All sewn up

A custom bikini maker wants to cover more of Reno.

Not to mention the rest of the world.

Working from a shoestring for several years, Strange Bikinis recently garnered some serious cash to attract new buyers.

Strange Bikinis founder Allie Conway, who designs and sews practically every piece of apparel, recently earned first place in the Biggest Little Startup competition, which was held at UNR’s Innveation Center.

Conway walked away with a prize package valued at $25,000, which includes $5,000 cash money, corporate legal assistance from Holland & Hart, PR and marketing services from The Abbi Agency and accounting services from J.A. Solari & Partners.

Entrepreneurs pitched their businesses to a panel of experts and an audience of 100 attendees in hopes of winning that investment of cash, legal, accounting and marketing consultations.

Among the competitors were Natural Warrior Tea, Escape, Lean Lemon, Strange Bikinis and Nevada Dynamics.

Participants had just five minutes to explain what made their businesses unique, previous sales performance and best growth strategy.

Conway already has a track record.

Fresh out of design school, she launched the business in Reno in 2013, selling her creations to friends. After a kickstarter funding round in 2014, she generated sales of $32,000; one customer is “the queen of strange: Miley Cyrus,” said Conway.

How much of a marketing boost does this give the local brand, not even three years old yet?

A lot, said Conway.

“Any girl can rock a Strange bikini,” said Conway. “We are a swimwear line offering suits for any size and shape,” said the fledgling entrepreneur, who decided to get her feet wet after seeing the ho-hum bikinis she saw on offer in malls and boutiques.

She has built her brand locally through trunk shows and an ambassador’s program. In the meantime, she has gotten mentions in Cosmo magazine and now counts 60 percent of her clientele outside northern Nevada. Sales in 2015 so far are $42,000.

“It’s summer somewhere all year-long,” said Conway, who added that it costs about $28 to make the bikinis, which she sells between $140 and $220.

The prize money and business support will help get the company to the next level, which she said could easily generate $250,000 a year. But to reach that, she’ll need to have a manufacturing partner and step away from the day-to-day sewing to focus on design and sales.

Nineteen companies entered the startup competition, which was narrowed down to the five in Facebook voting.


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