WOW WOMEN

Lori Ba­con wants you to feel good half naked. Fu­elled by serv­ing her cus­tomers, the owner and pres­i­dent of Swimco is us­ing the buy­ing power of her grow­ing com­pany and decades of re­tail in­sights to de­liver swimwear for all shapes and sizes. |

Best Health - - CONTENTS - by INGRIE WILLIAMS

Swimco founder Lori Ba­con’s jour­ney to be­come a bathing suit boss

IF YOU’VE SHOPPED WITH SWIMCO — WHETHER on­line or in per­son — you have Lori Ba­con to thank for that. It was Ba­con's foray into wa­ter sports as a nineyear-old that led her mom Corinne Forseth to start the Cal­gary-based swim wear busi­ness in 1975. “I joined a swim team part way through the year, and I couldn’t get a suit to match the team. My mom felt so badly that I didn’t look like I be­longed that she searched one out for me,” says Ba­con.

One search soon be­came a pas­sion­ate hobby as Forseth be­came equip­ment man­ager for Ba­con’s team and the go-to source for lo­cal teams in need, too. With a nudge from a sales rep that she ought to get paid for her time, Forseth started a mail or­der busi­ness. In­tent to leave her mark from day one, the “co” in Swimco is for Corinne.

In the early 1980s, 21-year-old Ba­con, fresh from the Univer­sity of Cal­gary, joined her mom’s busi­ness. “I went to work for her just be­cause she had no one else, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet,” she says, “I thought I’d go help her for a while un­til I fig­ured it out, and I just fell in love with it. For what­ever rea­son she just left me, she was very good about giv­ing me the op­por­tu­nity and back­ing out. I found I loved it and we just never looked back.” In 1982, Swimco opened the doors of its first of 24 re­tail stores, and be­gan of­fer­ing fash­ion swimwear. In 2014, an e-com­merce shop was added with a live chat func­tion to as­sist cus­tomers.

MAK­ING A SPLASH

In 2015, Swimco cel­e­brated four decades of busi­ness. Now, with that 40th an­niver­sary in the com­pany’s rearview mir­ror, Ba­con is fo­cused on shap­ing the fu­ture of the swimwear in­dus­try and re­defin­ing what it means to be a #swim­suit­model. “There’s such a dis­con­nect be­tween what the brands are of­fer­ing and the mar­ket,” says Ba­con, “We keep ask­ing for D-cup sizes, and D isn’t even big. For years we had to yell for mas­tec­tomy styles, some­times they’d be of­fered one year then dis­con­tin­ued the next be­cause it’s all about sales num­bers. But as we grow, we buy more, and we have a louder voice,” she says. In a three-way tug-of-war be­tween busi­ness de­mands, sup­plier of­fer­ings and cus­tomer needs, Ba­con sees only one cham­pion. “We rep­re­sent our cus­tomers, we’re on the floor with them, and we know what’s re­quired.”

The brand’s cur­rent cam­paign packs a joy­ful punch, putting forth the be­lief that all bod­ies that live their best life are beau­ti­ful, and show­cas­ing as­pi­ra­tional in­di­vid­u­als of all shapes. “We’ve said this for a long time: for ev­ery­body and ev­ery body. Now we’ve hit the nail on the head, choos­ing the sen­ti­ments that peo­ple are ready to lis­ten to and re­ally iden­ti­fy­ing with. It’s not new for us, it’s a better way of de­scrib­ing it to peo­ple.”

The com­pany’s goal — to make you, in their words, feel good half naked via out­stand­ing cus­tomer ser­vice — is se­ri­ous busi­ness. “It’s very free­ing to just have a swim­suit on. As Cana­di­ans, we spend so much time in clothes. And it both­ers me when I hear some­one say ‘I want to go on this trip, but I don’t want to take my clothes off,’” says Ba­con, “We take peo­ple fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally by the hand. Women, es­pe­cially, are ex­cited about where they’re head­ing but dread­ing this in be­tween part [of bathing suit shop­ping]. And we want you to feel fab­u­lous, where you don’t even think about it, and you just have that amaz­ing time with fam­ily and friends. If we can just get that lit­tle seed planted in your head, that the swimwear is just the door­way to that ex­pe­ri­ence.”

TEAM SPIRIT

Ba­con knows first­hand that the road from work­ing for the boss to be­com­ing the boss isn’t easy, but it can make suc­cess taste that much sweeter. When I met her in Toronto last March she was in town for her com­pany’s me­dia pre­view. Against a back­drop of the east-end sky­line, edi­tors and inf lu­encers oohed and ah­hed over the col­lec­tion of stylish rash guards, ’80s-in­spired cuts and bra-cup friendly de­signs. It was a mo­ment for Ba­con to meet and min­gle, and she loved it. “An event like that is one of my favourite parts of the job be­cause I was told when to be where and what was go­ing on, but I had noth­ing to do with it,” she says.

It’s a stark con­trast to her many years of multi-task­ing, be­ing the one do­ing ev­ery­thing from get­ting prod­uct to find­ing mod­els. “I’m so proud to have a team put to­gether some­thing I feel so good about. I ap­pre­ci­ate it so much be­cause I’ve been in the day-to-day.”

Cul­ti­vat­ing a strong team has be­come a fo­cus for Ba­con as her role in the 40-per­son strong fam­ily busi-

ness has evolved over the years (her hus­band and brother are partners). Keen on coach­ing, guid­ance and sup­port, Ba­con takes an egal­i­tar­ian ap­proach to lead­ing. “We very much work to­gether to fig­ure out where we’re go­ing, what our strat­egy is and where peo­ple see op­por­tu­nity from all dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. As op­posed to say­ing, this is what we’re do­ing, hope you like it.”

LET’S GET PHYS­I­CAL

Steam — it’s both re­quired and nec­es­sary to blow off when you run a busi­ness. For Ba­con, get­ting mov­ing is al­ways the an­swer. She cred­its her child­hood, grow­ing up in a fam­ily of swim­mers, for her love of stay­ing ac­tive. “I know what it’s like to be in shape and to not be in shape, and to know how good you feel af­ter,” she says. “Af­ter my swim on Satur­day morn­ing, and then a Star­bucks cof­fee, I am so happy! I feel great be­cause it’s phys­i­cally a great work­out, and then men­tally there’s some­thing that feels so good. You’ve worked ev­ery part of your body.”

Her cur­rent rou­tine ro­tates be­tween strength train­ing moves at the gym to pre­serve bone den­sity, con­di­tion­ing swim­ming and yoga. “Those three things re­ally work for me and feel good to­gether. There’s some­thing about get­ting out there and mov­ing, it washes off the day. If there was some­thing that was kind of meh in the day, af­ter my work­out it’s gone, it re­sets me. And there’s noth­ing better than be­ing wrung out af­ter a hot yoga class.”

Ba­con is also cog­nizant of the long-term ben­e­fits of keep­ing fit. The prac­ti­cal side of it is that you’re better equipped for gar­den­ing or go­ing on a hike be­cause you’ve done some yoga and bal­ance work, she says. In the fu­ture, slow­ing down is not on Ba­con’s agenda. “A 73-year-old woman who wa­ter skis with my hus­band told me you have to work out harder and push your­self more when you get older, oth­er­wise you start slip­ping back­wards. I re­al­ized she’s so right.” It’s sage ad­vice that’s rated E for ev­ery­body, and ev­ery body.

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