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OOKIOH’s engineer founder finds his true passion in fashion and launches a successful swimwear brand

Today we meet Vivek Agarwal, founder of  eco-conscious swimwear brand OOKIOH. Vivek is a trained engineer but decided to follow his true passion in the fashion industry by launching a sustainable swimwear brand focused on affordability, positivity and fun, while celebrating women for who they are. OOKIOH has since grown rapidly, with largely organic, word-of-mouth sales leading to success despite the COVID-19 pandemic. How did he manage this? And what is the next step? Let’s find out!

Hello! Perhaps you could introduce yourself?

Hi! I am Vivek Agarwal, and I am the founder of OOKIOH – An eco-conscious swimwear brand. 

I grew up in Rourkela – a small town in Odisha, India. As a kid, I always wanted to be in the fashion domain, but I ended up doing Mechanical Engineering because it was considered safe by my parents. In 2017, after a whirlwind of experiences including manufacturing Steel, a Masters in Real Estate, and developing malls in Chicagoland, I decided to pursue my passion in the fashion industry finally, and that led me to OOKIOH.

I have worked on numerous side-gigs and ideas before, but OOKIOH is my first entrepreneurial journey that came to fruition. As the founder of a growing brand with limited resources, I wear multiple hats at OOKIOH. It keeps me occupied 24/7, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I couldn’t be happier.

Tell us more about your business.

While researching for product categories in the fashion domain, I saw a gap in the swimwear market. Although there were stylish and sustainable swimwear brands out there, they were either overpriced, too racy, or too serious. OOKIOH was founded with the primary goal of providing style-forward and conscious swimwear at an affordable price point so that it actually makes a difference while having fun and celebrating women for who they are — and whomever they want to be. 

Once I had an overall vision of OOKIOH, I approached Sarah to help me with the designs, and the rest of the team came together fairly quickly. OOKIOH was launched to the public within six months of my first meeting with Sarah.

ookioh squeeze

What does your business look like today?

OOKIOH has changed quite a bit since launch. We started as a DTC brand but quickly changed to an omnichannel model once I realized that (a) There is a strong preference for feel and touch, especially for a new brand, and (b) There was strong interest from major retailers like Urban Outfitters and Moda Operandi. 

We grew slowly in 2019, but 2020 was a solid year for us. We are now available at several Urban Outfitters and Free People locations, and boutiques across the country. I believe our consistent efforts in building the brand are finally showing results, and people are drawn to the brand, its ethos, and its designs. 

While the team is small, I am confident of growing steadily in the next few years as we execute our plans.

What are you working on at the moment? What are the future plans?

I am currently working on designs for 2021, speaking to potential partners and collaborators, and developing a marketing strategy for OOKIOH. We haven’t done any of the traditional marketing to date – No Social Media ads, no emails, etc..  I am working on a nuanced and well thought of marketing plan for 2021; It will bring us closer to existing and new customers.

What are your biggest challenges? What motivates you?

All challenges pale in comparison to COVID-19. Like the rest of the world, my biggest concern is the uncertainty about COVID-19 and its repercussions on everything – team, planning, buying, etc. We are tackling this by going slowly. I am an optimist, so I am hopeful we’ll find a vaccine for COVID-19 soon. Until such time – it’s best to have a roadmap but not map out every detail for seasons in advance. Overall, it has been a good year for OOKIOH. The love and support we are getting from our community keeps me moving forward.

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Can you share what tools, apps, or other useful things you are using in your business?

I extensively use Slack and Basecamp for communication within teams. I am a 100+ tabs open kind of person; I’d highly recommend a Chrome extension called The Great Suspender for people like me. It has changed my (and my laptop’s) life!

What is the best business advice you can share with others?

Never be afraid of asking for help. In general, people like to help; We need to find the right way to approach.

Could you recommend any books, movies, podcasts, learning materials?

There’s so much useful information out there; It’s a tough decision to pick just a couple. I’ll share what I am currently enjoying:

• Movies: I found The Founder (McDonald’s origin story) very inspiring.
• Books: I am fascinated by Nir Eyal’s Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and awaiting the release of Ana Andjelic’s The Business of Aspiration. 
• Podcasts: I recently started listening to How Long Gone, and I am addicted to it.


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