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Female Founders: Lana Meduric of Abacaxi Keeni On The Five Things You Need To Thrive & Succeed As A Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Passion. Passion will get rid of your low self-worth and will fill you up with confidence, as confidence increases the value for yourself and others around you. It wasn’t until I found my passion for swimwear that my confidence level increased, and I attracted other likeminded people into my life. When you’re passionate about something, there is some excitement your start to create but not just within you, but also those around you feel it and that’s just a win situation.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lana Meduric of Abacaxi Keeni.

Abacaxi Keeni swimwear was created in 2015 by founder Lana Meduric. Lana’s passion for entrepreneurship started at a young age and is now inspiring women all around the world to embrace their beautiful figures through Abacaxi Keeni swimwear.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Sure! I always like to start off with my cultural background and upbringing. Originally, I am from Croatia but grew up in Germany for many years. As a child I don’t remember having a lot of interests or hobbies per say, but one thing I can always remember, was that my pencils and papers were always all over my floor. I enjoyed drawing different things such as animals and different landscapes. Later in my teenage years I was more fascinated sketching trendy clothes I’d see on TV. I remember one fashion show with Gianni Versace back in the 90’s and all I can remember was, when his swimwear collection was presented. I looked at the models and I saw how freely and gracefully they’d move through the runway show. This moment absolutely affected me positively. I started sketching models in swimwear, only to find out that I was more interested in sketching the swimwear design itself. All this was just a hobby, but I wanted to take my hobby to the next level when it was time choosing what I will study in college. I wanted to study fashion, but that wasn’t happening as my parents didn’t believe fashion is an industry that they liked for me to be in, as they didn’t think it was respectable as studying law or medicine. Fast forward, I ended up not studying anything and just worked at some small boutiques to earn some income. My mother would always say that I was dreaming my life away as I’d always say that I will move and live in a tropical place surrounded by lots of palm trees and warm weather all year long. My longing for living in a tropical place became reality. Miami has been home to me for 14 years now. Throughout many hurtles I managed to stay and work myself up. Almost like movie story, I cleaned homes to make an income then slowly worked myself up earning different business degrees and ultimately had a high paying career in a corporate world. I was very miserable in my career and the number of times I wanted to quit were endless but didn’t have the courage.

Until the year 2020 arrived. Just like many others, I was affected by the epidemic and got laid off. When I tell you the amount of relieve, I experienced in just a matter of seconds after I was told that my job was letting me go. It was a big relieve! A sense of happiness reached my nervous system, and I was just calm and collective at the same time. I knew something huge is coming my way (intuitive) and I just need to surrender and accept in a time with many uncertainties. One thing to note, throughout my years working in corporate, I never gave up the love of sketching swimwear and even designing new styles. I even connected with a swimwear manufacturer during mt Colombia travels back in 2017. I told him about my passion I had for swimwear, and he offered me his help to create my dream swimwear collection whenever I felt ready. I was ready to start creating my brand back in 2019 and contacted him. We worked many months together, so he’d understand my vision. Fast forward to 2020, about two weeks later after I was let go of my job, my mass production of swimwear arrived. I was speechless yet knew this was the sign from the Universe telling me I am on the right path, as this was the beginning of my swimwear brand Abacaxi Keeni.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When I started my brand last year in the middle of the pandemic, my main goal was to reach as many women as possible in order make sales. I’d say for the first 8 months I barely sold anything. At some point I became impatient thinking creating accounts on different social media platforms, and owning a decent website, sales will magically appear. Wrong! I had to switch up my brand awareness approach and more importantly my mindset. My whole mindset was set up wrong. I knew I had to change my overall approach towards my business. I was desperate and this desperate energy didn’t attract anything positive towards my business. I had to switch my mindset from “I have to make X- amount of money by a certain amount of time (desperate energy), to “I like to connect with women on a personal level (grounded energy). I started reaching out to different event organizations throughout Miami, sharing my idea to participate as a vendor in different events. I connected with different women owned businesses to see if they were open to collaborate with me. I created different small events showing my swimwear on all types of models prior to Miami Swim Week (biggest swimwear fashion show in the world).

