GBC Entrepreneur Spotlight: Betsy Campos
Founder of UNIKA Swim
Betsy Campos is the founder of ŪNIKA Swim, a swimwear line that provides locally made to measure, body specific swimwear to help women feel comfortable and confident – regardless of age, shape, or size.
We had the opportunity to ask Betsy a few questions about her entrepreneurial journey.
What’s your educational background?
I studied Fashion Techniques and Design at George Brown College. Upon completion of that program, I future pursued some courses at UAL (University of Arts London) in the UK.
What made you start ŪNIKA Swim? Has it always been a dream of yours to build a swimsuit business?
ŪNIKA began as a personal frustration while shopping in Toronto. Growing up, I spent my summers in Brazil – swimwear is engrained into my culture. I never understood why swimwear was only available for three months out of the year in North America. I also couldn’t get over the fact that the quality and styles were always terrible. I remember trying to find something off the rack with my mother, whom of which is considered to be “plus size,” and was so disappointed with that fact that bigger busted women, and anyone over size ten, had limited options to choose from. I had always dreamed of having my own swimwear line so it’s great to see it all come together.
What does ŪNIKA Swim represent?
ŪNIKA comes from the Latin work “Unica.” It translates to Only One, One of a kind, and Unique. Our vision is to empower every woman in recognizing and appreciating her own individuality, as well as promoting a more body positive ideal in the swimwear industry. ŪNIKA provides custom, body specific swimwear to make every woman feel comfortable with herself, no matter what age, shape, or size.
This article talks a bit about the #ConfidentlyU campaign. Can you expand on this? What does this campaign mean? Has ŪNIKA Swim launched any other campaigns?
#ConfidentlyU was our first campaign that was shot by Toronto native and editorial photographer, Alex Evans, featuring West African model Miriann Joh, WIPP founder Bianca Harris, and non-binary make up artist Nate Matthew.
Following the theme of “Confidently U,” the featured models exclude multi-duplicity – not only via their outward appearances, but through their bodies of work. They defy mediums, subcultures, and genres to create personal images that are confidently & uniquely their own. ŪNIKA Swim is currently working towards our next set of campaigns and online launch.
How has the George Brown F113 Fashion Techniques and Design program helped you as a designer?
When I first started off I had no idea how to sew. I didn’t know what went on behind a garment. I could have taken the path that most people take with paying someone to sample, pattern draft, and sew for me – but learning all of the fundamentals has really helped me excel. The program has saved me time, effort and money. Looking at garments now, I can analyze exactly how they are constructed and put together. Fashion Techniques and Design helped me tremendously. The course has granted me the confidence that I need to pursue new designs, and bring my visions to life.
Did you always want to become an entrepreneur? What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
I used to purchase things off the rack that didn’t fit me and reconstruct/sew them into new recycled pieces. Girls would stop me on the street to ask me what I was wearing… I remember thinking, “Maybe I have something special here.” I’ve always worked for others, but [I] remember thinking what it would be like to work for myself, and start something of my own.
I didn’t really know too much about being an entrepreneur but I think I was great at rejection from a young age. I had the great advantage of being a terrible student in school. I wasn’t good at writing, reading or math, but I was always a visual and hands-on learner. Because of that, I was accustomed to not being approved by anyone or being popular. That was freeing to me, and that’s what building a business is about. Getting over what sets you back and moving forward. My mother never pushed me to pursue anything I didn’t want to do which allowed me to explore my creative side. I decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship once I realized I had found a niche to cater to.
How long has ŪNIKA Swim been operating?
ŪNIKA swim has been in the works for the past five years. I worked from home for the first two years building up clientele, and testing out the market until jumping into the flagship location at 101 Yorkville Avenue.
How successful is UNIKA Swim?
Opening a store front location was already a huge step for us, not to mention opening a store in Yorkville – known to be one of Toronto’s most trendy and prestigious neighbourhoods. When I first started my business I was thought I would be targeting a certain demographic, but it has been rewarding watching different women walking through my doors for a swimsuit. I’ve also been able to work with some of the best photographers, and creatives in city which is always fun!
I feel like we are already successful with our intentions and objectives as a Brand. Being recognized for body inclusivity, and positivity has been a great success – our goal has always been to pave a path in the Swimwear industry.
My other successes have been our targeted sales, we tripled our expectations in the first month of opening our store which was super inspiring to all of my team. It just reassures you that all your hard work is paying off and that you are on the right path.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to students aspiring to start their own business?
Surround yourself with people who are better than you in the field you wish to pursue. Don’t rush the process – take your time, and do your homework. Be aware of what is already out there in the market. Instead of copying others are doing, try and find something that differentiates you from the rest. Eat, sleep and breathe your dream. You have to see it when nobody else sees it, and feel it when it’s not tangible. It’s a lot of trial and error but it all pays off in the end. Navigate around obstacles when you run into one and remember that persistence is KEY.