“Probably the key to most people’s success is who you meet, creating connections, finding value in each other, and making sure you really elevate one another,” proclaims Tiana Gamble, Owner of BikiniBird.
As an online heavyweight for female beach fashion, BikiniBird’s initial launch as a lifestyle blog in 2010 became the go-to for swimsuits and beach trends. What started out as a passion project while Gamble held down a full-time job, eventually grew to an online boutique in 2014 and three years later, the brick-and-mortar space it occupies today in one of Kailua’s coveted retail spaces.
“I’ve had a lot of other businesses help me succeed. We watched other brands grow and supported them through photo shoots and partnerships, and in turn, they supported us,” Gamble says.
Competition can be fierce in a female-driven industry, but for Gamble, she doesn’t let that distract her. She keeps hustling.
“The women who are putting their heads down and really working aren’t really competitive,” says Gamble. “Of course, they are by nature, but most of the women who have seen success are supporting each other. They’re so busy, there isn’t time to worry about what others are worrying about. For my store, I’m not worried about what others are doing. You just need to have your point of view and do the best that you can.”
If You’re a Bird, I’m a Bird
Starting with a job in retail, Tiana Gamble established a strong work ethic and desire to become a part of the fashion world at a young age. After graduating from Kalani High School and attending Loyola Marymount University, Gamble showed her independence and passion for fashion by working in various aspects of the industry (sales rep, merchandising design manager, etc.) in Southern California and Hawai’i. From Gamble’s beginnings, there are three key factors in her development as a business owner that she offers as advice to anyone who is serious about making fashion a career (pieces of advice that can be transferred to any industry for that matter):
Be what you want to attract. If you want to become a business owner in the fashion industry, live it, talk about, be it. Have it become the essence of who you are and what you represent and present to others.
Start small. Begin by working for others in the field as it will help you plan for your own business.
Let your fears drive you. More on this concept below!
Fear = Drive
As a young girl, Gamble watched her family live paycheck to paycheck, sometimes having money and then not having money. She believes that her drive over the years has been rooted in the fear of not having a job. Often nurturing several projects and possible businesses, Gamble’s fear of failure developed into the constant need to create backup plans.
Although she admits that she is less fearful today, she still recalls her past: “I was determined and am determined to never go back to [being without a job or money], so I definitely have that fear. I never want to fail. I’ll have ten backup plans to make sure.”
Gamble has taken the fear of failure that could paralyze most and used it to her advantage. Unknowingly until later on in life, she used the energy to propel her into different fashion jobs and different states – all in the pursuit of soaking up experiences wherever she could.
She speaks of fear not in a way that it could frighten a person, rather, as untapped energy most may not recognize.
She speaks of fear, a word that by definition refers to an unpleasant emotion, and lets it radiate positivity.
Taking Responsible Risks
A risk is defined as “a situation involving exposure to danger.” How did Gamble view her decisions to start BikiniBird and eventually take it from online to a shop on Kailua’s Hekili Street?
“I don’t think I ever took big risks. I did it methodically, worked full-time, and funded [BikiniBird] with my full-time job.” She laughs when she admits that she probably could have owned nicer bags, but with anything extra she had, she always invested back into her business.
“Yes, opening a store was a risk, but I always knew I had backup plans or that I could shut down, sell the merchandise at a pop-up shop. I already had the inventory from my online store that was proven, so everything was step-by-step proven.”
Thus, Gamble’s approach to entrepreneurship was taking “responsible risks,” also known as “educated risks,” that are assessed by factoring in past knowledge and data in order to determine the possible outcomes associated with the action being taken.
“I had to test and prove. Test and prove. I think it’s about being smart about how you do things, and being realistic,” she says.
Gamble set limits financially. She calculates each step and weighs every decision.
Even with the acquisition of her newest business, Creative Design Hawaii, Gamble says the risk was limited: “The money was there, I just knew I had to work hard.”
There’s no denying that Tiana Gamble is a hard worker. She exudes stamina and bravery in an industry flooded with competition.
In addition to running BikiniBird, Gamble represents or “reps” two other brands and has Creative Design Hawaii, which she recently purchased. Though relaxation is not likely on this go-getter’s near horizon, her ultimate goal is to have more free time.
“Do I want to push it more? Of course, but I want to get to a place where I have more freedom. The key is establishing enough income and success, so I can take a step back and do more with my kids with the business running itself,” she says. “I would love BikiniBird to expand and become its own label, expand retail to other areas and maybe have our own line collection of goods. Multiple stores if possible. We’ll see. I’m not in a rush.”
Written by Chelsey Flanagan