From April to July, I participated on a weekly basis at different pop-up events, music fests, bar and restaurant openings. The amount of exposure I gained for my brand was positively overwhelming. I met a great number of women who not only became my customer but also my biggest cheerleaders. So many different doors started opening. I was invited to participate in swim week as an emerging designer, different collaboration opportunities came my way, the brand was featured in two online magazines and one store in Miami decided to buy some of my bikinis and sell them in their store. Changing my mindset and opening my mind up for a more intimidate approach towards women was game changing. Brand awareness presents itself in different ways, after all, consumers want to be aware of the brand before they can decide they’d like to become a customer. The best way to reach this for me and my brand was through connecting with women one on one.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It is not a funny mistake, but it is a silly mistake that I like to share. I was in the process of switching manufacturers as my previous manufacturer didn’t work out. The process of finding a new manufacturer was very time consuming and nerve racking as I needed my sample pieces for my new collection to be ready for my show in swim week. I connected with a manufacturer in Turkey. We spoke for a couple of weeks via email and several zoom calls to discuss all formalities. I felt confident with his knowledge and answers he provided to me throughout the whole process.

I provided him with my sketches and tech pecks for him to calculate the time to complete the samples. In the end, I had to send over the most valuable thing, which is my artwork that is used to create all the prints for my swimwear. I trusted him and didn’t create an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to protect my artwork. Once I sent the artwork via high resolution file, I never heard back from the manufacturer. After weeks of trying to reach him, and being in angry, I stopped, and accepted the fact that my artwork was stolen and now being used by someone else. This was a huge learning lesson. Building trust is important, but even with that trust you still must make sure to protect your product because in the end it’s a business. Despite everything I still had to ensure to find a manufacturer who was able to produce my samples which I did. I was able to find another manufacturer and presented my new sample collection at Mimi Swim Week on time.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Absolutely. The one and only person that I will mention here is Helem Milian. She is an angel that was sent from heaven, without her Abacaxi Keeni wouldn’t be where it is today. I was introduced to Helem many years ago by a mutual friend of us who thought that Helem would be a great fit to help me start with my brand in terms or marketing and photos. I showed Helem my Bikini sketches and colorful prints back in 2017, I expressed my vision and that this has been a lifelong dream of mine. She immediately asked if she can be part of it which surprised me as I just met her, but my intuition felt good about her and that’s when our journey began. Helem was the only person who took my idea serious and genuinely wanted to help bring this baby alive. The brand was launched back in 2020 and since then Helem has been my photographer, marketing director and Social Media specialist. Both of us developed a vision for this brand that absolutely aligned. Without Helem Abacaxi Keeni wouldn’t even be close to where it is today.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

Fear of failure. How often have I heard women say, “I’m scared to start my own business”? “I don’t know if anyone will buy my product.” I am not a good salesperson.” What will my family/friends think?” All these questions are leading to one common thing: The fear of failure. Fear is a “survival emotion” which absolutely helps us avoid dangerous situation and that’s healthy. But this is not the fear I am talking about. The fear I am talking about that holds many women back is having a negative attitude towards failure. Failure doesn’t make us a bad person. To me, I see each of my failures as valuable life lessons that brought me to where I am now. My failures brought me confidence, a stronger mindset and more encouragement to do better next time. How? You may ask. By deciding to be down and feeling all of the sad emotions (I don’t believe in “numbing” sad emotions) for as long as needed, and then pick yourself up and don’t stay in those emotions by choosing another path or goal. People, family and friends will always judge, we can’t control their emotions or thoughts, so why lose sleep over it. Don’t get me wrong, failures will feel uncomfortable ad unpleasant, but they will help you open other opportunities, opportunities that will teach you new things in order to get closer to your next goals — whatever they maybe.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

As an individual, it is utmost important to educate yourself before entering the world of entrepreneurship, and before you let your self-sabotaging thoughts stop you before even starting. Do your research and don’t rush into this phase. You can get so much valuable information through the internet, social media, YouTube, Tik Tok etc. for free. You must invest in time. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a mentor, someone who is successful in the business you like to be in or similar, not only will you expand your neuropathway believe system, but you will receive so much knowledge and get introduced to other successful people that can give you great advise and even help you with funding your business. In the end you are the product of what you surround yourself with, so you might as well start surrounding yourself with people, who can help you with starting your entrepreneurship journey. Linked In is an excellent source to find a mentor. If you don’t have an account sign up it’s free! We should be more helpful towards women who are planning on becoming an entrepreneur. Successful Female entrepreneurs should invest or buy products of women owned businesses especially the once who are startups. That may not make a tremendous change in terms of sales but does certainly uplifts your confidence level. I can’t say it enough, but social media is a powerful way for reaching thousands of people, by sharing a post about a product or service of another woman owned business can be very successful. Supporting women through social media isn’t time consuming and the best of it’s free!

