It's so important to support small local businesses and it goes without saying that they need your help now more than ever. With seasons of unknown, there’s inevitable worry about what’s to come. One thing I love about small business owners is the love and respect for others on this quest. So many of us are wondering how we can rally around others on parallel paths to ours and how we can all come out of this together.
That's why in the coming weeks I will be showcasing some of my absolute favourite small local owned and operated businesses, starting with my numero uno....
The Sunset Shack!
Dushi Designs and the Sunset Shack have grown together over the years. They are my flagship store here on Aruba and have championed me and my brand from the beginning. We started off with a professional relationship but as the years have gone by and we have got to know each other better I can now say that we are firm friends.
We share so many similarities, including our desire to remain behind the scenes... But this pandemic has made us step outside of our comfort zone and I am proud to say that I have managed to convince her to give her first ever exclusive interview to me!
So sit back, relax and enjoy finding out about the beach-loving-wanderlusting-hippy-at-heart-boss-babe behind my favourite store on One Happy Island....
1. Your Name: Carolina de Souza
2. Founder of: Sunset Shack
3. Type of business: Bricks and mortar fashion retail store selling unique swimwear, travel gear and accessories from around the world (with an online store coming soon)
4. Describe your brand in 5 words or less: Island lifestyle. Adventurous. Global travel.
5. What made you decide to open your own store? It's something I have always wanted to do ever since I was a little girl.
6. How long did it take to get from the brainstorming/idea stage to the official launch day of your brand? Well it took about 8 months of hard work to get to the opening day of the store.
7. How did you decide on the name of your business? My husband (boyfriend at that time) and I were on a flight to the Dominican Republic for business, but we always try to squeeze in 1 or 2 days of exploring. We were talking about the idea of the store and he asked, "what would you name it?" and we just started scribbling down words that popped into our heads on the back of an airplane napkin!
As the beach was my main inspiration, I remember the words sun, sand, sunset, hut and shack... So that's how the Sunset Shack got it's name.
One of my all time favorite movies is Blue Lagoon. I've always dreamed about being stranded on a paradise island, living in a nice little beach hut where I can watch the sunset and never be found again!
8. What was you doing before you became a business owner? I was and still do work in accounting and daily operations of a B2B company. I do have to say, that I am in a flexible position which makes it a little easier to have a job and also have a business. However, there are days when I get up at 6am to go to work and get home exhausted by 9pm. But all good things come to those who WORK for it right?!
9. What is the best thing about being a female entrepreneur? A sense of freedom and accomplishment. Seeing the power of your dedication and hard work. It's being part of a growing tribe where being a female entrepreneur is more than standing up for just yourself but it's standing up for other girls and women too.
10. What is the worst thing about being a female entrepreneur? I've got be honest here, I'm still flabbergasted at the amount of times people have doubted me or not taken me seriously because I'm a woman. For example... The Setar technician that didn't want to answer my questions because he did not imagine I was the owner, or the maintenance guy of the store that thought he didn't need to listen to me when I politely asked him to work in a neat way, or even about the customer who couldn't believe I was the owner. When I started Sunset Shack I was only 26 years old and might I add that I'm also quite short and petite, so people assume that it's not possible for someone like me to be in charge of a business.
11. Describe how you felt the day you first opened your store: Nervous, happy, excited, anxious, everything all at once!
12. What lessons have you learned about yourself since starting your own business? It's been such a learning curve and growing experience for me. You learn from the good but you learn the most from the hardships! You discover how much stress you can handle and how you can make things happen if you put your mind, heart and soul into something. You learn to take criticism but most importantly you learn WHICH criticism to take and which to avoid. You learn to deal with difficult situations but most importantly you learn to overcome them.
13. What inspires your products and collections? I am most inspired when I am on a travel adventure! Everyone who knows me know I have always been passionate about travel, seeing and learning new things, and exploring new cultures.
History was always my favorite subject in school so travelling to exotic destinations, exploring off the beaten track and finding old ruins is my idea of heaven! I also LOVE outdoors activities and adventures. When I travel I like to go get lost in nature, in the jungle or woods, chasing waterfalls (which I am totally obsessed with).
I find real pleasure in looking for the best sunset spots and sunrise views. I am always searching for what sets my soul on fire.
So, what inspires my products?
GLOBAL TRAVEL. ADVENTURE. THE GREAT OUTDOORS. BEACH LIFE. EPIC SUNSETS.
Our collections at Sunset Shack are from all over the world. We've got everything from Brazilian bikinis to Colombian native fairtrade Wayuu bags, to sunnies born in Australia, to rattan bags and shell jewelry directly from Bali, straw bags from Madagascar, and most importantly local Aruban brands.
14. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given? My best piece of advice that I have ever been given is to always "sleep on it". Whatever decision you feel like taking, make sure it's not out of a burst of emotions. Always sleep on it and see how you feel the next day. Make sure to make decisions out of rationality.
15. What advice would you give to future girl bosses? Be careful not to overthink everything, because you are your worst critic! Know and trust that YOU have YOUR OWN journey. No matter who is doing what, just always remember that YOU are on YOUR OWN journey.
16. What’s the biggest misconception you’ve heard about your brand? Lots of people to this day still don't know that the Sunset Shack is locally owned. People still get surprised when they ask and we tell them. I was born in Brazil but was raised in Aruba, lived my life in Aruba since I was 2 years old. I will never deny being a "Brasileira" but my heart is a true "Islander".
17. How do you feel about using social media for business? Hmmmmm..... For me it's like my best friend and also my worst enemy at the same time!
Social media is the number 1 marketing platform nowadays so for us it's also VERY important but I have be honest since I agreed on this Q&A....
I love things appealing to the eye, pretty things, nice pictures, make up, bikinis, all the girly stuff but I am actually a very private person. I am not usually the type to put myself physically out there or be the model in all these beautiful photo shoots. Props to the girls who do though, your confidence really inspires me!
I am not really the kind of person who feels comfortable to star in IG/FB live streams and videos, but, as I said before, being an entrepreneur makes you develop and learn so much that I am slowly opening up more to the social media world.
18. Tell us one about one goal you have achieved in your business that you are most proud of and why? The ones who were with us since day 1, know that we started in a MUCH smaller space! Selling only bikinis and some accessories. We have slowly conquered more space and broadened our portfolio to be able to serve the community. This makes me feel exceptionally proud and spurs me on to succeed even more in the future.
19. What’s coming up next for your brand? These are very uncertain times right now for the island, heck for the whole world!
So what's coming up next?
RESILIENCE is what is coming up next. And believing in the Papiamento phrase "poco poco pero sigur" which means slowly but surely... That is our new motto right now.
Slowly but surely we will restrategize, reinvent and like a true islander... We will not give up! We will rise again!
20. Where do you see your brand in 5 years time? Stronger than ever, as a household name across the whole of Aruba.
POCO POCO t-shirt is now available on Aruba and the Sunset Shack is offering FREE delivery island-wide. Dushi Designs and the Sunset Shack have decided to donate 10% of all profits made during the month of May to be donated to a local charity which provides food parcels to families in need throughout our community.
DM to order yours now and support this local cause.
Not on the island?... Don't worry! You can order your "poco poco" tee online and we will ship directly to you, from our USA or European warehouses, wherever you are in the world so you can still support this good cause.
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