According to a recent study by the somewhat creepy vacation dating website MissTravel.com that matches “generous travelers” with “attractive travelers,” Santa Barbara women have the 10th most “bikini-ready” bodies in the country. That’s something that entrepreneur and UCSB alum Vanessa Rivers figured out a long time ago. The South Coast’s endless supply of bikini-bearing bottoms provides the lifeblood of her fledgling eco-friendly swimsuit brand, Happy Endingz.
Since launching her line of cheek-hugging bikinis in 2011, Rivers said she has turned a profit, largely on local support. It didn’t hurt that soon after she imported the butterfly-cut-style bottom from booty-boasting Brazil, several boutique swimwear brands followed suit. Now Rivers is looking to scale up with a capital-raising campaign through the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.com. She is hoping to raise $18,000 by July 10 in order to fund her second line of bikinis while she upgrades her website to sell internationally.
Although Rivers’s bikinis are designed to let the beauty of the female figure speak for itself, they do require some material, all of which is recycled nylon fabricated in the United States. They are packaged in 100-percent recycled paper boxes, and Hecho en California at a factory in Torrance. “I could make all this stuff in China for half the price,” said Rivers, the scion of a celebrity family, who grew up on an “eco-ranch,” but “we don’t have to hurt the Earth to make awesome products.”
While ecofriendly fashion has found a permanent toehold in the textile market, Rivers wanted her aesthetic to be all sexy all the time. Her success so far has leveraged the democratizing power of the Internet. Taking advantage of social media for marketing — and Venus-like friends who are willing to model for free bikinis — she has been able to pour all her money into her product and her website. Now she is hoping to harness the power of the people for a little extra cash. Kickstarter allows startup businesses to seek investments from members of the general public. They can donate as little as a dollar and as much as the entire desired amount. If the fundraising goal is not met, no money is collected. Aside from the pleasure of helping a new venture get off the ground, investors receive some sort of thank-you token. Those who donate $100 to Happy Endingz, for instance, receive a bikini.
Normally, the bikinis sell for $164, which is on the low end of the high-end bikini price range. Rivers plans on selling all future collections for the same price. A globe-trotting surfer who supplements her income by giving private lessons, Rivers almost took a different path. After finishing her studies at UCSB, she was all set to celebrate by taking a European vacation before pursuing a graduate degree in psychology. But she broke her foot and was stuck at home bedridden while her friends went off gallivanting. That gave her a moment to take stock and consider her true passions. When she finally decided to found Happy Endingz, she didn’t even know how to register a domain name or obtain a business license. Now, she’s hoping to follow in the footsteps of other homegrown eco-groovy brands like Horny Toad and Simple Shoes.