Meet Mari of Noa Kai
My name is Mari Suyama and I’m a serial entrepreneur with a serious case of wanderlust. I am an explorer and I dream of creating products that enhance our human experience. Even as a young girl, I mused at what the world had to offer and had a deep sense of wanting to meet and learn about people, cultures and languages. It is this desire to explore more and learn about what makes people “tick,” that led to developing Noa Kai.
This blog writing is a glimpse into my life as I sit in an airport awaiting a flight to Puerto Rico. I’m always on the go—and I prefer it that way. Who knows what inspiration will come to me on this trip? But my focus right now is launching Noa Kai Swimwear as a new brand that unleashes the true nature of women and their potential. What will make a difference? How can we do better? How do we communicate why Noa Kai is not just swimwear—it’s a lifestyle brand that is different in so many ways.
Before reaching the age of 35, I traveled to, developed relationships with and experienced the cultures of 35 countries. This exposure to the world has given me a lifetime of experiences—good, bad and ugly—that have shaped who I am today and, eventually, inspired me to start my dream business, Noa Kai Swimwear.
Living this nomadic life of adventure, working from the road, and building businesses along the way taught me to be self-sufficient and to survive with extraordinarily little. It taught me to rely on two important things—my family and my creativity. The result: Noa Kai Swimwear.
Being an entrepreneur started out of necessity. Leaving for Ecuador at 20 years old with only $5,000, a journalism degree and my passport meant getting creative and using my writing skills to earn money to survive. I wrote and edited to earn a few dollars for food. Upon returning from a year-and-a-half wandering Latin America, I was inspired to start OX Agency—which specialized in marketing arts, culture, and lifestyle brands, my first real business with two creative partners. After the sale of OX, and tattooing the logo on my foot as a reminder to never give up and to work hard, like an ox, I moved to Hawaii for the next big adventure.
Owning a swimwear line has always been a dream—as was living in Hawaii. I still remember my favorite outfit as a child, the matching metallic palm tree print swimsuits my sister and I wore on Venice Beach. The freedom of being a child, not a worry in the world. I never forgot that swimsuit, how it made me feel and I made sure to include some measure of that sense of freedom I felt to pay homage to my childhood—and ensure that this vivid memory is woven into the fabric of every swimsuit we produce.
There have been many times when I have asked myself why I never launched Noa Kai Swimwear sooner or, for that matter, why now? And, while I don’t have an authentic answer to that question, I believe in following my intuition as it has served me well to date, which is why NOW is the time we have decided to launch Noa Kai. The time feels right for our unique swimwear line.
My time as an entrepreneur in Hawaii was a period of great personal and professional growth. It opened my eyes as to why I wanted to work for myself and turn my innate sense of adventure into Noa Kai, an inspirational swimwear line that you have to feel on your body to understand WHY it is different than any other swimwear on the market. The boardrooms in Oahu were filled with powerful business men and I was often the only female, and a young one at that. This dynamic helped me get stronger, develop a unique voice, and gain confidence that I could build a business worthy of attention and destined for success.
Why a swimwear line? For me, swimwear is the uniform of the wanderlust and the explorer. Throughout my life, it has been a symbol of vacation, adventure, and family time. If it is produced correctly, and with input from potential buyers and a tremendous amount of research, swimwear is a symbol of happiness, of freedom, of self confidence and of respecting one’s body, inside and out.
Building Noa Kai Swimwear was an opportunity to make all the good things in my life—family, travel, and creative freedom—essentially my job. Owning Noa Kai has provided us the opportunity to conduct photoshoots in exotic locales all over the world, from exploring the jungles of Brazil to find new color palettes to Hawaii where the seeds of my dream to start Noa Kai were planted. Best of all, having my mother as my business partner means we get to do all this as a family.
I believe Noa Kai is swimwear for independent, confident, and proud women—like myself and my mother.
My mother and I design styles and hand-draw fabric patterns that we feel confident wearing. We're on a mission to shake the notion that swimwear is one dimensional. The fashion world tends to focus on trends and fads. Noa Kai does not. We have created a brand of ‘interchangeable basics’ that is versatile, flexible, timeless, exceptionally designed, will always be in style.
Basic, essential pieces are the way to go and the way to let your personality take the spotlight. A lesson learned from my mother.
I also appreciate the lessons learned from traveling and from taking chances as an entrepreneur. The hours spent on my lanai overlooking the Ko’olau mountain range in Hawaii writing business plans for a nameless swimwear line paid off. All it took was my departure from paradise to realize I had all the tools, inspiration, and motivation I needed.
Leaving Hawaii for Miami—the capital of the swimsuit world was the next obvious adventure. The result—Noa Kai—a swimwear line unlike any other on the market.