Mi Ola


When I first headed down to Costa Rica to learn to surf, I had no idea what to wear. I mean, what do you wear that won’t get thrashed in the surf and fall off? While I found some functional swimsuits that were good for surfing, there weren’t that many options for active swimwear.

I was stoked to learn about Mi Ola from a friend of mine. Mi Ola was started by Helena Fogarty, a New Yorker who was working in high fashion when she learned to surf and became obsessed with it (that doesn’t sound familiar, does it??). As she surfed more and more, Helena was determined to make well-made, chic, sexy bikinis that stayed put for surfing and other active water sports. The fabric is UPF 50+ and seams are constructed to prevent chafing or discomfort.

I’m really excited to share Mi Ola’s story and super cute bikinis with you!

Mi Ola bikinis

Photo courtesy of Mi Ola


1. Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Helena Fogarty. I’m a NY fashion girl who learned how to surf 7 years ago and became obsessed. I was working at Chanel, wearing 5-inch heels every day and dreaming of the beach. In 2009, I left NY and all my fancy clothes and moved down to Costa Rica to surf every day.

2. How did you first start surfing?

When I was in business school at NYU, a girlfriend suggested we go to surf camp after graduating. I went and found my calling. From that moment on, I was addicted. I came back to New York City after the camp, and it was the flattest summer EVER in the Atlantic Ocean. For Labor Day weekend, desperate for waves, I booked a trip to Costa Rica and found my favorite place.

mi ola surfer

Photo courtesy of Mi Ola


3. How did you come up with the idea for Mi Ola? What’s your vision for it?

Once I was surfing every day, I realized that someone needed to create a sexy, chic, high quality bikini that stayed put and didn’t move around.

In my experience in luxury fashion, I saw there are certain things that we take for granted about clothing that we shouldn’t. For example, a pencil skirt doesn’t NEED to twist around constantly. At Chanel, they engineered their skirts to stay put. A sweater doesn’t need to pill. A high quality cashmere sweater won’t pill the way a cheaper one will – even though they look the same.

A bikini doesn’t need to be made of flimsy material that stretches out after a few wears. It doesn’t have to have pads that fold over and create weird lumps on your chest. Labels don’t need to stick out or chafe your lower back. It doesn’t need to be either functional or sexy. Both things can be combined – with a little intelligent design and laser focus on quality.

Mi old peacock wrap bikini

Photo courtesy of Mi Ola

I want to empower women by relieving stress. First at the beach.  Once you wear a Mi Ola bikini, I’m sure you won’t go back to cheaper bikinis that can chafe, fall off, and need to be adjusted 100 times in 1 hour.

Then, I want to relieve women’s stress in the rest of their life. In 2-3 years, I want to expand into Resort/summer wear that is casual, chic and intelligently designed. Again, sexy chic premium clothing with an exceptional fit that works and reflects the relaxed lifestyle you want in your life.

Mi Ola Surf bikinis

Photo courtesy of Mi Ola


4. You lived in Breezy Point in New York City and were greatly affected by Hurricane Sandy last year. Can you tell us a little bit about that? How did that impact your business?

Oh gosh…. It’s been really tough to be completely honest.

My husband, my 20 month old Mini and I were living in Breezy Point and we were at a critical point in the business. We had just done a big sales cycle and had an incredible reception with retailers. And in November, I was going to be doing as many meetings as possible to raise money for Mi Ola. It takes a lot of money to start your own label, especially one focused on high quality.

We evacuated the morning of Hurricane Sandy. 21 hours later, we came back to a disaster site. We had to park a mile away and walk to our house with Mini in our arms. That afternoon, after doing salvage work on our house, I faced the scariest situation of my life. We were homeless. Our cell phones were running out of battery. We were cold and hungry and dirty. We didn’t have a place to stay, and we had an toddler with us.

Thanks to the amazing help and generosity of my friends, we moved from apartment to apartment in November. Each day, we went back to Breezy and tried to clean up – without electricity, water, heat, and a dwindling gas tank. But, I had no meetings in November to raise money. In December, we went to Costa Rica, where my husband is from, because we had a place to stay.

