SAN DIEGO — It is a universal truth that swimsuit shopping can be super intimidating. Syncletica Maestas grew up going to the beaches of San Diego, fighting that feeling.
What You Need To Know
- CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center is San Diego’s only business accelerator targeting low-to-moderate income founders
- Hola Swim is the country’s only known Chicana-owned swimwear company
- Hola Swim says they are the friendly neighborhood swimsuit shop, with inclusive styles, sizes and patterns
- Fifty-two budding business owners have graduated from CAJC since its inception in 2018
“My business partner and I grew up going to the beach, and we both used to wear t-shirts over our swimsuits,” Maestas said. “We just felt like they didn’t fit right or they weren’t covering what we wanted to cover or they just weren’t our style so you’d be wearing a Speedo and you’re like 'ah I don’t want to wear that' so I just wear a cute like New Kids on the Block t-shirt or something.”
Her search to find something she felt comfortable in led her and her friend Aida Soria to create Hola Swim, the only known Chicana swimwear company in America.
They both grew up in Southeastern San Diego, where the population is largely minority, living at or below the poverty level. Maestas believed her neighborhood was the perfect place to open up shop.
“People questioned like 'oh you’re a swimsuit shop in Barrio Logan' and we’re like why not!” Maestas said. “We have customers so excited that we’re here in a neighborhood that they felt comfortable to shop in.”
Their mission to offer more affordable and inclusive swimwear almost didn’t happen, though. Maestas and Soria enrolled in CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center, San Diego’s only business accelerator program that targets low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs.
“Before I went into the program, I wanted to quit because it was overwhelming,” Maestas said.
Alex Waters has helped dozens of businesses work with mentors and attend weekly workshops that cover everything from financial planning to marketing. He is the director of economic development and innovation at The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.
“[Hola Swim was] very, very focused on inclusivity,” Waters said. “Making sure that they were represented in fashion, in working with their swimsuits and their clothing lines, but then for all different kinds of body types.”
The four-month free program ends in a pitch competition, where three winners receive grants to move their businesses forward. Waters believes this kind of help makes sure everyone has the same opportunities to develop their ideas.
“[Maestas and Soria are] well on their way to building quite the Hola Swim empire, so we’re really excited about that,” Waters said.
Maestas said every time a client tries on one of their suits, it reminds her why they fought so hard to grow.
“They’ll say 'hey look at me' and they’ll turn around and be like 'my butt looks good' you know, and that’s like a victory for us,” she said. “They come out and they’re so confident.”
Keeping the community flavor alive with each swimsuit — proving a little heart and ambition can be a powerful combination.