Los Angeles heymama member Danielle Estrada believes in doubling up on success. In 2016, when she found herself facing unemployment in a new city, the technology executive discovered new career inspiration in a certain Instagram account (ahem) and launched Olivia + Ocean, a children’s swimwear line named for her daughter. Now, after selling thousands of cute suits to kids worldwide, Danielle is bringing her style savvy to women with a Kickstarter campaign aimed at funding a line of stylish swimwear for “mom bods.” Read on to learn how Danielle nurtures her side hustle while holding down a high-power day job, along with her insider secrets for a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Your children’s swimwear company, Olivia + Ocean, arose from a period of intense personal hardship. What was going on at the time?
It was one of the most challenging periods in my life. I had just been laid off from my job, which was totally unexpected—I had relocated my family for the job just a few weeks before. Olivia was only 9 months old. I was devastated and overwhelmed with guilt about suddenly being unable to provide for my daughter. I also felt guilty about the moments I had missed with her while working for the company—I had gone back to work five weeks after a C-section.
This painful experience made me reevaluate my priorities. I’m an action person—that’s how I cope. I was determined to make the most of the terrible spot I was in. During this dark time, I stumbled across the heymama Instagram account. I was so inspired by the stories you were sharing about all of these moms who were successful entrepreneurs. It opened up this world to me and pushed me to take that leap. That, and a close friend who told me to “cut the s–t” and do something about it. I needed that.
So you set the wheels in motion for launching your own company. But then you quickly returned to work at a full-time job. What was that like for you?
That’s right. I started Olivia + Ocean in the short period I was unemployed. It turned out to be only a five-week break between jobs! Still, by the time I accepted my new position, I was already all in with my swimwear brand. The upshot is that I learned both roles simultaneously. People ask me all the time how I juggle both. I truly don’t know anything different. I love both my jobs.
You’ve said you keep your side hustle on the down-low from many of your coworkers. What were your reasons for that decision?
I had experienced some of that stereotypical “mom judgment” in the workplace — the whole “Oh, she isn’t focused because she’s a mother now” narrative. It was a painful experience both personally and professionally. Every mom knows, of course, that once you have a new child to provide for, you are more motivated than ever, but not everyone gets that concept. I feared a similar judgmental response to the revelation that I had a side business.
Eventually I got to a place where I trusted my boss and felt comfortable sharing. And he was actually super supportive and excited for me when I did. I think when we have really negative experiences, it’s normal to carry some fear forward with us. This positive experience with my current employer helped me heal a bit, and I’m grateful for that. I wish every woman and mother could say the same.
What has been the biggest challenge in running your business? Biggest joy?
My biggest challenge has been learning a business that was totally new to me. I’ve made countless mistakes that cost me time and money. But it was learning experience, so I chalk it up to lessons!
My greatest joy is getting to include Olivia in my work. She is at every photoshoot, serves as my model for all new designs and is my biggest inspiration.
You just launched a Kickstarter campaign for your “I Love Mom Bod” initiative. Tell us more.
After almost two years in the kid swim biz, I kept hearing the same question: “When are you going to make swimsuits for moms?” This question kinda always made me cringe. Wearing a swimsuit post-baby was not something that made me feel good, and there was no way I would design and sell something that I couldn’t get behind 100 percent. That said, after talking to other moms, I discovered that the discomfort of wearing a swimsuit doesn’t discriminate according to weight, height or age; it’s challenging for every mom. So I decided to tackle the problem head on. Rather than pressure moms to conform their bodies to the swimsuits currently on the market, we designed a swimsuit that prioritizes their unique needs. As mothers, we’re wasting too many sunny days feeling bad about how we look in swimsuits.
What was it like setting up the Kickstarter campaign? What lessons would you pass along to others wanting to set up a similar campaign?
Oh my god! It has been way more work than I ever imagined. One of my main lessons: Budget for a high-quality campaign video. This was whole new medium for me, and I was a little shocked at the cost. Since it’s so important to the success of a campaign, though, I do not suggest cutting corners here.
Another step I recommend is building an email list of prospective customers prior to launch. That way you can get the word out immediately.
Finally, hire a graphic designer to make your Kickstarter page pretty. I was surprised by how little you can customize from within the platform, but a design pro can take it to the next level.
You’ve collaborated with other moms in the heymama community—for instance, in your swimwear collection with Little Minis. What have you learned from teaming with mothers?
We collaborate with other moms whenever we can — from our seamstresses, to our graphic designer, to brands we work with. I have learned that there are so many of us out their hustling and innovating. It’s a really exciting time to be a woman. We are truly revolutionizing the workplace. I believe we’re going to look back at this period in time as the spark to it all.
Your suits are designed and produced locally in L.A. Why is that important to you?
We work closely with our factory to ensure quality, and for assurance that everyone in the production process is being treated well and earning a fair wage. I always tell friends to be wary of really low-priced items. Those big-box stores that sell swimsuits for cheap—you have to wonder what the [human] cost of that sticker price is. Often, the people who are making the garments are paying the price. That’s unacceptable. We can’t cosign that.
What would be game-changing for your business right now?
We teeter back and forth between a direct-to-consumer business and diving into the wholesale arena. Right now, small wholesale buyers don’t make sense for us logistically or financially. Getting a huge buyer—Nordstrom is our dream!—or just the right buyer, would be so exciting and help us scale out our reach more quickly.
When you first have a child, try to take as much time off as possible—even if it makes things a little tight financially. That time is priceless!
Don’t read too many parenting books. Let your child lead the learning curve. There's more than one right way.
You literally created life. There is nothing more powerful than that. Own it.