody else. Another one. Soon, the bikini production took over the whole house.
“That pool table right there was my husband’s pool table,” said Taryn, pointing to a pool table in her Kapa‘a warehouse. The table now belongs to her, obviously. It’s missing a few pieces of wood and its felt is now, well, a piece of work.
“Now it’s my beautiful cutting table,” she said of what was once a pool table.
The manufacturing eventually moved to an ‘ohana unit she and her husband had on their property. It was still a tiny space with 10 employees and a busy production line.
About three years ago, Taryn and her husband bought a warehouse in Kapa‘a, and remodeled the entire building. Her husband is a contractor, so he made the place look super nice.
Last year, Taryn said she “went nuts and tried everything.” She hired a lot of people to make clothes, hats and blankets. She said she learned she just likes to make bikinis and also that she doesn’t need that many people to make bikinis. So this was year was the “year of simplifying.”
“Right now we only have two employees; it’s kind of amazing how efficient I have become,” Taryn said. “We are keeping up with demand right now and our inventory is full, and so we’re doing really good.”
She said the hardest thing for customers buying a bikini online is that they can’t try it on. Taryn said she is trying to figure out a system where women will feel safe about getting the right fit every time they buy their bikinis online.
“I just want to be known for helping women find the best fit that they can so they don’t have to return or exchange,” she said.
Besides online, swimsuits form KaiKini Bikinis are available in four retail locations on Kaua‘i — The Bikini Room in Hanalei, A. Ell Atelier in Kapa‘a, Aloha Ke Kai in ‘Ele‘ele, and Westin Resort in Princeville — and are also sold in stores on O‘ahu, the Big Island, California, Florida and Oregon.
Find KaiKini Bikinis at www.kaikini.com, at Instagram at @kaikinibikinis or at Facebook. Email them at email@example.com or call them at (808) 633-8083.