By Dana Zillgitt, Regular ContributorDecember 3, 2015
image via mashable.com
It’s not often you hear female empowerment and swimsuits in the same sentence. But that’s exactly what A.Lekay is looking to do with her new line, Allusions by A.Lekay. Having only been in business for a year or two, A.Lekay is already making waves in the industry. She has been featured on the July cover of Cosmopolitan, in Yahoo Parenting, and People, and also again in a recent Cosmo campaign that highlights how to be flawless and fierce. In addition to all this national coverage, she’s also been featured on local television and in Florida magazines as well. A.Lekay is well on her way to becoming a household name.
So let’s get the cliché questions out of the way. Why did you decide to go into business for yourself? Moreover, why swimsuits and why right now?
Dana! I love how you wanted to cut to the chase! (laughs) Well, as the old-time proverb says, “necessity is the mother of invention.” I became a business owner in a very organic way. It was unplanned, and I had somewhat of an ‘Ah-ha” moment and was able to transform an idea into a business!
So…. It was March 2013 and I was searching for a swimsuit. Specifically, I wanted a highwaist swimsuit. One month before I graduated high school, I learned that I was pregnant. Ambitious and motivated, I still pursued my college dreams and attended Florida State University where I would raise my son, work 2 jobs, and complete my bachelors within 4 years…
Throughout college for spring break trips and summer vacations, I would be among my fellow college students (sorority sisters and friends) who were 18,19,20 year olds with flawless beautiful bodies wearing 2-piece swimsuits... but NOT me... I always wore a one-piece as I discreetly hid what I refer to as abdominal imperfections from carrying my son, Anthony Jr.
I wanted a highwaist 2-piece to feel sexy as I had just loss about 25 pounds, yet hide those imperfections. I ordered one and purchased one, but neither were high enough to mask those imperfections. I had developed rapport with a tailor because I loved thrift shopping. So, when I was unsuccessful at finding a high waist suit to accommodate me, I purchased material and had the tailor produce my very own highwaistkini™.
To chronicle my journey in the beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico, I uploaded photos of my trip via my socials, and I received immediate response and inquiries from my followers and friends..
When I returned from my trip and viewed the comments, I had an “ah-ha” moment and an unction within me led me to transform this idea into a business!!
So, that’s it.. Literally. Social media and the immediate response and inquires from other women allowed me to find a need in the market, even before I’d ever thought of this as a business venture!
What does the swimsuit industry need more of? Less of?
Personally, with such an overly saturated industry, I can’t really think of what it lacks or needs. I just know that all women should feel beautiful and confident while enjoying a beach day or poolside relaxation.
I think that what differentiates my brand from other swimwear brands is that we specifically offer highwaist designs, and we want our consumer to feel as beautiful on the inside, as she does and looks on the outside.
Where do you see the business in 5-10 years?
Hmmm, In 5-10 years, I would definitely say, distribution within major retailers. Since transforming this idea into a business, I have always foresaw it as a global brand.
Recently, I read a piece in Cosmopolitan Magazine about NYX Cosmetics Founder, Toni Ko. She started her makeup line and ended up selling it for an estimated $500 million to L’Oréal Paris.
When I read that I was inspired and started to even think of possibly doing the same with my brand eventually.
How’d you come up with the name, Allusions by A. Lekay?
Well at the time of establishing my brand I was working as a Probation Officer, supervising misdemeanor offenders of the law. Yes I know, “Misses Officer.. (laughs)” Well I remember when I had my “ah-ha” moment and the light bulb went off, I was sitting in my office preparing to head to court for some of my clients.
When I felt the unction lead me to transforming the idea into a business, the name came with ease. At first, I thought of illusions simply because no one really knew my reason for wearing the highwaist suit. It could have been for the vintage look, to be different, opposed to the traditional bikini or just a fashion statement. But because it was really to discretely mask those imperfections I thought of illusions because of the definition. But because Allusions went with the first initial of my first name “A” I went with Allusions. My first name is Altrichia. My middle name is Lekay. Hence the “A.Lekay” most people pronounce it “Ally-kay” or “Aye-leaky” but it is pronounced “Aye-lee-kay”.
Any suggestions to girls wanting to become an entrepreneur?
It’s not for everybody! I would say that to be a successful entrepreneur it must be something that you are passionate about. NOT FOR MONEY. We all know that it takes money to make money. So with that noted, passion must fuel you even when you have not reaped the financial harvest of what you initially put into the idea.
I have learned to not compare my growth to anyone else’s.
I have learned persistent and patience because great things take time. Additionally, I would encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to be fearless, professional, and to create opportunity .
Lastly, I would encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to create a network of established and successful business owners to have a mentors. Not just a one sided relationship ,however, but a relationship that will be of mutual benefit.
Biggest achievement so far? Biggest disappointment?
The MAJOR collaboration that I landed with Cosmopolitan Magazine and Nicki Minaj graced the cover of the July Edition wearing an Allusions by A.Lekay piece! It was truly an impeccable feeling that reinforced the idea that nothing beats failure but a try! In addition to that, I was able to do a MAJOR project with Cosmopolitan x Maybelline as a fearless millennial who “Makes It Happen!” Truly exciting.
My biggest disappoint has been just having this crazy vision that family and friends have not always grasped. But it’s not really a disappointment. Just the way the life goes. You know. Sometimes as an entrepreneur, you risk so much and even when it doesn’t work it doesn’t mean that you lost. It just means that you gave it your all and you learned.
Any advice to your younger self?
Young self.. Go take a sewing class girl! I really wish that I would have learned how to sew when I was younger. But I am grateful for my journey. Had I known how to sew, I could have taken that for granted. I do know the basics, but being in a business and relying on a middle man to get the job done has been frustrating.
What’s the one song that always gets you up and moving?
ROAR by Katy Perry! Definitely!
When you take a day off, favorite thing to do?
Relax. Hangout with my son and my family. Literally just to not have a care and relax. I am constantly traveling and going non stop. Just to be with family and enjoying moments with them is enjoyable. I love to cook and I am also a Team Mom with my son’s football team. I love to make creative snacks and serve them.
Last question, favorite piece you’ve designed so far?
I love the pieces that don’t cover up everything. I would say the LEXA Allusions by A.Lekay is my fave!!! I love the print and cutouts! It was a best seller!!
It’s evident that A.Lekay is not only in the swimsuit industry to create flawless suits, but to also create a medium to flaunt your own personal brand of flawless fierceness. It’s not everyday we’re privy to such a growing business that’s contributing to culture as a whole and is already becoming somewhat of a game changer. So I’d keep an eye on Allusions by A.Lekay and start looking into getting a suit of your own if you haven’t already. I doubt they’ll stay in stock long.
How can we support girls and young women going into business for themselves? Tell us about it below!
Dana has her BA in International Affairs & Spanish as well as a mild obsession with rescue animals and all things caffeinated. She’s mastered the art of the selfie, fort building, and even the sass battle. Plus, she can quote 95% of Anchorman and Zoolander.
Every girl is a work in progress. If you need more help, click here.