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

By nature, we are mend to be leaders. The prefrontal cortex in our brain is by nature more active which leads to better decision making, collaborations and gives us a strong sense of empathy, and this alone is an absolute must have in a leadership position and in becoming a founder. We are so magic! Even Dalai Lama says in one of his beautiful quotes: The world needs leaders with compassion. That means the world need more female leaders. Biologically, females have more sensitivity about other’s wellbeing.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

I have two myths within my personal experience that I like to dispel. When I first started my entrepreneur journey, everybody pointed out my age stating I am too old to start a brand. Hey, I am only 36 years young! The best time of my life is now, the best time for me to start this journey is now. Companies like Walmart, Twitter and many more were started by entrepreneurs well beyond their 30’s and older. I absolute believe that a greater success can be reached the older you get as an entrepreneur due to the life experiences and connections we gain as we get older. Don’t focus your attention on what is being glamorized currently on many social media platforms in terms of being young and starting your business — it’s never too late to start. Second myth: I must invent something new. Not true at all, in fact, inventing something totally new that doesn’t exist, is very challenging, time consuming and are at highest risk to fail as we as consumers may not be ready for it. Unlike with products or technology that already exists, like there are hundreds of different bikini brands, dating apps, bread products, email marketing software applications etc. Improve on an existing idea as the market already exists and sprinkle your own magic to it in order to make it different.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

Absolutely not! Not everyone is made to become an entrepreneur / founder. I’d say from what I have learned throughout the years before becoming self-employed, it does require a special mindset and attitude to run your own business. Not everybody in the world has the personality and resources to do this either. Consistency, determination and a huge amount of patience are traits that not everybody has withing them. Those traits are not naturally in our DNA, it takes lots of work to acquire such traits and to consistently use those to get to your success level you desire. If everyone would be able to become a founder /entrepreneur than who would be able to provide us all services that require a person to work in a “regular job”? People in general tend to not like to take risks and that’s ok. Most people enjoy a fixed income, ten days of vacation each year, clock out at the end of the day and not worry about any work-related stuff until you clock back in the next day. I just never was this person, who is ok with anything “regular” I felt this itch of being self-employment for many years. I always took risks I’d say the biggest risk I took in my early twenties was to leave my country Croatia and my parent’s home to pursue a new life because I had a calling an intuitive ping. That was my first taste of risk, going into an unknown country and barely speaking the language, but I felt unstoppable and went for it. Interestingly, a recent study showed that, 25% of U.S. entrepreneurs are immigrants and 51% of U.S. startups valued at 1Billion or more have been founded by immigrants. I’m not surprised, as people like me leave their families and countries for a better opportunity, are faced by many obstacles and hardships which most often leads to success in the long run (level of success varies) as those same hardships and obstacles teach us to be more perseverance, a big component that is needed reaching success.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Passion. Passion will get rid of your low self-worth and will fill you up with confidence, as confidence increases the value for yourself and others around you. It wasn’t until I found my passion for swimwear that my confidence level increased, and I attracted other likeminded people into my life. When you’re passionate about something, there is some excitement your start to create but not just within you, but also those around you feel it and that’s just a win situation.
  2. Education. It’s great to have a passion, but if you don’t invest time in educating yourself in how you like to make this passion successful, it will just stay a passion — which is fine if that is what you want. Be smart! I am not referring smart on an intellectual level but start understanding the process of starting your business as there are so many stages in building a business. In the end, it’s your business you are planning, so learn as much as you can and surround yourself with people who already have a successful business or are on the same entrepreneurial journey as you.
  3. Money. Let’s not sugarcoat this subject. Money is an essential part of developing a business. In order to grow your passion, you must feed it. When I started my entrepreneur journey, I had ca. $15,000 in savings (not enough but enough to start). When I was let go of my corporate job in the middle of the pandemic, I didn’t panic as I knew I had enough savings to survive. In order to bring in more money, I left my apartment moved in with a roommate and sold my car. On top of all, I have been investing in my business for a couple of years before I started doing it fulltime. Now, I don’t mean you have to do the same, but having savings is crucial before you leave your save job to pursue your entrepreneur journey. Nobody ever told me how expensive it is to keep a business alive and for it to keep growing. This is not for you to get discouraged but for you to understand the importance of money and the financial side of it. The idea is to not go use all your credit cards and max them out. This will just create frustration because the money you spend won’t just come in next month nor the following months. Depending on what type of business it is you like to do, you may be eligible to apply for a loan. Depending on your credit history and your past employment history you may be able to apply for a micro loan. These types of loans will give you a maximum amount of $ 20,000 (that is why they are called micro loans the loan amount is tiny) and you can pay it back within 5 years. Be prepared to make a business plan. If you don’t like the idea of loans (like me) consider grants, which I did and I received a $10,000 grant. There are so many grant opportunities for women in business more than ever before! Money should never be the factor for you to not pursue your dream of becoming an entrepreneur. You want this to work, and you will do things that will make your business grow, such as taking a part time bridge job which helped me tremendously with paying all those fixed costs in my business. Make sure your bridge job aligns with your business as it can help you receive valuable lessons for your own business.
  4. Consistency & Determination. There is no short cut or easy way to become a successful entrepreneur, if that would be the case than we’d see majority of people doing it. To master anything in life, it takes showing up and practicing consistently. I’d say by nature I always been consistent with things I pursued, which helps me now with building my business tremendously. This entrepreneur journey is testing my consistency and patience level on another level. Patience was never my strength, but I can tell you I turned it into my strength within one year of pursuing my business. Keep up the consistency level.
  5. Support. It is a very important factor to succeed and thrive, just as with anything else in life, but more so when you start this entrepreneurial journey. The journey of entrepreneurship can get very lonely and frustrating, having a strong support system can uplift your spirit and make you keep pushing yourself to not give up when times get hard. I don’t have a support system. That is ok. My family doesn’t believe in my business, nor do they think I am capable of being an entrepreneur. Even close friends don’t think much about it and see it more as a hobby. Doesn’t feel great at all but then I kindly remind myself that I am doing this for myself and not to please others. This is my journey, and I am worthy enough to start pursuing my passion and turn it into something valuable. I am brave enough to walk a path in life that most people won’t, for that I am grateful for.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

