I am so excited to have Sensi Graves on here, who is a professional kiteboarder, entrepreneur and founder of her swimwear company Sensi Graves Bikinis and writer. She’s such a positive and inspirational woman, has been making awesome surf bikinis that stay on for over a decade now and also lives as an inspiration on how to combine business, kitesurfing, growth, entrepreneurship and a healthy lifestyle.
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While today you’re one of the most well known bikini brands for surfing/kitesurfing – could you take us back to your humble beginnings and how you started out?

I never thought I’d be the founder of a swimwear brand… I went to school for communications so neither business nor fashion were really on my mind. But that quickly changed while I was working as a kiteboarding instructor for Real Watersports in North Carolina.

I was in the water every single day and in a bikini all day. I quickly grew fed up with the swimwear on the market. It wasn’t designed to stay put, be comfortable to wear all day and still be fashion-forward.

Therefore, my brand really started out as a need for something better and something that I couldn’t find on the market.

Those first few years were all about figuring it out. Taking it one step at a time and spending lots of time researching and asking questions. The entire brand has been built on the premise of being humble – admitting what I don’t know and not being afraid to ask for help.

Interview Sensi Graves Bikinis: Pro Kiteboarder, Entrepreneur and Bikini Designer Sensi

photo credit: Kelly Turso

With the 2020 collection you’ve gone completely sustainable (so awesome!) and even produce in the US. What did it take for you to change to sustainable production in the US and which processes have you changed to make Sense Bikinis more sustainable?

Sustainability has been built into the brand from the very beginning. I almost didn’t launch this brand because I didn’t want to make more stuff. I didn’t think that manufacturing was necessarily the best way to make a positive impact. But then I looked to Patagonia and the impact they’ve had in the market and I thought, bikini brands are going to exist no matter what, so if we can do this the right way, with sustainability as a core value of the brand and use this platform to help others feel good about themselves (which I believe helps create more good overall in the world), and be mindful of what they’re consuming, then this is something I should do.

interview-sensi-graves-05Therefore, we’ve always been made in the USA. However we weren’t able to use recycled fabrics due to high ordering minimums, a lack of access and frankly, because we didn’t make it a priority to make it happen. That changed two years while I was evaluating our practices and found that the recycled fabrics on the market were very high quality, and accessible in price point. We started testing some of the fabrics in the line and for 2020 decided there were no more excuses-everything needed to be made from recycled fabrics.

I’m constantly looking for ways to be more (and truly) sustainable and it’s our brand vision to become a leader in the industry and be the most ethical, transparent (meaning open about our practices) and sustainable swimwear line out there.

Where do you take your inspiration for the prints and cuts from for the 2020 collection?

I love the inspiration gathering process. Throughout the year I’m constantly saving snippets from magazines, taking photos of prints and pieces I love and making lots of mood boards.

For cuts, we evaluate what’s missing in the line and what people have been asking for. Then we develop and test body styles and ask for feedback! It’s been the most fun over the years getting to know our customers and what will truly serve them.

See this post for a deeper dive into how I design a collection.

In the past year you’ve been sharing so much more personal info on your life as an entrepreneur which I absolutely love! What has been your biggest personal challenge as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

(for the readers that haven’t seen it, check Sensi’s IGTV videos with lots of inspirational short videos on mindset, entrepreneurship and motivation)

Great question! Challenges come and go but what I’ve learned is that if you can view challenges and obstacles as opportunities instead of struggles, then you’ll have much more energy and motivation.

Being an entrepreneur is commonly referred to as always putting out fires-and it’s true. New obstacles arise every single day.

Learning to lean into the challenges, not let outside factors (sales, likes, etc.) define how I feel about myself and maintain a healthy, positive mindset have been my biggest takeaways on this journey.


Do you have a life mantra or motto which keeps inspiring and motivating you?

Interview Sensi Graves Bikinis: Pro Kiteboarder, Entrepreneur and Bikini Designer Sensi

I have tons of mantras and mottos! These are a few of my current favorites:

  • I live an awesome, relaxed life full of projects I love and enjoy
  • I am enough
  • I expand in abundance, success and love every day and inspire those around me to do the same
  • I am full of energy and vitality
  • I exude positivity and joy
  • I create an avalanche of financial abundance and give back in amazing ways.
  • I am truly taken care of

You empower women daily with your bikinis – how do you empower yourself if you have a day where you feel low?

This is an excellent question because it’s something that we all deal with. I love lists so I’m going to give you my top three ways to empower when you’re feeling low:

  • Go for a run (or a walk or kite!). Move your body and get outside. Instant energy shift and gets those feel good endorphins going.
  • Meditate. Put on a gratitude meditation so that you can focus on all the good you have in your life. Will help draw you out of the slumps.
  • Reference your wins folder. I have a folder on my phone and on my computer of saved images, screenshots and things I’m proud of. When I’m over it, I look at my accomplishments and wins and feel into being proud, strong and confident. See IGTV where I talk about this.

In the last three years, what new mindset or habit has most changed your life for the better?

Establishing a morning practice. I journal on 1) what I’m thankful for, 2) what I can get excited about 3) Affirmations and intentions.

I also start my mornings, when I’m at my desk, reviewing a clear outline for the day in my work journal. It took me years to figure out how to stay organized and I think I’ve finally done it!

Which bikini models do you recommend especially for bigger busted women and curvy girls/wide hips?

YESSSS! This has been a “problem” that I tackled a few years ago by partnering with one of our ambassadors on designing a top specifically for bigger busted women. I wanted to have complete confidence that we had pieces that would work for bigger busts. I’m proud to say that we’ve done it with the Alexa top.

Interview Sensi Graves Bikinis: Pro Kiteboarder, Entrepreneur and Bikini Designer Sensi

We get so much amazing feedback on it. Additionally, we just introduced the Stacy for larger busts and the Amanda bottom which is more forgiving for wider hips (no cutting in).

I truly want to make swimwear that many different body types can feel amazing in. So many of us struggle with body image. I want to help other women feel better about themselves, and get the confidence they need to go out into the world and have fun (kiting, surfing, rock climbing, hiking, etc!). Thanks for following along and supporting us in that mission!

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