Danielle Clayton is a kiwi girl who spotted, then filled the gap for a female focused surf blog providing a spotlight on independent surf brands for girls that rip! Since her launch in 2011 she has inadvertently found herself running a thriving indie label herself, harbouring a work ethic you would relate to someone executing their life long business dreams!
Danny has this terrific energy around her – you know, one of those people that you hope you might be able to rein into your circle of friends!
Over my 3 weeks in Bali we swapped many stories about our own weaving paths that led us to businesses that weren’t even close to being on our radar when we left school (or in Danny’s case – post a design degree!). But what really caught my attention was her very real business and strategy focused curiosity. She had buckets of it and as much to share in return!
This might sound dry (trust me the convo was far from it) but when you are absorbed up to your eyeballs in an enterprise that you have long since passed the point of no return … you rightfully should become super interested in the ideas and practice of others!
I learnt a lot from Danny (and the rest of her Canggu based “Fresh Folk” expat crew who included La Luna Rose, Indosole, Rue Stiic, Seawolf, BNVVT among just a few ) and it was all about sharing opinions, networks, knowledge and skills making for what I can only call their own little Bali incubator! Yes, I took home some actual tips on organising my inbox, email templates and a ton about the challenges of production in Bali but ultimately I walked away with an entirely new attitude on the sharing and movement of knowledge. That being open and transparent on everything (as bloody scary that can be!) actually empowers a business and industry.
You may scoff but this was learnt from a girl who created a brand as a direct result of her OWN surfing needs, grew from made-to-order operating on an empty bank account to being directly copied by one of the biggest surf brands in the world (and watched them back down after such a public backlash in her favour!) AND be courted to now produce exclusive lines for Urban Outfitters.
Not bad for a waterbaby from Auckland with a heart condition, the humblest of attitudes, widest of smiles and savviest of brains to shape her business exactly how she wants it to be.
Danny shares some golden insights in her Q+A below – I highly recommend taking some time to read it and click on through to explore the female online surf mecca that is Salt Gypsy!
Photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
Where were you and what stage in your life were you at when the seed for your business first sprouted in your brain ?
I began a personal blog, Salt Gypsy, in 2012 which was my third year living and working as a surf guide in the Maldives. I wanted to create a platform that had two main goals:
1) to showcase women’s indie surf labels who made slick surf gear (rash guards, surf bikinis etc) that me and my friends wanted to wear in the surf (as opposed to the stale status quo of the global mainstream brands at that time)
2) to connect with like-minded female surfers around the world and share their story of how they live their surf-centric lifestyles.
Halfway through that year, I had some lycra leggings made for myself to wear in the surf and cover up from the sun. Simply put – there was nothing on the market that either suited my taste or was within my surf guide budget. In fact, there were only two surf companies that had 1 product each categorised as a surf legging and neither had any marketing behind their products.
In July of 2012, after testing my samples in the surf for a month and blogging the images we were shooting, there were 2 boat loads of female surfers hanging around the same region I was in. Of course, everyone was getting fried by the sun in their bikinis within the first couple of days.What really planted the seed was a comment from one of the girls in the surf: “If you had stock on board you’d be sold out – we’re all sunburnt!”
A couple of months later, through my blog and Facebook page, I generated about 20 orders for customised surf leggings. I was paid upfront, made my way to Bali, had the designs made, shipped them out a month later and voila – here I am today as a fully self-funded indie start up exporting surf leggings predominantly to the US, but also Dubai, UK, Australia, and Japan. I’m pretty stoked (though a little burnt out!) considering this time two years ago I was literally broke and stuck in Bali (long story without enough money to afford a flight home.
There is nothing like not knowing how you are going to pay next month’s rent, or feed yourself – to light a fire under your ass, think outside the box, and HUSTLE.
What was it about Bali that attracted you to its shore’s to follow your dream ?
My first surf trip to Bali in 2006 surprised me – it wasn’t so much the waves that captured my attention (though they were epic) – it was the energy of the place. It felt like anything was possible and, as a maker of things, the inspiration and accessibility to create and make tangible products here really blew me away.
Fast forward several years and being personally in the market for some surf leggings, I was able to have a couple of sample pairs made in Bali to my design and the rest is history. Boutique manufacturing (though not smooth sailing at the best of times!) is definitely the advantage to producing in Bali and I would not have been able to get myself (almost literally) off the ground with zero capital and have the indie label I have today, were it not for the ease of bespoke production and low minimums.
That, and the waves are pretty sick.
And it’s warm!
These days, there is a great creative hub in the area of Canggu where we live. I have met some really awesome, talented and driven humans in the same boat as me which is so reassuring when you have, “When are you coming home and getting a real job?” echoing across the oceans.
Of course there is no such thing as a typical work week but what would some of the tasks, jobs, activities be that you might experience over a week ?
Managing production sucks up the majority of my time! I started selling bespoke surf leggings with everything made-to-order then suddenly found myself with a growing wholesale business as the Salt Gypsy brand has evolved from my personal blog to a full-blown indie surf wear label. So the transition from selling direct to online customers, to creating a range and selling wholesale has been a long work-in-progress for me as I chip away at building capital through my sales. I visit my boutique production teams up to several times a week and organise the packing & shipping of all wholesale and direct online orders.
Currently, I design everything (swing tags, care labels, product line, POS, lookbooks etc), do all my own social media marketing, organise photoshoots, pay bills, invoice accounts, surf test new gear, product development, meeting up with crew in Bali (networking !)
I wear all the hats and each week continues to be pretty hectic! Aside from managing the production in person, everything else I do is manageable online so now I can be on the boat visiting my fiancé in the Maldives and doing some product R & D and still have things ticking over. All of which is pretty rad!
If you could share some advice with anyone else looking to kickstart their own small business what would it be…?
Be prepared to work your ass off.
The pace is relentless and you have to be tenacious.
And importantly – you must really know what value you are offering to the world. What differentiates you from the competition? I mean, seriously, there really is so much stuff in this world.
Tell your story, do it well, and always think outside the box.
Be of service to your customers/audience.
Focus on the product.
Read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.
And in the words of Robert Collis:
“Work with legends and don’t get drained by the kooks.”
That’s been my mantra for the month.
Some secret, off the beaten track spots in Bali that you love and why
The beach between Padang Padang and Uluwatu. No-one there, it’s gold
Danielle Clayton by Richard Kotch
Jessica Rosheen x Salt Gypsy collaboration
Photography : Will Hartl
WHAT I LEARNT FROM DANIELLE CLAYTON:
A passion really can become a business, but be prepared for things to change from IT nourishing you to YOU nourishing it.
Check out more Bali based businesses and our off the beaten guide to Bali here.