It was always very important to me to create a swimwear brand in an ethical way. Find a manufacturer who practices ethical working standards for its employees, and who can provide me with high quality fabrics that are ethically sourced and feel smooth on the skin. On top of that, it was utmost important for me to find Manufacturer who was able to use low impact dye (dye free from heavy metals) on the swimwear fabric, meaning no acids, formaldehyde or chemical finishes involved in the process of transferring the artwork into the fabric. without using harsh chemicals as those chemicals are damaging soil and biodiversity, which in the long run will destroy the fabric. After doing some lengthy research I found the perfect manufacturer who created my first collection. I believe we, not only as consumers but more so brands and manufacturers become more aware of the global environmental state we are in and its correlation to fashion. The fashion world is slowly waking up as more consumers want to know where their clothes come from, what material is used, what ethical process is used in the overall process of making clothes etc. My contribution and goal for this year toward taking a stronger part of slow fashion is to use 100% biodegradable fabrics for my second collection. This is a big and exciting step for me. Each step, no matter how small that step may be, is a step further bringing more awareness to the world’s clothing and textile industry and its responsibility towards mother earth.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Not sure if this is a movement but it is something I am currently creating. For many years I suffered from anxiety, and I was looking for a place in Miami to connect with other women that experience the same suffering in order to find healing together. Stil doesn’t exist to the level that I like to create now. I realized many of don’t want to talk about mental health as we get shamed for it and get categorized as crazy. Throughout the years, I found great healing through mindfulness such as meditation and breath work. I educated myself with the help of different therapy styles, books and visiting workshops about mental health. Everybody just talks about a healthy gut, heart, kidney, bladder (which is great) but what about a healthy brain? Your brain health should be your number one concerns when it comes to your overall health, as your brain controls everything, your thoughts, how you feel and act and how you get along with others. I like to create a safe space for women who are or are not suffering from anxiety or depression, and for women who just want to be heard and seen. In this circle I offer women to express themselves freely without facing any type of judgement of others and help with their healing journey through mindfulness. Additionally, I will be able to offer coaching sessions one on one (I am certified and have a degree in Psychology) for those who need more clarity and a deeper understanding. I can’t wait to build this circle in the end of September.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Female Founders: Lana Meduric of Abacaxi Keeni On The Five Things You Need To Thrive & Succeed As A… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.