NIGHT DIVE Shares Body Positivity One Swimsuit at a Time
One year ago, Heather Caye Brown received a Targeted Small Business (TSB) Sole Operator Grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) as part of the COVID-19 relief funding programs. She shares how her swimwear brand NIGHT DIVE stayed afloat in its early years with support from the grant funding.
After graduating from Otis College of Art + Design with her BFA in Fashion Design, Heather Caye Brown was hired at Hollister Co., which then led her to serve in roles at PacSun and Urban Outfitters managing celebrity collaborations, launching new brands and attending photo shoots around the world. While Caye Brown’s fashion career was advancing, she wasn’t spending enough time pursuing her true passion — design.
At the beginning of 2018, Caye Brown left California and returned to Iowa to launch her own swimwear brand NIGHT DIVE, citing low cost and affordability, endless support, and community as factors in the decision of where to build her business. NIGHT DIVE creates environmentally friendly, ethically made products using recycled fibers and zero waste practices with the goal of empowering others to love themselves.
“I returned to Iowa to start my business because I’m able to save much-needed money in so many areas — operational costs, rent, gas prices, food, etc.,” Caye Brown said. “Everything in Iowa is so affordable. Even the cost of living — money just goes much further in Iowa versus the other places I’ve lived.”
On her location decision, she continued, “I’ve also discovered how supportive Iowa is of small businesses since I reached out and took advantage of opportunities with the Small Business Association, volunteer mentors and the Iowa Economic Development Authority. They have all been incredibly helpful and supportive.”
In 2020, during her second year in business, COVID-19 hit. “As a small business going into my second year at that time, I had started wondering if the pandemic was going to force me to stop following my dream of creating an inclusive and sustainable swim brand.”
NIGHT DIVE is a part of IEDA’s Targeted Small Business (TSB) program, which is designed to help women, individuals with minority status, service-connected disabled veterans and individuals with disabilities overcome some of the hurdles to start or grow a small business in Iowa. Brown was eligible for IEDA’s TSB Sole Proprietor grant program that was offered in March 2020 in combination with the Small Business Relief Grant program for small businesses with employees. “When I received an e-mail notifying that I had received a grant, I literally jumped up and down with joy!
“I knew in that moment that I had made the best decision to start my business in Iowa. I felt so much support, was able to focus on pivoting my business, had the funds to pay rent and bills, and more importantly, was able to keep my business afloat and then thrive! I couldn’t be more grateful for the grant I received,” Brown said.
Brown is now in her third year of business and has had her best month of sales to date since receiving funding.
To learn more about the TSB program, visit iowaeda.com/small-business/targeted-small-business/.