Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Laura Velasquez, I am originally from the coffee region of Colombia and was raised in the city of Pereira. When I was 18 years old I moved to New Jersey to become proficient in English in order to attend University. I went to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and pursued a double major in International Business & Finance. While in school, I was recruited by Bank of America where I started an internship and then accepted a full time offer in Credit Risk division. I eventually made an internal move to the Investment Banking division where I focused on LATAM M&A and later Equity Capital Markets. In 2016, I left the bank looking for a career and lifestyle change and that is when I started developing the business idea for Veranera which launched July of 2017. As I continued making changes to my life, I knew I wanted to incorporate a healthy lifestyle into my company and started to pursue a yoga teacher certification and in January 2018 I finished my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Works. I have since partnered with several female yoga and fitness professionals in NYC to host fitness focused events that also showcase Veranera’s latest swimwear collections. I am a bikini, yoga, ice cream and animal lover and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be a NYC women entrepreneur and pursue my passion every day.
What exactly is Veranera Swimwear?
Veranera Swimwear is an e-commerce site carrying women’s Colombian designer swimwear. All swimwear is carefully curated with styles and prints that evoke the beauty and exoticism of Latin America while providing a unique look and fit. We consider ourselves brands ambassadors, proudly promoting and distributing unique brands to the U.S. These are brands that meet our high standards of design, quality and social responsibility. For example, Airavata teaches female prisoners in Medellin, Colombia the art of embroidery as a way to rehabilitate them back into society. It’s important for our clients to know that each piece of swimwear purchased is not only beautiful and hand-made but that they are really helping a woman in need.
What inspired you to start Veranera Swimwear?
What started out as an inspirational Euro trip in search for a career change, quickly turned into a near death experience that left me scarred in more ways than one. After months of recovery, I got the courage to travel again for my friend’s Caribbean getaway wedding. The one thing that was hardest to swallow was the realization that I could no longer wear my bikinis that I loved so much. Determined to get my old life back, I made it my mission to find the perfect one-piece that would make me feel as beautiful and confident as my bikinis once did. After an arduous search, I eventually found the one, a red one-piece by Colombian brand Peixoto that looked and fit fabulously. This was the beginning of Veranera Swimwear, an e-commerce solution and marketing platform that makes buying and supporting Colombian brands easy all year round.
How did you come up with the name?
Growing up in Colombia I was always surrounded by beautiful and colorful bougainvillea, whether it was seeing them hanging from the balconies of colonial homes in Cartagena or in the countryside while I rode horses around my grandparent’s farm. In Colombia we call these plants Veraneras and although they are native to South America, I see them growing all over the world when I travel. Whether I see them growing in St. Tropez, Marrakesh, Santorini, Palm Springs or South Beach, to me they are eternal symbols of summer and always remind me of home. That is why I called my company Veranera, I wanted to bring a beautiful piece of home and share it with the world.
Can you tell us about your Home Fitting Room shopping experience?
We created the Home Fitting Room shopping experience with the aim of helping to transform the way we shop for swimwear online. This online feature allows shoppers to pick up to 6 items, mix and match, and have them delivered to their home for free. They have 3 days to try on the items in the comfort of their home to ensure they get the perfect style and fit. We only charge for the items they keep and the rest are returned for free.
Can you share with us some feedback one of your customers had with the Fitting Room shopping experience?
People love the fact that they can try on swimwear in the comfort of their home. Let’s be honest, nobody likes those fitting rooms at department stores where the lighting is awful and lines are long. Sometimes when you leave a department store after trying on swimwear you feel sort of discouraged, am I right? When we look at our historical sales via the Home Fitting Room, we realized that on average 4 out of every 5 girls using the feature keep at least two swimsuits. Also, our customers like the fact that they receive a disposable panty liner and our guarantee that we DO change the plastic liners every time someone tries on any items. Additionally, we have received great feedback about our reusable shipping bags and our inclusion of pre-paid return labels with every purchase which makes returns so easy.
Is there a favorite product? And are your products only found online?
I don’t really have a favorite. I curate everything myself, so everything somehow is a favorite to me. I try to bring a little bit something for everyone, from sporty to very sophisticated beaded swimwear. Something great about the swimwear we carry is that no matter what you get, you will find some hand-made artisanal detail which make Colombian swimwear so unique and special.
What is your favorite part about running Veranera Swimwear?
Out of the ten brands we carry, only a few are internationally known. My favorite part of running this business is knowing that even on a small scale we are helping Colombian talent share their artistry with international markets while bringing a little piece of happiness to our customers.
What is your least favorite part about running Veranera Swimwear?
I don’t have a least favorite. So far everything has been a learning experience and so I try to enjoy everything I do.
How do you spread the word about your company?
In addition to Instagram and Facebook ads, we have done a series of events, mostly fitness events, in which we merge Barre classes and/or Yoga classes with our swimwear. All girls are invited to participate for free. Usually, we do the class and at the end the girls have the opportunity to mingle, win giveaways and see our latest swimwear collections.
We have also started to partner with hotels to create pop-up stores like the one we did recently at the W Hotel in Union Square and with charity events like Emily’s Entourage to create brand awareness and give back to the community.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone. Change is always good and as soon as you take the courage to move forward unimaginable things come to you. Also, spend the time to network and be open to meeting new people, you never know who will be able provide you great advice, some words of inspiration, a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand or a great business connection. Whatever you learn, make sure you pass it on, I have realized that the more I give and help others the more I get in return in personal and professional satisfaction.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? 🙂
“Everything Happens for a Reason”
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I am thrilled to be one of the many women entrepreneurs in NYC and I have learned that the more you share, the more you help, and the more you are open to new things, the more doors open up. To all those girl bosses out there, keep sharing, keep helping, and don’t be afraid to take risk.