Where Are They Now? Connecticut Entrepreneur Kasia Roginska Shares Updates About Her Woman-Owned Business
Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price spoke with KARO Swimwear CEO Kasia Roginska in August 2018 (read: CT Woman-Owned Business KARO Swimwear). At the time, Kasia was working on building her presence online and creating relationships with distributors.
KARO Swimwear recently set up shop at Think Pop-Up in the historic Cast Iron Building on Asylum Avenue in Hartford. The idea for the shop came from ThinkSynergy President Keith Werner, whose vision is to create an “incubator retail space” for startups to help test their business assumptions.
Nan recently stopped by the shop to talk to Kasia about her entrepreneurial journey.
NAN: When we first met, your swimwear had been gaining recognition in notable publications and you were realizing the business potential. Tell me about the evolution of your business since then.
KASIA ROGINSKA: I’ve been working on getting my product in front of more people. I redid my website and created relationships with different manufacturers in China and in India for my line of chiffon sarongs. I’m still working on developing new lines with my friend Matthew Jean, who is an artist and photographer based out of West Hartford.
I’ve also been working with Connecticut Small Business Development Center Advisor Shelley Koehler for more than a year. She told me I needed to meet Keith because he has great ideas for a space in his building on Asylum. So, the three of us started to have regular meetings to see where he could help with my branding.
It was perfect timing. While I feel like I have an awesome product, I have a manufacturer, and I’ve accomplished certain steps, I was still feeling a little stuck about how to meet retailers and make my products more visible.
In September 2018, soon after you and I met, I went to the Surf Expo tradeshow in Orlando. It was a huge learning experience. I had been involved with fashion shows before, but nothing like that. I realized tradeshows are more beneficial for people with established customers and swimwear that’s more mainstream and less couture.
With KARO, my vision was always to create a unique product. Something that can’t be mass produced, because I think the quality and uniqueness gets lost. That’s how KARO Swimwear was born—and I want to keep it that way.
So, I needed to figure out how to get into boutiques or unique shops with the clientele for my products. It wasn’t easy. I reached out and sent samples to many people. For years I tried to get into the Miami SwimShow, which internationally attended. It’s known for its focus on higher end, affordable luxury swimwear. There was a waiting line to get booths and I wasn’t accepted—which I now feel was a blessing, because I wasn’t ready. I would have spent a lot of money traveling there, paying for the booth, and it would have been pointless if I didn’t have any people visiting me.
NAN: How will setting up shop in this location in Hartford help you move your business forward?
KASIA: It’s a beautiful location. I’m using this space as showroom—instead of being in my basement where I have my sewing room and keep all the samples and products. Here, I can display my products in the store window, which encourages people to stop in, browse, ask questions, and hopefully shop!
I’ve already had people pop in and say: Where were you last summer? It’s been encouraging to have people physically see my products and tell me they love my designs. I’ve been able to get better exposure and feedback about the products.
What’s great is, there are other vendors in the space, too. So, people are coming in for other reasons, whether it’s to look at products from GJGJ Jewelry and RBH Outdoor Apparel or check out Weha Brewing, which is selling coffee beans and apparel and offering samples during the week.
NAN: What’s next for you and KARO Swimwear?
KASIA: I have tons of new ideas but this spring/summer season, the first season in front of shoppers, will truly dictate what’s next. I’m being positive. So far, Think Pop-Up and KARO are receiving lots of compliments and thumbs up.
Photo: Connecticut Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz (right) visits the Think Pop-Up shop and poses for a picture with KARO Swimwear CEO Kasia Roginska.