Jumping Into The Bikini Biz

Rodighiero taught herself how to sew and design her bikinis. Coco Zickos photos

By Taryn Rodighiero
Owner, KaiKini

Please tell us about your business.

I have a bikini business called KaiKini. The bikinis are all handmade I taught myself how to sew and how to design them. I sell them in four different stores on-island Sweet Bikinis, Bikini Room, Kamaaina Surf and Sport, and South Shore Bikinis and pretty soon I will also have an online store. I got the machines and all the equipment last August and it took about eight months to figure out how to use them and how to sew. A couple of months after that I started selling to stores.

How has business been?

So far it’s been really good, but it was a lot of hard work in the beginning. The first eight months were probably some of the most frustrating of my life because I pretty much learned from trial and error. But ever since I got into stores, my confidence is growing. I’m getting lots of really great feedback, and I’m starting to see more suits on the beach. Sweet Bikinis is having a hard time keeping them on the racks.

What does it feel like when you see someone wearing your bikinis?

I get chills. The first time I saw a stranger, I just wanted to run up to her and give her a hug. It’s almost surreal to know that I made something at home, someone bought it at a store and now here they are out in public, walking around on the beach with it.

How did you get started in this business? For a really long time I didn’t know what to do with my life, and it was bothering me. I’ve always been really obsessed with bikinis, and by the time I met my husband Tyler, I had somewhere around 200 pieces that I bought.

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and Tyler was the one who brought up the fact that I obviously have a love for bikinis and should somehow get involved with that. I realized that I wanted my own bikini company. So I just called a sewing machine place in L.A., asked them what I needed, and I bought a bunch of used machines and just sat down and figured it out.

Why did you get started in this business?

The passion came from living here and the lifestyle here. Bikinis are everyday wear on Kaua’i. Here, you’re in a bikini not only to go to the beach, but as a bra to go to the store or go hiking. I was inspired by the fact that they are everyday wear.

What style do you focus on?

Most of my styles are Brazilian-type cuts. I am really into fun patterns and bright colors they definitely stand out and are eyecatching. I wanted them to be cute and attractive and sexy, but at the same time, really durable. I use this expensive liner that is fastdrying and anti-microbial, so you can wear them all day. You can wash them and wear them all day and they won’t fall apart. They also will stay on when you jump in the water.

What sets your business apart?

The bikinis are designed, made and manufactured on Kaua’i. My plan is to always keep the manufacturing here, no matter how big the business gets.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business?

When I see strangers in my bikinis. To know that somebody else thought my product was good enough to spend their hard-earned money on, and was happy and confident to wear it. The best compliment is when people say it’s the most comfortable bikini they’ve ever worn or that they’ll never wear any other brand.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business?

The very first thing was just designing and sewing. I had no experience and no one to teach me. Once I got beyond that, it was finding the right materials the right kind of thread and elastic combined with shipping.