Ashley Lemmon of Nora Swimwear

Here at ETJ, we celebrate amazing women and applaud all the fearless girl bosses out there. As we head into Summer, we chose to feature Ashley Lemmon, blogger and founder of Nora Swimwear. Bikini season may be a fear for most women, but Ashley's philosophy for Nora sets out to breakdown this stigma.

Nora, meaning honour and light, is exactly what Nora Swimwear's values are rooted in. Every woman should feel like a woman of honour in Nora's bikinis. Positivity is central to Nora Swimwear's values, where all woman should be empowering one another.  

Here's a glimpse into what it's like to start your own swimwear brand. Keep reading, we have an exclusive promo code for you below!
ETJ: Where did the idea for what would become Nora Swimwear come from?
AL: I’ve always been a creative person, but with that, I’ve always been a person interested in many fields of work. I bounced between acting and dancing as a kid, which eventually led me to fashion. I have done internships in both retail and high-end environments, so those opportunities really prepared me for launching Nora Swim. After finishing my BBA, I bought the book Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso, and read it over Christmas holiday. I was about halfway through when I put it down one night and could not fall asleep. My mind was racing because it was reading her book that made me realise I had all the tools to make launching my own line possible. I’m a strong believer in timing, and it seemed like everything was lining up for me. Then came the hard work, the stress, (and a few tears) along with a sense of excitement that I had never experienced before.
ETJ: When did you know Nora was something you wanted to develop into a business?
AL: Honestly I was very unsure up until it finally launched. Some people know from the start, but for me, it was seeing it all come together for the first time. When I was finally able to see the designs on the models, my friends, and family, it was clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career in this. I enjoy the creative aspect, but it is also so fun being a part of meeting new people, photo shoots, and pop-up shops along the way. 
ETJ: Who are some of your inspirations behind your first collection/brand? And who do you envision wearing Nora Swimwear?
AL: When I designed the bikinis, I had a ‘muse’ in mind. Each look was designed based on a person’s personality, their look, and their style. Since I’ve been a fashion addict for a while now, I am heavily surrounded with news and blogging about trends, models, and brands. I hate to admit it, but I could not go a day without checking in on Instagram. So with that said, I designed the first few designs after models and personalities that I knew of: specifically, Gigi Hadid and Stella Maxwell. They are both models with an edge and big personalities. They aren’t shy when it comes to standing up to something, and they have killer style. 
My goal is to not only make women look good, but make them feel good. When designing these, I took into consideration insecurities I used to have when wearing swimwear and applied to the designs. I want girls to be connected through the swimwear, and feel like they are a part of a ‘girl squad’ of sorts (inspo taken from Taylor Swift’s ultimate girl squad).
ETJ: I couldn't agree more. So what is the fit / cut / sizing like? Women fear trying on a bikini - does NSW help overcome that fear? 
AL: Each of the designs are different from each other. And each of them have something special about them. For example, the Luna bikini is for girls who like comfort. The triangle is cupped and fits really nicely to keep the *girl’s* in. Gigi, has a light and minimal back, feels super comfortable on, but also serves as a statement piece. Stella, is a bikini I made to really step up the one-piece game. The swimsuit is made to make girls feel super confident. Tallulah, the latest design, is made for the girl who likes something minimal and trendy. All of the designs are adjustable so girls can feel confident that they’ll find their fit. 
ETJ: You've been blogging for a little while now. Can you tell me a little more about your blog? 
AL: I started my blog a little over a year ago with the main idea of creating a platform for myself. Although I felt at the time that I didn’t have a lot to say, I knew that I wanted to have a reason to. It brought out a whole new confidence I didn’t know I had and has shown me it’s okay to step outside of your comfort zone. I blog about my own personal finds- and let me tell you, I am often discount shopper. My blog, is a place where you can find looks that cost anywhere from $20-300, so it's a place where a girl who either likes to discount shop or shop high- end, can find something they can relate to. 
ETJ: What are some of the things you did to prepare for the launch of your brand? 
AL: The first thing I did was make a rough (really rough) business plan. I knew I had to get what I had in my head down on paper because it really helped me make sense of some things and helped me point out which parts I needed to scrap. My dad kept asking me, "So what is the thing about Nora Swimwear?” and this did not come to me overnight. It took months of sleepless nights to figure out why I thought Nora Swim would be a success and why I thought girls like me would want to buy them. I did market research, and spent like 48 hours straight going through swimwear websites and instagram to find out what girls really wanted in a swimsuit. 
The second thing I did was reach out to friends and mentors for advice. I knew I had a long way to go and a lot to learn - and by the way, I still do. One thing I really learned was that you need to be open to all advice, even if you don't want to hear some of it. And it’s okay to not be totally confident in some of your decisions because ultimately it's all a learning process. 
ETJ: What was your life like from process to launch? 
AL: By the time I finished my first draft of my business plan, I packed up and moved to London England. I was originally supposed to be starting my masters in January, which got postponed due to visa protocols/ getting my final grades in time. So I found a lot of time on my hands the first month of being in the UK, while I was searching for work. I spent this time working on Nora Swimwear. Everything from speaking to mentors, sorting out inventory quantities, to minor details about branding, and the designs themselves. 
Once I started working full-time, it became an after-hours project. Which I was able to get away with for a while, up until about a month from launch. I found myself getting up every morning at 6am to work on things before I went to work, and then I was back at it as soon as I got home. My poor boyfriend Dylan literally has made a rule that I am not allowed to have my laptop in bed from 10pm-8am since that very long month that he listening to me tap away tirelessly.
ETJ: Can you describe what your first month in business was like? 
AL: The first week was the most exciting week of my life thus far. It was crazy to see my hometown stand behind me and to see people as excited as I was about it. Since then, it's been nice to kind of take a breath and sit back and hear what people like, what they don’t like, and see how I can improve and add features to next collection. 
Something I totally wasn’t expecting was to sell out of the Luna bikini in small’s and large’s so fast. Most entrepreneurs in fashion would anticipate size Mediums to sell the most and then sizes S/L. This definitely helped me see who my customers are so I can better prepare for re-stock/next season and make sure I offer more in Small and Large :)
ETJ: Where do you see Nora a year or two from now?
AL: As of right now, I’m just focusing on this season and collecting as much feedback as possible. Although, I already have plans to start on next collection very soon. I would like to offer a bigger collection with a wider range of sizes for the future. Ultimately, I’d love to see Nora Swimwear grow enough that I could offer beachwear and accessories.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Ashley! Inspiration is all around us. Find what inspires you and follow your heart. You won't regret it. 
Be sure to check out Nora Swimwear and take advantage of our exclusive 15% discount on your purchase with promo code: GIRLBOSS. Offer valid until: July 31, 2016.

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