Business Student's Passion Leads to Becoming Entrepreneur
By Bri Phillips
Sophia Lombardi discovered her love for sewing and entrepreneurship during the pandemic.
Sewing is something Lombardi and her cousin picked up as a hobby when they had extra time on their hands. She had no intention of starting a business.
Lombardi wanted to be resourceful because fabric was expensive and she had limited funds. She saved her leftover fabric scraps, not knowing what she would end up doing with it.
Little did she know, this would change her trajectory of finding her career path.
Those saved fabric scraps became the basis for Lombardi’s sustainably made swimsuits and the creation of her business, Amalfi Swiim.
Lombardi pitched her sustainable business model as part of Cal State San Marcos’ Innovation Hub Quick Pitch contest, winning a $500 microgrant for her work on Amalfi Swiim. The contest closely resembled the TV show “Shark Tank.”
Lombardi curated her brand name while reminiscing about the time she visited Positano on the Amalfi coast in Italy with her cousin and aunt (the extra “i” in Amalfi Swiim came about because Lombardi’s planned Instagram handle was already taken).
As Lombardi began sewing in the early stages of the pandemic, she started searching for inspiration and came across a unique technique that she incorporated into her work.
She started to play with the leftover scraps she had saved and molded them together to create her first swimsuit without using any new material.
“I don't think that I would have started my journey if I waited to put everything in place to make sure it was perfect before,” says Lombardi, a business administration student who will graduate in spring 2023. “I think if you have an idea, just go for it, make it and get it manufactured, whatever it is. Get it onto social media, make an account for it and just get it out there. Because the longer you wait, the more time you're going to have to wait for people to find out about your product.”
Lombardi created a TikTok video that showed her process of sewing a bikini. The video went viral with over 11 million views, and seeing the comments made Lombardi realize that her sustainable sewing efforts by utilizing leftover fabric scraps were having an impact.
“And then it clicked for me that I could actually have a bigger goal in mind and have a bigger mission, which is to decrease the world's pollution rate,” Lombardi said. “There's such a big trend in sustainability in the fashion world right now and I don't think it should stay a trend.”
After coming to this realization, Lombardi started to educate herself on other clothing brands' lack of effort toward the sustainability movement. She wanted to be part of positive change, even if it meant working harder to establish her business.
Lombardi decided that her zero-waste swimsuit could be a statement piece in her clothing line because it stands for sustainability awareness. She also creates tote bags with the same innovative sewing technique.
Lombardi was able to make connections with other small businesses and she now accepts donations of fabric scraps. Lombardi has reached out to over 50 local swimwear brands. One of her main providers is Amy’s Sport Co., a golf clothing brand she interned for when she was a senior in high school in Palm Springs.
Becoming a business owner in college has become a huge time commitment for Lombardi. She spends up to 20 hours a week marketing, sewing and using social media to promote Amalfi Swiim while being a full-time student and a member of the CSUSM Entrepreneurship Society.
Up until a couple of months ago, Lombardi was juggling everything herself. She placed a Facebook advertisement, which led to hiring a fellow CSUSM student to help her sew. Sewing is the most time-consuming part of the business because everything's made to order, so hiring help allowed Lombardi to focus more on marketing her business.
Lombardi wanted to share the impact of Amalfi Swiim’s business model, but she was not familiar with the process of making a pitch deck. She worked with members of the CSUSM Entrepreneurship Society to develop her pitch for the Innovation Hub Quick Pitch contest.
“I looked at everyone in the group as mentors because they're all older than me and have a lot of experience,” she said. “And it's really built my confidence to be able to speak in a professional environment and just push my boundaries and put myself out there.”
Lombardi is planning to put her prize funds toward establishing Amalfi Swiim through a legal entity.
She is currently working on her biggest swimwear collection to date, which will be released this month. It will consist of new styles and textiles along with her signature zero-waste bikini. The swimwear will all be made from recycled and sustainable materials that are biodegradable.
“I have all my sights set on growing this business after college,” Lombardi said. “It has been quite a ride. I'm not going to lie, it's definitely stressful to have so many obligations. But at the end of the day, I'm choosing this for myself. I really am passionate about starting a business in college so that I can support myself financially by the time I graduate.”
Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist
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