From High-School Drop Out To Boss Babe, Here’s How To Go All-In On Your Side Gig

By Armelle Frimpong
4th Oct 2019

Edna Swart

Edna Swart is the considerable brains behind the ed&i swimwear and body care range and recently starred on TVNZ's Boss Babes. We caught up with Swart to find out how she made the transition from part-time side hustle to full-time head of a thriving business.

Can you tell us a bit about your early life?

I was born in South Africa and adopted into a wonderful family. At the age of five my father moved our family to New Zealand to give my brothers and I a better life. Throughout my childhood I competed in sport and to this day being active is a core part of my daily routine. I dropped out of school at 15 where I enrolled myself in studying advanced radio followed by travel and tourism. This led me back home to South Africa where I located my biological mother, worked in Johannesburg for two years before moving back to NZ at 20 to study finance. I grew up in a very strict household where Christianity was the foundation of all things in and out of the home. This, along with my intensive sport background, has been a foundation to my persistent and determined nature to create a successful business.  

After working in banking for years you started to design swimsuits, can you tell us how that came about?

ed&i swim came from my personal need I had nearly four years ago for simple, clean and stylish bikinis. A collection of ‘go to’ pieces that wouldn’t date. At the time, I felt there really wasn’t anything in the market that did this, especially not in New Zealand. I felt I always went through a routine before getting into my bikinis: shower and scrub to remove dead skin so my tan stayed on longer, next I’d cover my body in SPF to protect my skin, next to preserve my tan I’d use an oil straight after the sun and finally, a daily moisturiser. It became obvious to me to create this system for our ed&i babes! After testing the products, I realised this wasn’t just limited to summer, but rather all year-round body care system.  

What do you think about traditional methods of skincare? 

I believe there is a growing awareness of traditional methods of skin care. We see more and more brands, including ed&i, trying to be as natural and organic as possible, supporting the traditional ingredients that have been found in skincare for generations. 

How did you initially get your business off the ground?

I started ed&i swim in my own time outside of work. In the beginning it really was just a hobby with dreams of making it big. I saved up and invested my own capital into the business and used any profits along with further capital to keep growing and developing the brand. It really does take time! I didn’t have a secret weapon or spend thousands to promote my brand. ed&i has organically grown over the past three years. I’m proud to say that May this year, 2.5 years into the business, I was able to go full time.

How is ed&i body different to other products on the market?

ed&i body is different in two big ways.

1.     We have created a skincare system and routine for the body. We are educating women (and men) that your body also requires a routine of love and care, much like the daily routine steps we take for our faces!

2.     We have experimented with a new ingredient into our natural formulation that represents our brand. We've incorporated whiskey into our formulation which is not only different to anything in the market but also carries a key benefit to the skin. When it comes to skincare, the antiseptic properties of whiskey controls the excess oil on the skin and helps prevent pimples and acne. Whiskey can even fight the existing acne and soothe any kind of inflammation on the skin by removing the bacteria and dirt. The whiskey we used in ed&i body is also NZ sourced.

What has the response been to your skincare range? 

I have been so blessed with only positive feedback and love for the product. Customers have been delightfully surprised with the smell and the effect the product has had on their skin. It has even helped several of our customers in clearing up eczema and dry skin which has been amazing to hear! I’ve had several before and after photos sent to me about eczema cases and other skin irritations where our customers now only use ed&i body to soothe their skin. Three of New Zealand’s largest e-commerce sites have also taken us onboard with sales doing very well. I am very proud of this collection and the greatest success for me is hearing the positive feedback from our customers.

Any plans to expand?

Absolutely, we are doing so as we speak. Watch this space!

What’s the best part of being your own boss?

For me I love the ability to set your own hours, make your own decisions and work from anywhere.

And the worst?

Everything sits on your shoulders, no one is going to make things happen for you and having to learn everything along they way—however this is also awesome as you are continually developing as a human!

What’s been your biggest fuck yeah moment of your career?

Realising I was able to finally quit the corporate world! And when I went to my production facility and saw this massive vat of body scrub looking like chocolate mousse. I had a moment to myself where I thought, shit—I made this happen, I created my own formula, worked with the top perfumer in NZ and sourced a production house to make this happen. It is an amazing feeling!

Greatest piece of advice you’ve received?

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

If you could change one thing about the world we live in, what would it be?

The poaching of the big five in Africa—this is close to my heart and it angers me seeing the shallow reasons humans use to justify killing these majestic animals.

What would you tell young entrepreneurs following in your footsteps?

Nothing happens overnight. Find something that you love and that can be commercialised and be persistent—persistence is key. 

Fast five

Favourite tune of the moment?

Drive (feat.Delilah Montagu) by Black coffee, David Guetta 

Fave café for the morning after?

Honey Café in Takapuna

One thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m actually a complete introvert 

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

To be able to fly!

What was the best movie/series/book/gig you’ve enjoyed lately?

Lion King – best movie ever. I’m watching Cold Case Files at the moment of Netflix (I love crime shows), No gig lately but I am going to Calvin Harris soon.

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