You spent your 20s working toward building your dream career, but now that you’re in your 30s, what do you do when you’ve, well, changed your mind? Or maybe you never quite figured it out, and you’re now ready to commit to something you’re passionate about, whether it’s a job, a city, or just a new way of life. To celebrate the career changes that can come at any age, we’re debuting a new series, Second Life. Each week, we’ll hear from women who got over their doubts and fears and made the biggest changes of their lives.
Aussie native Carly Brown was a senior marketing manager at Uber when she decided to strike out on her own and found Une Piece, a line of swimwear that's both sun-safe and stylish. Noticing a glaring gap in the swimwear industry for thoughtfully designed suits that both protect and empower women, she drew inspiration from her coastal upbringing in order to fill it herself.
For Brown, the mission behind her Australia-based brand is clear: "I'm passionate about helping women feel confident and empowered (and, therefore, beautiful) when they are by the water," the successful entrepreneur told MyDomaine. "Remaining true to that vision has helped Une Piece gather the affection and momentum that it has," she added. In fact, before the line officially launched, there was an online waiting list of over 500 eager buyers, and when the swimwear finally hit the site, it sold out within a week. (Don't worry, the brand has since restocked.)
In this edition of Second Life, we ask the founder of Une Piece all about becoming an entrepreneur and disrupting the swimwear industry, including the inspiring books that helped her move past the fear of change to pursue her passion and the sage advice she has for women who want to follow in her footsteps.
Tell us about your first career path working for brands like Uber, Revlon, and Coca-Cola.
Before I started Une Piece (which means one-piece in French), I worked in general management and marketing. Most recently, I was a senior marketing manager for Uber. Prior to this, I lived abroad in London for seven years and was the head of brand marketing and communications at Revlon for the UK and Europe. Before that, I was in the head office at Coca-Cola.
In my career, I have launched over 300 different products and brands to market, and I have been responsible for everything from innovation and product development to media and advertising to business strategy and commercialization. I loved the diversity of the roles I have had in my career pre–Une Piece.
How did you make the transition from your previous roles to becoming an entrepreneur and launching your own business?
I was working at Uber when I had the idea for Une Piece. The more I researched, the more it became so obvious that there was a gap in the market for stylish and sexy sun-safe swimwear.
I took a part-time position at my old university for six months, which gave me the capacity and flexibility to ramp up in preparation to launch the business but remain in the workplace.
We have an incredible community that is so passionate about the brand—I still get a kick out of seeing the latest tag on Instagram or the latest consumer email telling us how much they love the product.
I'm super passionate about product development and innovation, so I'm always looking for the next thing to push the brand forward and remain relevant.
What's involved in starting a business? Was it easier or harder than you thought it would be?
Before I launched the business about 18 months ago, I listened to women—a lot! I did extensive consumer research with lots and lots of women when developing the line.
As I was researching, people kept asking me when they could buy it. So I started a waiting list. When it hit 30 people, I decided to put it online. Quite quickly we had 500 people on the waiting list. When we launched, we sold out within a week. The roller-coaster of being an entrepreneur started with a bang. We had sales in 50 countries around the world in just over 18 months.
Being a founder is the toughest job I've ever had. You have to always be across all aspects of the business, and the buck stops with you. However, it is also absolutely the best and most enjoyable job I have ever had.
What have been the biggest challenges in your various careers and why?
Trying to prioritize the budget you have given all the goals you want to achieve, and of course, the quest to find work/life balance.
What triggered your need to change this time around?
I have always had a feeling that I would have my own business and to work for myself one day—I just wasn't sure when. I also have always loved my career in business and marketing, so it really was just timing.
Ultimately, it was a combination of two things that prompted me to take the leap: Identifying a gap in the market for a brand like Une Piece and finding that it was time to shift gears in my career to gain greater flexibility for my family and my lifestyle.
Why is your current path suitable for your personality?
I am an eternal optimist, which I think is essential when starting your own business. I'm also super energetic, which I think lends itself to the pace!
I am super passionate about team culture and creating a healthy and high-performance culture for my team and myself. I am naturally a creative thinker and really enjoy the combination of strategy and leading a team.
I also really love that every day I wake up and there are different things to work on, develop, and find solutions for. Plus, I love women. I always have.
What's the most important thing you have learned in making a big change in your career life?
When stuff goes wrong (which it will), don't react immediately. Une Piece has taught me that challenges tend to happen for very good reasons—either to force me to make a tough decision, change course, or learn an important lesson. I've learned that once you shift into solution mode, it ultimately takes you to a stronger place.
How did you move past the fear of change to pursue your passion?
Honestly? Other women were my source of inspiration. I actively sourced support and guidance from other women who have forged the entrepreneurial path before me. I have a few friends who own their own businesses, and I have the deepest respect for what they have achieved. I have continued to grow this community of like-minded women around me so can I continue to learn from them and grow.
Finally, and most importantly, I also have a regular morning routine, which I first I started when I began researching and developing Une Piece. I love to sit on my veranda in the sun (I live in sunny Queensland, Australia), I list everything I am grateful for (I know, I know, you've heard it before—but it really works!). I also meditate for 10 to 20 minutes before journaling and writing my to-do list for the day. Obviously, life gets in the way sometimes, but I try to do this regularly as it makes a massive difference.
Plus I do plenty of yoga for exercise. And sleep! Oh, and tea!
What are some mistakes you made along the way that ended up helping your success? How did you learn from them?
There have been so many challenges along the way. Ultimately, the biggest lesson I've learned is to trust your gut, have difficult conversations with people sooner rather than later, and have integrity in all that you do.
What do you love most about your current role and why?
I love having the creativity to do something different every single day.
I love leading my beautiful team, who all believe in our common purpose. They are an incredible group of individuals who are talented and have great energy to be around all day long. The saying "hang with the radiators and not the drains" was made for my team!
I also love watching our brand touch the lives of women all around the world, hearing their stories and seeing them post beautiful photos of themselves in their Une Piece swimwear feeling confident and empowered.
Hundreds of women around the world share pictures of themselves in their Une Piece every day using the hashtag #unepiecewomen. The campaign is centered around celebrating women who support our brand ethos of empowering women, and some of our #unepiecewomen have the highest engagement across our social platforms whenever we share them.
When you look back and reflect on your previous career, do you have any regrets? Or are you still really happy with your decision?
You know what, I don't think I do have regrets! I really loved my career before Une Piece, but I am so glad I made the leap. I was ready to try something new and start a new adventure.
It is also so rewarding bringing products to market that people not only want to buy but that also resonate with them. I'm super excited about the global movement of women becoming more and more empowered to speak out to find their personal power. We believe all women should be free to live a confident and empowered life. We want to do good in the world and lead by example.
What advice do you have for other women who want to branch out and make a change in their lives as you have?
Absolutely dare to dream, but be aware that it will take hard work and you will need to put more heart and soul into running your own business than you ever would for any other job.
Read lots, research lots, and talk lots to people that will support and encourage you. Build your tribe, and love them hard. Realize that it will take a hell of a lot of hard work, but, as the saying goes, "Do what you love and you will never work another day of your life"—it's the truth. I love what I do.
Shop Une Piece swimwear below.
For more inspiring stories from successful women who've made major career changes, tune into MyDomaine's Second Life podcast.