Being in love with fashion and seeing the need among female friends for swimwear items, Vanessa Mohammed set out to open her very first swimwear boutique, Bikini Cabana, in 2014. Since then, life has been a combination of juggling the entrepreneurial lifestyle and also having a managerial day job at Green Sol Chemicals. Two opposite ends of the spectrum, Vanessa alternates between operating a fashion business and managing a portfolio of oilfield products and industrial chemicals for water treatment. She describes the hours and responsibilities as “pretty demanding” since Bikini Cabana has blossomed over the years into more than just a swimwear boutique. When she is not working, she loves spending time with family, friends and loved ones doing the things that truly matter – finding a balance, socialising and staying true to her family traditions.
What are you working on at present, what is keeping you excited?
Fashion is ever-evolving so I’m always energising the brand, keeping up with the latest trends and fulfilling the clients’ needs. Many professional, working women come by and shop at my boutique, so some months ago I developed a shirt dress collection for my very busy clients who are looking for stylish wear for their on-the-go lifestyle. A new and exciting challenge and something that’s a first-time experience for me is Monday wear. I’ve just designed and released my first collection of Monday wear for Carnival 2020. Bikini Cabana has also been deeply involved in the carnival for about the last five years, marketing our own section in Bliss. Therefore, Carnival is a very natural step and stomping ground for us at Bikini Cabana.
What are some of your treasured milestones thus far?
Being an entrepreneur is a very dynamic space – one that comes with many challenges and new pathways. There are all kinds of challenges to overcome but the rewards are extremely fulfilling and precious because they have been hard-earned. I’d say a major and treasured milestone so far has been opening my boutique location and developing my own label; there’s a special feeling that comes with seeing your brand’s name printed on the material. Putting on a runway show that showcases my label and designs has been a pinnacle of my vision for Bikini Cabana and welcoming my clients in the audience each show is really a thrill. I consider their presence at each production, a mark of success for the brand.
What is your ultimate goal or biggest dream for your future?
Trinidad and Tobago’s style is so unique in the Caribbean and so fashion-forward. Revealing and sharing our vibrant look and style to the world and taking the brand internationally is my ultimate goal. To see our very unique sense of taste on the global stage is my biggest dream.
Why do you do what you do?
I do enjoy cultivating a good eye for fashion and I totally believe that it is important to truly understand different age groups, body types and how to help women look and feel their best. My aim is to understand what women want and create the lasting effect of helping women at many stages of their lives feel and look outstanding. The presentation has always been key for me and I take deep pride in the way my store space impacts both regular clients and walk-in customers. I’ve always been committed to providing very personal, consistent high-quality customer service.
Do you have any advice for women who may want to follow in your path?
Recently, I had the privilege to speak with a group of students at the UTT Fashion Campus. I shared this quote with them, to give some insight into my experience. It is advice that I received when I first started out and it was as helpful then, as it is now:
“Have conviction in pursuing your ambitions, don’t be intimidated to chart a unique course and be a pioneer
Invest time in comprehensively planning your affairs and always ensure that you have contingency plans, as things will go sideways from time to time.
Appreciate the art of business and have the passion to make a difference and leave your mark. Financial success while extremely critical is not the only barometer of success.
My mantra is “work hard, think big and pray often” and pay close attention to those who don’t clap when you win.”