How a holiday friendship sowed the seed for Prince George’s fave swim label Sunuva Kids.

After a chance meeting on holiday, when their children recognised each other from nursery, Sunuva founders, Sabrina Naggar and Emily Cohen bonded over a mutual frustration at the lack of stylish UV kids swimwear available. And so the idea for Sunuva was born: chic children’s swimwear, co-ordinating UV protective children's rash vests, cute dreses, kaftans and playsuits for girls; good linens and t-shirts for the boys. Here they think back on their business journey, the highs (worn by Prince George on his birthday), the lows (hiring the wrong people, website building nightmares) and the bits in between.


We came up with the idea when…
Sabrina: We chatted by the pool on holiday, having been introduced by our kids.

The biggest challenge is…
Sabrina: Juggling our ambitious growth plans with being a mother of four children and trying to be there for them too.
Emily: Rolling with the punches. There are mini crises that happen on a weekly basis. Running out of stock of bestsellers, production mistakes, mis-print on labels when all 1,000 have been printed; we’ve been there! Staying positive and knowing that nothing is really too much of a disaster; they are hiccups along the way which you need to address as they happen. Another big challenge is keeping the creative juices flowing so that each season the designs are better than the season before.

The average day is spent…
Sabrina: There isn’t an average day! Whether designing prints and garments, dealing with production issues, discussing strategy, helping with a photoshoot, or analysing figures – no two days are the same.
Emily: Designing, on some level, is always part of the day. Whether it's designing prints, looking at garment shapes, perfecting embroideries or matching colours well on garments. I am also very involved in the brand side of things so a PR or marketing meeting, working with bloggers and making sure social medium posts are in keeping with the brand. Production questions and issues are also involved with the day to day. We need to make sure garments are properly tested, colour matched and safety approved.

The team consists of...
Sabrina: 16 fabulous people in sales, design, production, merchandising and finance. All are vibrant and energetic, which you need to be in our fast-paced environment.
Emily: Approximately 16 people in the office and a number of freelance consultants who we have worked with for years. Sabrina and I sit together in the office alongside our in-house print designer and in-house garment technologist. We have a web team, including social, a sales team who look after our sales and manage international agents and distributors. We also have a merchandiser, finance person, office admin and our incredible MD.

My favourite quote…
Sabrina: 'Live in the moment' - I really try to be present in the moment and appreciate everything as life races past so fast.
Emily: 'If you don’t ask, you don’t get.' (It’s got me far).

I am where I am today because of…
Sabrina: Many different life decisions which have led me to this point – from my qualification in chartered accountancy which gave me a strong business training to marrying my husband who has been an incredible support and helped me balance work with family.
Emily: A love of work and a passion for creating a brand (and a great relationship with Sabrina my business partner). Also, not giving up and really staying focused on the positive. The glass is always half full.

I am who I am because of...
Sabrina: The fabric of life, some good experiences, some bad, but all of which have moulded me into the person I am today.
Emily: My very loving and supportive parents who always trusted my decisions and supported me in my crazy ideas.

The best advice I've been given…
Sabrina: Make sure you’ve got a solid business plan when you launch the business so that you have clear strategic direction and to help identify whether your funding is sufficient for your growth plans.
Emily: God helps those that help themselves (my dad).

In five years I’d like to be…
Sabrina: Celebrating Sunuva’s achievement of being the most globally successful swimwear and beachwear brand for kids.
Emily: IHonestly I couldn’t say – I really live day by day, week by week. I seriously can’t imagine life in five years.

The thing no one ever tells you about running your own business online...
Sabrina: It’s not necessarily cheaper than having a retail outlet. It can involve as much investment as bricks and mortar if you want to do it successfully.
Emily: It never stops, your work is never done, it’s never enough or never good enough and there is always room for improvement and change.

The websites I most frequently use are...
Sabrina: Amazon, Ocado, Zara and Net-a-Porter.
Emily: The websites I most frequently use are... Amazon and Ocado (every week).

Our biggest mistake and what it taught us…
Sabrina: Building our own website from scratch when we first launched ten years ago. The company we had used went into administration and had built the site in a language that very few developers knew how to operate. We ended up having to start all over again and bought an off the shelf package which was so much easier and cost effective.
Emily: Hiring the wrong people and the trouble it gets you in. It’s really important to make sure when you are hiring people that you are 100% sure (or as sure as you can be). It’s usually good to go with your gut instinct; most of the time it’s right.

What apps do you use to be more productive…
Sabrina: I’m not a big app user but I do use the Barclays app on a regular basis.
Emily: British Airways, Amazon, Ocado and Hailo.

The most rewarding experience we’ve had to date…
Sabrina: Prince George wearing Sunuva in his official 3rd birthday photos.
Emily: When Prince George wore Sunuva in his official 3rd birthday photographs splashed across the front page of all the papers last summer.

July 2017