Erin Wildes Walker is the founder and proprietor of Summer Wildes and designs all the products. She holds a degree in mathematics from Bennington College and has over 15 years of experience in print, online advertising, and marketing, with specialties in retail and luxury.
She has held positions with high-end lifestyle publications like Robb Report, Departures, Wine Spectator, Saveur, and More. Having identified a need for high-quality apparel with a great fit, Walker created a line of lingerie, swimwear, and loungewear inspired by fictional California beach beauty Summer Wildes.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
Honestly, I couldn’t find what I was looking for—in this case a bra—that fit well, incorporated great design, and was crafted from quality materials. I went about having it created to my specifications. It made me realize that there are all kinds of women’s essentials that could be made better, and so Summer Wildes was born.
Tell us about your business.
Summer Wildes is a premium intimates, swimwear, and loungewear brand made with luxury American fabrics and manufactured in the USA. I sell Summer Wildes bikinis, lingerie, tees, sweatshirts, lounge pants, and beach cover-ups exclusively online and through private sales and shows in selected East Coast venues.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
I’m currently offering a 10% discount on all purchases. Just use promo code SUMMER10 at checkout.
Summer Wildes is brand new!
Where is your business based?
Summer Wildes is based in Riverside, CT, but the products are available everywhere in the US through online order.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
My first step was to have samples of a bra, panty, and bikini swimsuit made. Then, thinking of a summer I spent in California and the wonderfully classic, stylish, happy young women I met there, I invented the character Summer Wildes, had her image illustrated and went about forming the corporation and trademarking the brand.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Hands-down the best way for my business to get new customers is by word of mouth from current customers who are champions in spreading the buzz about Summer Wildes. Also, the private trunk shows I’ve done have been successful because guests can try on my products, see and feel their quality, and hear the whole Summer Wildes story from me personally.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
My biggest challenges have been managing inventory, learning the sourcing and manufacturing processes, and navigating the online/social retail scene.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Like anything else, you really learn by doing and trying different things. Also, I was connected to wonderful women who had already been through these challenges with their own companies.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
In my previous career, I always worked for someone else. Now I work for me. Summer Wildes was my dream and every day I wake up and tell myself to make it happen!
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
There is no other brand like Summer Wildes out there combining fit, fabric, and fashion with this attention to detail and high-quality. And there is only one Summer Wildes, the character who brings a sunny and playful persona to the women’s fashion scene.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. While it’s important to be involved in every aspect of your business, as you grow find personalities and skill sets that complement yours to make the business a success.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Follow your dream and make it happen. Stay focused, think positively, and be flexible in your business model to adjust to the market.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
- Google, of course – you can search for just about anything and find answers.
- Women’s Wear Daily – the daily online fashion bible with a pulse on the industry.
- The New York Times – especially Thursday’s Styles, Sunday Styles, the magazine and the daily Business section.
- Women’s Marketing – always insightful, particularly about buying habits and digital marketing.
- Fashion and Beauty Monitor – great for influencer and marketing info.
- Smart Brief – e-newsletters in retail, business and marketing & advertising – invaluable information collected from countless industry sources.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Everyday I am learning new things: retail online selling, accounting, marketing, PR, design, manufacturing, sourcing, you name it.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Over the next few months, I am hosting additional private shows, featuring Summer Wildes in strategic retail locations, continuing PR pushes to pertinent publications and papers, getting involved in charities that matter for Summer Wildes, and adding on additional products (golf/tennis skirt and polo shirt along with another style of bra). Achieving by doing.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.