A year after founding luxury women’s swimwear brand 437, co-founders Hyla Nayeri and Adrien Bettio hit an inflection point. Sales began to skyrocket as summer 2018 hit and the duo realized their small side hustle was growing into a real business. Fast forward to 2020, and the company is in a much different place than it was in the early days. Not only are sales up and the team growing, but Hyla and Adrien are more focused on building the kind of business they — and their employees — can be proud of. What began as a journey of two co-founders hustling as hard as possible grew into two leaders aware of their strengths and weaknesses wanting to build a company based on both profit and values.
The beginning: long days and guesswork
Bootstrapped since the company’s founding in 2017, Adrien and Hyla were the only employees for the first year of business and didn’t take a salary. While the pair were clever and hard-working, they were fresh university graduates with no corporate experience. As a result, everything was based on their best-educated guesses and passion for the business.
Luckily, they made a few good decisions in the early days. A focus on empowering women and designing swimwear they could feel confident in helped the company grow throughout 2018, 2019, and 2020. Even as the COVID pandemic wreaked havoc on the world in early 2020, sales were up. But as the company continued to grow, Hyla and Adrien began to notice cracks in the business’ foundation.
“We had no reference points for growing a business,” said Hyla. “We lacked knowledge on many areas, but specifically in HR, cash flow management, and fulfillment.”
As the business grew, the co-founders realized they needed to find time to step back and work on the business, not just in it.
“We realized there are a lot of ways to grow our company without doing everything ourselves,” said Adrien. “A big part of that was us realizing as co-founders that we needed to bring in experienced leadership into the organization to help us get to the next level.”
Now: Investing for a stronger business future
Things are a bit different for 437 these days. Growing quickly — and dealing with a pandemic — made it clear to Hyla and Adrien that if they wanted to grow effectively for the future, they needed to invest in their business foundation. They chose to work with Bloom on HR strategy, hiring key director-level roles and building out processes like hiring guidelines and an employee handbook as a part of that investment, and they are already noticing the improvement.
One particularly critical element for Hyla and Adrien was that Bloom normalized what they were going through. Hyla shared that the duo felt way out of their depth, but Bloom helped them realize that tons of other founders go through similar challenges. And when it came to hiring experienced directors and strong individual contributors, Bloom helped them see that not being able to do everything as a founder is a challenge every scaling entrepreneur goes through.
“One of the best things we did for our business was investing in experienced talent,” said Hyla. “It’s night and day. The directors we hired brought the knowledge of what things are like in other companies — the kind of experience that Adrien and I couldn’t bring to the table.”
After building out new HR processes, performance management systems, an employee handbook, and more, Adrien said the pair can focus on building the business, not always working within it.
“Hyla and I can focus on strategy without managing every employee,” said Adrien. “We trust the directors to handle day-to-day management and leadership of the company.”
Going forward with a new mindset
As a bootstrapped company, Hyla and Adrien could have chosen to invest 437’s profits wherever they wanted. And they made a great choice in investing in their culture and business infrastructure — both for long-term growth and for living their values as entrepreneurs.
“We’re making huge investments to make sure we continue to grow with integrity,” said Hyla. “Our priority is to ensure our team has an incredible experience and can see 437 as a great place to build a lasting career.”