When you think ‘entrepreneurial’ culture, what’s the image that springs to mind? A young, white man in a sweater over flannel and jeans?
Or perhaps, “baby faced nerds with utopian ambitions and wacky aesthetics preferences”, as Ana Wiener put it, in an article about digital disruption in Silicon Valley in The New Yorker.
You might want to rethink the vision.
The fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in Australia are, in fact, those aged 55 to 64, according to research from Swinburne University of Technology and Queensland University of Technology.
One such brand that fits that new norm is Monte & Lou, a swimwear business founded by two best friends from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, that’s already seen significant success, having only just launched in 2018.
Both in their mid fifties, Kay Howitt and Lynne Tramonte met each other at their first job, working for swimwear brand Brian Rochford. The pair quickly became friends and stayed in touch throughout the years, subsequently finding themselves working together at Seafolly a few years later.
In 2018, they joined together to launch their swimwear line and just a few months later, signed a lucrative deal with David Jones, Australia’s leading department store.
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Aside from having plenty of relevant experience between them, what’s the secret to their success?
“Respect,” co-founder and creative director Howitt says. “There’s a mutual respect between us. We combine very successfully with the different things we do.”
Tramonte adds that they are also very close, having been on family holidays together, and know each others’s strengths and skills well.
“Kay has a unique streak,” she says. “I have a different one. We complement each other. We sat down and wrote a list of what was important to us, and friendship and family was above everything else. We respect our differences. I know that Kay is the designer and I know her aesthetic and attention to detail and I respect that. And she sees my strengths.”
The brand has experienced unprecedented growth since it launched just over 12 months ago, achieving close to a million dollars in sales. Both women have put their decades of experience, knowledge and skills in apparel design into their company, and acknowledge that mentors have been a huge part of their entrepreneurial success.
“Our combined years of experience in design, pattern-making and fitting swimwear has been instrumental in creating garments that both support and enhance women’s bodies whilst being beautifully constructed,” says Tramonte.
“We used mentors with people we’ve kept in contact with,” Howitt adds. “They’ve given us a leg up, and helped us with knowing what questions to ask.”
The brand’s key point of difference is in the quality of their products, including the use of their exclusive “quick dry technology” on each garment, combined with an affordable price range and extensive range of sizes.
“We design larger cup fittings, develop our own wires, and structure them for a wider variety of customers,” says Howitt. “All our garments are fully lined in our exclusive smooth-to-touch nylon elastane which sculpts the body and feels like silk.”
The company moved to a new warehouse in August and will look to extend their range of products to lifestyle accessories, as well as work towards a stronger online presence.