FRANCESCA AIELLO, 20

Frankie’s Bikinis, a Malibu swimwear design company

Employees: 5

Financials: Profitable

What led you to start your own business?

I grew up in Malibu, so I basically lived in bikinis. Surfing is a huge part of my life and I felt that there weren’t enough cute swimsuits made to support an active lifestyle. My mom always told me I should start my own line, so when I was 17, I decided to go for it.

Where did you get the startup money?

I applied for a lot of zero-percent credit cards.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

Getting production to run smoothly has been harder than expected, but we are working every day to make it better.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

I learned you can’t give up when the going gets tough. There will always be obstacles. You just have to figure out how to get through, over or around them.

How many hours a day do you put in?

I work around 60 hours a week. Work never really stops. Even when I leave the office, I’m doing the social media, setting up shoots and responding to emails.

You’re younger than many peers in your industry. Is that a challenge?

From what I’m aware of, the swimwear industry has been very accepting of my age, and I don’t think anyone on our team has ever been uncomfortable with me being so young.

Would you start another company?

Absolutely. Another dream of mine is to have my own skin care line. I am completely obsessed with skin care.

Could you ever work for someone else?

I don’t think I could at this point. I love having my own schedule and making decisions.

What do you do to unwind?

When I want to unwind, I head to the beach and swim in the ocean or surf. The beach cures all things.

– Nicole Piper

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