Taryn Rodighiero makes owning a business look easy. She is founder of successful swimsuit brand KaiKini Bikinis and in just a few short years has managed to grow her enterprise from a one-woman operation into a flourishing full-scale company with four full-time employees in a brand-new warehouse. Not to mention, she has added “mother” to her lengthy list of duties, as she recently gave birth to baby girl Taeya.
“Having the crew that I have now has really made the difference,” says Rodighiero, who also employs part-time staff during the summer. “It’s not just me anymore — it’s all of us.”
She didn’t always have the extra hands. Rodighiero started her business in a spare bedroom in her home, teaching herself how to sew. She purchased her first machine in 2010 and would lock herself in the room for hours on end, practicing techniques.
“I literally just cut strips of material and played with the machine until I thought it looked right,” she says.
The process was mostly trial and error. “There was a lot of error for a long time,” she jokes.
It took about eight months of spending weekends and any extra time away from her job as a server to create something that was wearable. She sold her first bikini at a trunk show held at her home in Kapaa. For the show, she made around 200 pieces that sold for about $20 a pop.
“It was more so just to get feedback,” she says. “I wanted everybody to tell me how they fit, if they fell apart, what they like and what they didn’t like, so that I could go from there and do better.”
And she did. After receiving advice from her inaugural clients, Rodighiero made some alterations and started hitting the pavement to find stores that would sell her product. She remains grateful to all the local businesses that initially believed in her before she made it big.
“Kauai is unique in that people like to see people succeed,” says Rodighiero, whose husband Tyler works for PacBuild. “I don’t think that would have happened as easily anywhere else.”
If she had stayed in California, where she was born and raised, she may not have had quite the same amount of success. That’s one of the many reasons she’s glad she moved to the island, after a visit following her graduation from Dominican University of California with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
“I didn’t intend to stay for any length of time, and then I fell in love with it,” she says.
She lived on the Garden Isle for more than two years, but moved back to California to work at her family’s car dealership.
“But I knew I didn’t want to do that forever,” she says.
Three years later, she was back on Kauai. In the meantime, Rodighiero took notice of her passion for swimwear and at one point had amassed more than 150 bikinis.
“I had a small obsession with bikinis. I couldn’t stop buying them, I just loved them.”
However, she noticed that no matter the expense, the quality was often not up to par.
“I felt like I was spending a lot of money on these things and only getting to wear them a couple times,” she explains. “I thought maybe I could make something better that wouldn’t fall apart that I could use a lot more.”
She firmly believes that the quality of her bikinis is one of the reasons they’ve became so popular, and why they’ve received global recognition, including a mention in British Vogue.
“Once you try on one of our bikinis, they just feel better; they feel like they’re made for you; they fit better,” says Rodighiero, adding that all the materials are made in the United States and all suits are manufactured on Kauai. “Quality is a big deal to us.”
The added bonus is creating suits that fit well and help girls and women feel better about themselves. “Helping girls feel confident about their bodies is nice,” she says.
Rodighiero has big aspirations for the future of her business. She’d not only like to expand her market even further, but she’d also like to host more events, like the recent runway show held in celebration of her new space in Kapaa.
“Don’t be misguided by the angelic appearance and girly behavior,” says friend and fashion colleague Louda Larrain. “Taryn is an inventive and savvy entrepreneur who created not only a desirable product (I happily own one), but a mini empire that includes design, production, distribution and seductive social media campaigns. She does all this with seemingly effortless elegance and cool.”
Rodighiero attributes her business savvy to “going all in.”
“Almost like a leap of faith,” she explains. “If you try to do too many things at once, it’s not going to work. You have to dive into one thing and really focus on it and put all of your energy into it to make it work.”
It also helps that she has a creative side and that sewing runs in her family — both her grandmothers were seamstresses and her mother made her clothing.
“It’s funny that it’s almost like it (sewing) was in my blood, but I never did it until now,” she says.
She encourages others to find their passion and follow their dreams.
“Don’t give up. No matter what challenges come your way, just decide that this is what you want to do. Trust yourself, first of all. Trust in your designs, trust in your products, stand behind your products and don’t give up.”
Visit kaikini.com for more information.