In our Meet the Maker series, you hear from our Makers on their journeys as entrepreneurs and how you, The Grommet Community, have changed their businesses for the better. Today, we're catching up with Kami Darnell, the Maker behind Simple Sarongs. Necessity being the mother of invention, it makes sense that a mom came up with Simple Sarongs. Kami got the idea while playing with her children at the pool. She wanted something to throw on over her wet swimsuit that wouldn’t cling, fall off, or add bulk to her beach bag—or her body.
Tell us more about your design inspiration.
My design inspiration has really evolved over the past few years, but I think my first strategy was designing to coordinate with as many swimsuit colors as possible. And since nearly everyone owns a black swimsuit, I wanted an element of black in all the designs. With my first collection I could only afford to mass produce three designs, thus they were very colorful! That really stuck, but now I watch fashion trends, and pick the designs that will hopefully appeal to women of all ages. For example, last year I also saw a lots of crochet lace (in both swim and daywear) and so creating my Boho Chic Lace sarongs was a result of that. It also was a way for me to do a “neutral” and still be a fun design.
Any trends on the horizon that might influence new designs?
I’m really excited about pom poms this year! Tropical will always be in the mix, so I like to watch trends in designs there, as well as other global influences like Indian wood block printing and Moroccan tile prints. I’m also thinking about doing an artistic take on the American flag since so many summer beach vacations happen around national holidays.
How do you get around creative blocks?
I use Pinterest and Google Images to search thousands of designs in the direction I’m going. And I keep updating my Pinterest pages with inspirations all year long so I always have loads to pull from.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
It’s funny–I grew up on a farm in the middle of Kansas, but I gravitated towards travel and “big city” careers–anything that would get me out of Kansas! Instead of wanting to play “house” or “school” with friends, I wanted to play “business." In college, I started out as a Journalism major, but after a summer job selling books door to door, the entrepreneurial bug struck, and that’s what I really ultimately wanted to do. It took a few decades to find the right opportunity, but when inspiration hit, I jumped in with both feet!
What has surprised you most about starting a business?
How it can simultaneously so easy and so hard at the same time! It’s easy when you have a great product and manufacturing partner from the very beginning. If you launch a great product, then people get excited–retail buyers, the press, and most importantly, your customers! But running a business can be hard for a one-woman show–especially with no direct experience in the business world. The difference has always been connecting with the right person at the right time, whether it was a fellow mompreneur or a small biz advisor, who can pass along invaluable advice.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
To stop working so hard to make other people’s dreams come true (and being miserable in the process), and take the experience and start making your OWN dreams come true!
What has been the most rewarding part of business for you?
I’d say there are two things that I love about owning a business–the freedom that it provides me to be still so involved in my family’s lives, and being able to teach my son about running the business. He’s only 8 years old now, but he already is a big help packing and shipping, and putting labels on products. The other thing I love is being connected with so many other great business owners who are all over the country. We cheer for each other, whine to each other, advise each other–and most of the time we never even get to meet in person!
Our Community wants to know that their support of you and your product has made a difference. Please tell us if you were able to grow and in what way due to the sales, shares, and visibility you received from The Grommet and our community.
The Grommet Community and Team have been amazing in their support and enthusiasm for Simple Sarongs. They just don’t throw you up on their website and hope for the best! They really think about you, as a Maker, and how best to make your product shine, and be visible to the perfect customers for your product. Customer feedback is a gift (both the positive and the negative) and I really value that. Last year, Grommet customers asked for more neutral options, and for Plus sizes. This year, we really delivered on those suggestions with our Boho Chic Lace designs, and launching the Plus sizes in our new styles. I am so grateful as a Maker to have been selected to be part of The Grommet Community!
To learn more about Simple Sarongs, watch our video here.