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Former Investment Banker Leaves the Rat Race to Start Surfing Apparel Business

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While working long hours as an investment banker in London, Anna Jerstrom would relax for a moment by imagining herself on a surfing trip. Her love of surfing began on a vacation to Costa Rica in 2009. Jerstrom decided to try the sport that year by attending a surfing camp.

Although Jerstrom grew up in Sweden and had no previous surfing experience, she was instantly attracted to the activity. She is certain that anyone with proper instruction will find the same high level of appeal. But, Jerstrom also noticed that surfing could benefit from improving attire for women. Ordinary bikinis are typically ill fitting for surfing. The bottoms simply fall off too easily by the pounding waves. Jerstrom realized that this reduced the draw for females to give the sport a try.

Since Jerstrom had a history of making her own clothes, she combined her knowledge of apparel with her affection for surfing. As a result, she started a company in Newport Beach, California, called Calavera. The company provides a line of bikinis that Jerstrom designed to stay on regardless of the rough surf. Her creation uses eyelets and other closures usually found on men’s surfing shorts. The bikini bottoms have less elasticity in the band. Tie systems on the tops prevent neck pressure. In addition, the Calavera surfing apparel uses hidden spots to secure a car key.

To create her new business in 2010, Jerstrom raised $150,000 from ten angel investors. This provided the seed money to begin making the suits from her designs. Plus, the funds propelled Calavera into sponsoring five surfers to test the apparel. Video recordings were made of the surfers in action wearing the suits. These images are streamed on the Calavera website to demonstrate performance of the suits. That was a crucial marketing step because the Calavera suits look like regular bikinis. The bikinis have a cost of $90 to $100.

In 2011, the website of the new company was the only place to purchase Calavera surf apparel. Website users create custom designs for size, color, and style. Specialty retail outlets started selling the Calavera line in 2012. These locations discovered Jerstrom’s young company from the online videos and a cleaver promotional mailing in a comic book style. As sales staffers at shops in surfing communities begin articulating the benefits of Calavera suits, Jerstrom expects annual revenue for her business will top $200,000.