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Hidden Gems: Meet Ern Bethea of The Bawdy Collection

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ern Bethea. 

Hi Ern, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
The Bawdy Collection simply started as a dream that didn’t seem attainable. In 2017 I moved from my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland to Miami, Florida. At that time, plus-size swimwear was not really a hot commodity. The market was not really big and I could see that while visiting some of the beaches in South Florida. Me being someone who just complete graduated school and move to a new city with no money building a swimwear company seemed unattainable. So, I dreamed for a few years and got upset because I felt like how is everyone else able to get started with small boutiques and other business endeavor why isn’t this happening for me as well. 

Two years later I find myself being a burnt-out case manager working in the child protection field and absolutely hating my job, not making enough money to start my business and one day I said ok this has to stop here. In 2019 I was able to apply for an LLC for my business but still being an underpaid case manager, I did not have the funds to really get my business going. I was introduced to a group of women that also had “side hustles” and were looking to expand in other ways. I had an opportunity to brainstorm and come up with ways to get started with funding for my business. Over the course of 2020, I worked with multiple vendors and manufactures to produce different trendy styles I think our plus-size community would love. 

The Bawdy Collection officially launched its first collection November 27, 2020. Starting this swimwear company did not just create an opportunity for me but for other plus-size women interested in modeling. I have had the opportunity to have 2 model calls which has given 10 women the opportunity to become published models and brand ambassador for The Bawdy Collection. As I build The Bawdy Collection, I realize this isn’t just about selling swimwear and making money it’s also about creating opportunities for other women in hopes that I can uplift and encourage women to stay the course, stick to your plan, and stay encouraged. 

Since relocating back to Baltimore, my company has expended into the lingerie world which is new and exciting for my team. We are looking forward to hosting model calls and creating more opportunities for full-figured models in the swimwear and lingerie industry. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The road hasn’t been easy. When I first started it was hard to find funding to purchase swimwear and lingerie for resale and working with manufacturers which can be pretty expensive. Also, sizing is very important. Making sure the items you are selling is actually true to size. Another struggle is making sure photographers know exactly what you want when it comes to imaging and providing tasteful photographs for the website and content creating. As well as making sure the products you are selling is appeasing to your audience. 

As you know, we’re big fans of The Bawdy Collection. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Well, my company The Bawdy Collection started as a plus-size swimwear company and has now expanded into lingerie as well accommodating women sizes XL to 4XL. We are located in Baltimore, Maryland. We also have an entity within the company where we give aspiring models a chance to model for our company by doing model calls throughout different regions. Giving women the opportunity to become published models. 

What matters most to you?
Seeing my business grow and change matters a lot to me. People are afraid of change but change to me is a sign of growing and not being stagnant. Change lets me know that I’m a risk-taker and I feel like a lot of times you a have to take risk grow. Making sure I am creating opportunities for other women and business owners matters a lot to me. Being a small business owner by yourself can be difficult and creating strong relationships with business owners can help everyone thrive. 

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Image Credits

Lauren Baldwin

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