Quick Question

Andie Founder Melanie Travis Wants You To Run Through Brick Walls

“Separating those who are successful in their companies and those who aren’t is frankly just not giving up.”

by Samantha Leal
Andie swimwear founder Melanie Travis

Melanie Travis worked at Kickstarter, Foursquare, and BarkBox before founding her swimwear company, Andie, in April 2017. In other words: She’s learned a thing or two about start-ups. “I would’ve had no idea how the whole start-up industry works without that experience of watching those founders put one foot in front of the other to raise money and share the vision and build the company and build a team,” says Travis, who’s also the brand’s CEO.

Seven years later, her company is a hit, having worked with the likes of Demi Moore, Iskra Lawrence, Claire Holt, and Mindy Kaling. Kaling’s latest collection, “Summer Camp: Mindy x Andie,” dropped earlier this month and marks the celeb’s second collaboration with the brand, a favorite for those looking for something fashion-forward without being overly revealing.

Here, Travis shares advice on starting something new, networking and finding mentors, and why not giving up is key to success.

How did the idea for Andie swimwear come about?

I mean, honestly, I’ve always hated shopping for swimwear, right? It’s a miserable experience. The real sort of light bulb moment came in the summer of 2016. I was working at BarkBox, and we were going on a retreat to a lake in upstate New York, and I needed a swimsuit. I thought, “OK, well, what kind of swimsuit should I wear with the CEO and my colleagues?” And that question led me far and wide looking for a great suit that would fit me well; that was affordably priced; that wasn’t too matronly but also wasn’t too skimpy or inappropriate for the circumstance. I had such a hard time finding anything, and I ended up with something I really didn’t love that I overpaid for.

Once I was on the retreat, I realized basically all of my female colleagues were complaining about their swimsuits. That was a sort of an aha moment — if so many women really hate shopping for swim, there has got to be a better way.

What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learned about building a company?

The things that I thought would be really hard have not been as hard as I thought, and the things that I thought would be easy have been incredibly difficult. I mean, overall nothing is easy. Building a company is a million times harder than I ever imagined it would be. It doesn’t go the way you think it’s going to go, and it can still end up very successful, but you cannot anticipate what the path will look like.

“If so many women really hate shopping for swim, there has got to be a better way.”

Your company is super inclusive. Where do you think other companies or people miss the mark when it comes to the focus on inclusivity?

Inclusivity and diversity has had a real explosion of growth and interest in the last couple of years, and I think that’s great, but the way that a lot of companies have reacted to that is just sort of slapping it on as an afterthought in their marketing. I think the difference with Andie and the brands that get it right is that it’s part of their DNA from the beginning, right? We’ve always had plus sizes. We’ve always used diverse models. I think companies miss the mark when they’re not actually authentic about it.

You’re collaborating for the second time with Mindy Kaling. What do you think makes a great collaborator in business?

An authentic partner or an authentic collaboration. Everyone we work with, we make sure that they really do love and buy Andie, and we know that they do. This isn’t just an endorsement deal of someone slapping their name on something — this is someone who loves the brand.

I mean, if you look at Mindy… We did it again because it went so well last year. But her profile picture is still — and it has been since last year — a photo of her in a one-piece from her collection last year. Her link in her Instagram bio is still Andie. And these contracts have X number of social requirements, but when it’s a real authentic relationship, they go way above and beyond the contractual requirements, and that obviously helps a ton.

You’re an entrepreneur and now a mother — what do you wish you could tell those considering children alongside running a business?

The first thing I’d say is it is doable. Whether you’re a full-time working mom or you’re building a company or you’re a longtime CEO, it is definitely doable. I meet moms everywhere in every stage of their professional careers, and it requires a very strong sense of time management. I’ve become a more empathetic person since having a baby. So I think it’s not only doable, it can reward your career as well.

What advice would you give women who see themselves starting a company one day or becoming a CEO?

Just do it. Separating those who are successful in their companies and those who aren’t is frankly just not giving up. You have to be willing to run through brick walls. That’s just part of the game.

How would you encourage others to learn about running their business or launching a business?

When I was first building Andie, I did a ton of networking. So I live in New York City, there’s conferences about startups and e-commerce and marketing and finance — literally on any topic all the time. And I went to them. I went to any conference where I could listen to the speakers, meet the other attendees, and try to be part of the ecosystem. Podcasts were also really big for me. I listened to NPR’s How I Built This, and I think Reid Hoffman has a great podcast [Masters of Scale] about scaling businesses. I would go for runs or drives and pop these podcasts on. And books. I love Shoe Dog. I was very inspired by Shoe Dog. I read The Everything Store about Amazon. I was just consuming as much content as I could about company-building, brand-building, entrepreneurship.

“You have to be willing to run through brick walls. That’s just part of the game.”

How can one find mentors who make sense for them?

I really encourage entrepreneurs to build up a little panel of mentors. And the way that I found them was, again, a lot of warm intros, a ton of meetings. I mean, the first year of building Andie was probably 50% or more just meeting people — sitting down for coffee, talking to them — because that’s just what you have to do at the beginning. And if I met someone that I found hugely impressive and who I felt could be valuable, I would, after the meeting, reach out to them and say that I’d love to bring them on as an adviser — that I would be happy to offer them X amount of equity and in return, I’d love for them to be available for a monthly call or coffee and just allow me to work through problems with them.

What else would you like to impart to others who are looking to really own their careers?

It’s a really fun and exciting world out there. It’s worth trying a new adventure. And the worst that can happen is it doesn’t work out — and then you’ve had a cool experience and learned something.