Best friends Natasha Oakley and Devin Brugman have created one of the world’s largest swimwear marketing platforms, A Bikini A Day, as well as two of their own brands, Monday Swimwear and the recently launched Monday Active collection in collaboration with Bandier. A Bikini A Day was launched in 2012 when Oakley and Brugman traveled to exotic locations with a suitcase of bikinis and posted daily photos on Instagram of themselves in different swimsuits. Collectively the duo, known to their followers as Tash and Dev, have amassed a social media audience of over 4 million people across all of their platforms. They have collaborated with over a thousand brands on their page, including well-known brands Tory Burch and Vix Swimwear, but also smaller brands from Australia and Brazil.
Both Oakley and Brugman are the daughters of entrepreneurs, which inspired them to launch their own business together.
“When I was growing up there was no such phrase as ‘glass ceiling,’” Oakley said. “Both my parents were successful entrepreneurs, running a series of small, successful businesses between them. My mother has always been an inspiration to me – as cheesy as that sounds – as a woman, she was a mother and a homemaker, but one who started her business at the age of 18 – the same age that I was when I started my production company. Awarded the title of Miss Australia in 1980, she was never known as a pretty face. She was a powerhouse, a business leader and a visionary. That is how I see her, and that is why I do what I do, the way that I do it.”
“My parents owned a business together so I, too, was always surrounded by that amazing entrepreneurial spirit,” Brugman said. “Again, all the females around me have been as strong as any men I’ve ever come across. I have to say that going to business school was a definite help too.”
The best friends decided to go into business in an organic way, inspired by their shared passion for swimsuits, travel, and photography.
“It was a natural transition from friendship into a business relationship really,” Oakley said. “We lived together as best friends. I had my production company, Devin was an amazing photographer who came on board and, pretty much instantly, we realized how well we worked together. A Bikini A Day was a passion project that then developed, and we’re so lucky to be able to work with each other. There’s nothing like working with your best friend; knowing that we trust each other fully, and have each others’ best interests at heart, is a really special thing which enables us to strive.”
The duo felt as though they were on to something with A Bikini A Day from its inception, and their page became a viral success on Instagram.
“When we started, we were a unique platform for swimwear brands to promote themselves – no one was doing what we were doing. The very premise of ‘A Bikini A Day’ allowed us to give a voice to a different bikini brand, 365 days of the year,” Oakley said. “That was all it was, and it just grew from there. We had been working together on the production company for nine months when the first brands got in touch with us for ABAD; that was quite pivotal.”
“It was a passion project intentionally,” Brugman said. “Realistically, it was a business from the second we started. We had no choice in the matter!”
As early users of Instagram, Oakley and Brugman were able to amass a significant following in a short amount of time, covering everything from resort-style, to beauty and relationships on their site.
“As they say, consistency is key,” Brugman said. “But timing has also been a significant factor. We had an interesting concept, presented in a platform that was novel and so intriguing. We were among the first to see it as a curative concept: no one had really become part of lives before. We introduced that, and people loved it. It all came from there, really.”
“We have a strong message, one that has been consistent, relatable, and speaks a truth that everyone wants to hear,” Oakley said. “Our story is one of friendship, entrepreneurialism, travel and style. It has created something both inspiring and achievable, and hopefully something that can help push people in the directions they want to go. And our follower feedback, from the numbers of followers to the comments they say – are showing us that that message is really getting across, and spurring people on to do amazing things. It’s about more than numbers for us, it’s about empowerment – and so responses like that make us so happy.”
The duo keeps busy juggling multiple platforms, from their personal accounts to A Bikini A Day, to their swimwear brand Monday Swimwear and their recently launched athletic brand Monday Active.
“We owe so much of this to passion,” Oakley said. “It is the biggest driving force you could possibly have, and is an inspiration in itself. The thing is, we love what we do, and enjoy every second of it. We see the travel as a blessing, of course, but even handling the shipping has helped teach us and open new doors. We learn things from every aspect and plug our new knowledge and experience into furthering ourselves, so there is a certain satisfaction there too. That is our drive, it helps us go forward both in terms of literally managing numerous businesses, to growing them and launching new platforms.”
“Passion is on our side, but we’re also great at recognizing our own individual strengths and capabilities,” Brugman said. “There is a lot of delegation that goes on, and it is vital in every business. We know who’s role is what, and the lines are clear – so we don’t waste any time, and just flourish in the ways we know how.
(Article originally appeared in Forbes)