How Natasha Oakley and Devin Brugman Built Their Bikini Business Empire

I must admit (probably much to the dismay of my editor) that I had no idea who Natasha Oakley and Devin Brugman were until very recently. Clearly I’ve been living under a rock – one that’s nowhere near the exotic beaches the two best friends spend their time running their business from. Embarrassed by my momentarily outdated influencer knowledge, I got stuck into some research.

The first thing I learned was the extent of the regret I felt having just binged on an entire share bag of jelly tots ahead of scrolling through the Instagram feeds of these stunning brunette bikini models.

My second thought was, I need to become BFFs with these girls ASAP.

Thirdly, I felt impressed. Inspired. Motivated to work as hard as they have.

The social media duo and long-term BFFs have now amassed over 4 million followers across all of their platforms and run three separate businesses, including their original venture, A Bikini A Day. So what’re their story? How did this business empire begin?

Ironically, the now hugely popular social media influencers first met through a mutual friend on Facebook – how else? They bonded over a love for travel. They instantly hit it off and before long Natasha was staying with Devin in LA ahead of a permanent move a few years later.

By the time 2012 came around, Instagram had broken on to the scene. With a background and ongoing interest in photography, the pair seized the opportunity, taking this new social media territory in their stride and got stuck into building their business with A Bikini A Day. They travelled to exotic locations with a suitcase filled with bikinis, shot every single one of them and posted one shot everyday. The consistency of their posting along with the impressive quality of their work (due to their already existing photography skills) garnered them plenty of attention from key figures in the swimwear industry. Before long they had brands knocking their door down with opportunities to collaborate. Suddenly with beautiful imagery and a bit of promotional genius, what began as a lifestyle Instagram blog became a business.

“We saw an opportunity and we worked every day for four years to harness that and make it what it is today,” the pair explained.

A year later, with their Instagram account growing at a rate much higher than Oakley or Brugman could have ever anticipated, it was time to launch the website and expand the content. The blog was born and they curated a content strategy that explored beach beauty, travel and of course, swimwear style.

Providing insight into how they get work done, Natasha explained in a previous interview, “I travel to amazing resorts and beaches all over the world. It would be very easy for me to just lay back and relax and take that all in, not actually be working in those locations – but I have this work ethic and the discipline that I’ve always known and I think that’s what’s got me to where I am today.”

Unsurprisingly, both women are daughters to entrepreneurs and in true entrepreneurial spirit, with a wildly successful blog and Instagram account under their belt they were ready to expand their business ventures, launching their own swimwear – Monday Swimwear – closely followed by a capsule collection of activewear called Monday Active.

So where did the name come from? Taking to an Instagram Q&A for her audience, Oakley provided the answer.

“Devin and I were brainstorming in a taxi in NYC and we loved the word ‘monde’ which means world in French but we also loved the idea of naming a line after a day of the week. We have always been the type to love Mondays because we are passionate about our work and see every new week as an opportunity. We are also always in a bikini on a Monday which is rare so fell in love with calling it Monday Swimwear.”

The hard work continues to pay off as – as of last week – they celebrated the latest milestone in their career – Monday Swimwear’s first runway show at Paraiso 2018. On their blog Oakley and Brugman described the moment as, “not just a highlight of the week, or even our summers, but truly a highlight of our careers thus far.”

When scrolling through the personal accounts of each of these women, it’s easy to overlook just how hard they’ve worked and continue to work on their business to get to where they are today. It may look like an easy, glamorous life but 95% of the time, it’s far from it.

“As glorious as it is – I’m away 10 months out of the year travelling. We wear all the hats in our business.. We don’t have investors, we don’t have business partners. We handle every single part of it. We don’t have an agency. So it’s a lot of hard work, and it is something you have to be passionate about or it won’t be possible at the end of the day.”

There’s an obvious element of passion and determination necessary to continue to bring such success to their business but all in all, it’s their love for one another and their unbreakable friendship that led to all four million of us flocking to support them.

When you read interviews with the pair, you can’t help but smile. While I’m judging solely from social media and their online presence, there’s no denying the passion and level of contentment they both feel in their business that makes the story of these two best friends so inspiring.

“We owe a lot of it to our friendship – we really are each other’s yin and yang.”

Niamh Crawford-Walker

Niamh is a freelance writer covering fashion, beauty and lifestyle articles. Her work has appeared in IMAGE magazine, image.ie and Emirates Woman. Niamh is also a blogger at niamhserena.co.uk and podcast host of Werkin’ On It.

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