Interview: Laura Rosenbaum
MEET HER, SHE IS A KICK-ASS LADY BOSS.
You can spot Laura Rosenbaum from a mile away. Her full head of curls wildly bouncing around, playing catch up to her tiny body frame and a never ending supply of electric energy. After she graduated from FIT, Laura started her career as an illustrator, working on various projects including some of her recent work with Links of London at Bloomingdale’s. After 10 years of experience in illustration and marketing, Novel Swim was founded on the principles of comfort, quirky designs, and fashionable silhouettes that can all coexist in harmony.
Laura! Let’s kick this off with, who you are and what you do?
I am the designer and owner of Novel Swim. I design all the bright, cheeky prints for the line and, of course, run all the everyday mechanics behind the brand, whether it be design, sales, marketing, etc. Owning and running a small business means you have your hands in every pot of honey.
What were you doing before you started Novel Swim?
Before Novel, I was working as an illustrator for fashion brands, magazines, and organizations. I also managed marketing for 8 years at an amazing textile company where I helped a sales force of about 40 representatives worldwide sell fabric. I worked under an immensely talented Creative Director, Dorothy Cosonas, who was so inspiring and showed me what it meant to be a woman in charge. Her design eye was so refined and bold, and she was sharp as a whip. Seeing someone like her do business on a daily basis was a real gift that I’ll always cherish.
What prompted you to get into swimwear?
Before I started Novel, I was doing illustration and brand design for other lingerie and swim designers. But honestly, if I look back at sketchbooks from when I was a kid, I have always been drawing bathing suits. I’m a Summer baby, and I’ve always been a fish in the water. A couple of years ago, my husband and I took up surfing. None of my cute bikinis were staying on, so I started looking at athletic swimwear out there. None of it was exactly what I was looking for. It was either totally impractical for rough and tumble fun in the waves or it was drab. I knew that women who were shy about prints in everyday life, were open to them on the beach. I saw an opening, and I went for it.
At what point did you decide to move on from your day job to creating your own brand?
Oh boy! Yes. This one kept me up at night for a long time. I planned for about two years before I made the big leap. I saved up and did as much as I could while working full time and freelance gigs before I even considered it. This may be a bit extreme to share, but I’ll share it anyway. I actually saw someone I really loved a lot die before I made the final plunge. When you see how fragile life is and know that your time on this earth is limited, it really puts oil in your engine. It puts how you use your time into perspective. I knew that this was my life, and I had to make the most of it by truly pursuing what I loved and wanted to do.
What is the hardest obstacle that you have come across?
I think the biggest obstacle is that it never stops. It was great when I started seeing sales from people I had no connection to from across the globe, and when Novel was featured on a celebrity, and when my designs made it onto magazines, but all of that is fleeting. The work doesn’t stop. I am constantly thinking about what is next. The company is like a baby and it needs to be fed and taken care of constantly. I also have to remind myself of my accomplishments, because it’s really easy to take them for granted. I think that’s an obstacle a lot of women business owners face.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love seeing my pieces out in the world on other people. They really make people happy. I think that is one of the best things I can do. Spread the happiness.
Deep rooted advice for someone who wants to have their own business?
Work hard and do your research. Make connections, because you are going to need ALL of them. You might not even know it, but every meeting with a new person is an opportunity. Treat it as such and treasure the people you meet.
What are some of your hobbies when you have some time off from work?
Haha. I like to read. Could you figure that from my brand name? I also love art in all forms.
You are a city girl but I know you’ve been traveling a lot with roadshows, what is a new place that you stumbled upon and fell in love with?
Oh boy! Well, I actually went there before I started Novel, but Capetown, South Africa is still in my top destinations. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in the world. And if you are into surf, you are set.
Can you humor me with a humorous story???
I went skinny dipping with some friends. We left all of our clothes on the beach, and while we were having fun in the water, they were stolen. We ended up having to walk back home naked. Moral of the story. Always pack your bikini! You never know when you are going to need it!
What is something unexpected about you?
I take pride in my heritage. I am half Dominican and half Jewish. I don’t see very many other people, let alone designers with my racial makeup. That being said. I would like to see more diversity in the industry. The status quo beach bunny is general Caucasian and blonde, and we’ve got to mix that up.
Any work/life balance tips?
Remember that there is life outside of work. I always forget. We need to remember who is most important in our lives because people are fleeting.
This platform is all about empowering, is there a person in your life who you look up to? A personal hero?
Yes! My mentor, Jackie Battenfield. She is my rock. She is an artist and author of the book, “The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love.” If you haven’t read it, go to her site and order it. It is life changing. It’s basically my bible.
–PS: Lucky for all of us, Laura generously offered a 20% discount with a code MODERN, so let’s boogie and start on that Christmas shopping early!–