Erin Deering co-founded a $45 million business. Here’s how she knew when to walk away from it


Erin Deering left Australian swimwear success story, Triangl, in 2018. Now, she plans on pursuing something that feeds her passions.
Erin Deering is the co-founder of Triangl. Now, she shares her next adventure | Image source: Supplied

Erin Deering was looking for a bikini to wear to the beach on a second date with her now ex-partner, Craig Ellis, but couldn’t find anything under $100 that didn’t have Hawaiian flowers on it. She didn’t know it at the time, but this would propel her to start a multimillion-dollar bikini business with Ellis – and take it global.

“It was Zimmerman or Billabong,” she recalls. Despite the $155 price tag, she would go with the Zimmerman option for that occasion. “Obviously – I had to look good,” she says.

Ellis and Deering spent their second date talking about the total lack of options for affordable swimwear. That was in October 2011. By June 2012, the pair had moved to Hong Kong and started Triangl – an e-commerce bikini shop targeted at those wanting something on-trend in the $60 to $150 price-range.

“I was 27,” she says. “I have always had a very entrepreneurial sense, but I was very much a, ‘Why not?’ kind of girl. I still am.”

Originally, the business started manufacturing bikinis in spandex, which was the typical material for swimwear. But it wasn’t until Ellis presented Deering with a different kind of material – neoprene – that Triangl would take off.

“It was different, it was fitting into the right price backet, and we had a style and fabric that was different. We had the perfect storm,” she says.

Today, Triangl is sold in over 100 countries and boasts 2.4 million Instagram followers. The company has reported selling around 45,000 bikinis a month, and in 2019, both co-founders were ranked on Australian rich lists with an estimated net worth of $35 million.

“It was really hard and confronting, because Triangl was so successful. I was like, ‘How is this not enough? What is wrong with me? I think I’m broken.”

– Erin Deering, co-founder Triangl

Its rise to cult status, Deering says, was thanks to a clever marketing strategy that focused on organic growth and word of mouth over paid ads. Though that was 10 years ago, Deering believes the strategy is still relevant today.

“Instagram was really everything to us,” she says. “It was as important as every other aspect of our business in terms of the product and the customer – it was sitting right up there.”

Once the local following had built up, Triangl began to gain traction in the US – especially when model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner started sporting the gear. But getting bikinis into the hands of the Jenners and Kardashians relied on the same strategy – word of mouth.

“I did a lot of investigating into [Kendall’s] network of friends,” Deering recalls. “There were five or six of them – Hailey Bieber, Bella Hadid, Gigi Hadid… We gifted them our products, and they started wearing them and posting about them.

“One day I woke up to an email from Kendall saying, ‘Hey, all my friends have these Triangl bikinis, can I get some?’”  

The rest, Deering says, is history. Her and Ellis’ hypothesis that there was a gap in the swimwear market turned out to be true. Last year, studies valued the global swimwear market at US$19.1 billion, with an expected compound annual growth rate of 6%, reaching US$34.2 billion by 2031.

But while things were continuing to look up for Triangl, they were going downhill for Deering.

Walking away to find your passion

Despite “living like multimillionaires” in Monaco with Ellis and their two children, Deering says she always felt like something was missing: passion. At the same time, the co-founders’ relationship was breaking down and she realised it was time to walk away from the business altogether.

“It was really hard and confronting, because Triangl was so successful. I was like, ‘How is this not enough? What is wrong with me? I think I’m broken.

“I had a lot of challenges mentally, and neglected my mental health throughout that six-year period so much so that I came out the other side with complete lack of any identity.”

Her first step was to move back home to Melbourne, and re-evaluate her definition of success. After four years of soul-searching, it turns out, success didn’t mean tonnes of money – it meant feeling connected to your purpose.

“Triangl was to help women feel good,” she says. “On reflection, that isn’t too dissimilar from where I’m going now.”

And where is that? Deering is launching a mentoring-slash-coaching-slash-consulting business on the 23rd of November. Phase one involves a launch event with just 30 women, with a vision to build a community first and a largely platform later.

“The overarching vision is, when people are starting a business or working for someone else or not feeling fulfilled… I want women to feel less alone through that process.”

Initially, women will be able to book in some group workshops or strategy sessions, or 1:1 intensive mentoring sessions for individuals.

“It was incredibly isolating to not have a community or have anyone to talk to when things got touch,” she says. “I just have so much in here ready to share from what I’ve done in the last few years, and help other women through it. I just know it’s what I have to do.”

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