Because Mi Ola was incorporated in January 2012 and because we projected a year of loss – as many businesses do in the first years of business – we were turned down for any disaster loans. That also disqualified us for any of the grants for businesses displaced by Hurricane Sandy. And our timeline for getting outside money was totally f’ed.

ANYWAY… that was hard, but we’re moving on and moving at full speed. Because I relocated to Costa Rica (again), we can test our suits in the waves and make sure they stick. I’m able to do photo shoots all year round. And Costa Rica is a pretty amazing place to be!

We’ll be coming back to Breezy in October.

Breezy point post Hurricane Sandy

Photo courtesy of Mi Ola


5. How’s the business going now? Where can we buy your suits?

Mi Ola is doing well!  We’re getting press and new accounts and we’re developing our new collection right now, to be unveiled in July at the Miami Swim Show.

Mi Ola is available at Diane’s Beachwear locations in Southern California and at NJ Surf Show in Lavallette, NJ – a great high end surf shop. Our entire collection (and a sneak peak at next year’s) is available online at Mi-Ola.

Use the code 15NYC for a 15% discount on your purchase online at Mi-Ola (valid through July 15, 2013).

Mi Ola surfer

Photo courtesy of Mi Ola


6. What’s one piece of advice that has stuck with you throughout the years?

There are actually 3 things:

  1. Time is your most limited resource.  I heard this when I was single and getting my MBA and I thought – yeah, maybe… Now that I’m a mom, and an entrepreneur, I totally get it. You’ve only got so much time and focus so you need to choose where to direct these things. For me right now, it’s Mi Ola and my family.
  2. The way that you comport yourself in business and life is really important. Because I’ve tried to be responsible, honest, forthright and positive in my business and personal life, a lot of people are out there helping me… with Mi Ola and in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. It’s been so amazing.
  3. Shit happens. For lack of better phrase, no matter how well you live your life, you’re going to get knocked down and bad stuff is going to happen.  What you’ve got to do is just keep getting back up. If you get back up one more time than you are knocked down, you win!

7. If we were to visit you in Costa Rica, where would you take us for some post-surf refreshments?

Lola’s at Playa Avellanes is my favorite place. Don & Christy have created paradise – a chill, casual but elegant restaurant with great food on one of the most beautiful surf beaches in Costa Rica. A perfect place to surf (breaks with different levels) and then grab an Imperial Cerveza.

Costa Rica beach sunset

Photo courtesy of Mi Ola


8. What are your must have surf essentials?

I’m a woman of Irish descent and I have the pale skin to show it. Now that I’ve spent a bunch of time in Costa Rica, I don’t leave the house without serious sunscreen.

For surfing, it’s Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 85 for my face. Coppertone Sport in 70 SPF for my body.

Sticky Bumps Wax for my board.

Havaianas flip flops are the only flip flops that don’t cut up my feet.

And a Mi Ola suit. Recently, I’m loving the Pin-Up top and the Cheeky Drawstring Bottom.

Both are chic, elegant, sexy and once you put it on, they stay put. Set ’em and forget ’em and enjoy the beach!

Helena Fogarty

Photo courtesy of Mi Ola


Thanks Helena!

Be sure to check out Mi Ola’s website.

Follow Mi Ola on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!

Don’t forget to sse the code 15NYC for a 15% discount on your purchase online at Mi-Ola (valid through July 15, 2013).

{This post is NOT sponsored. I love finding and sharing great products and stories and I love being able to spread the word about great women-owned small businesses.}

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  1. says

    Oh they’re great! Surfing or not, I just bodysurf and I feel like this is vital. No weird cups moving all around!

    Very sad about Hurricane Sandy – what a way to be starting a business. I agree with what the previous commenter said about it making you stronger. You rock!
    Tamara recently posted..Upside Down.My Profile

  2. says

    What a great story! Love that she brings high-end fashion knowledge to the bathing suit world. I am headed to her web site from here, for sure. I also love that she chucked the rat race for her passion–always inspiring. Now I can’t wait to see her succeed both in business, and in life post-Sandy. Thanks for bringing us her story!
    misszippy recently posted..Do you have an aerobic base?My Profile

  3. says

    I live by the beach and my biggest complaint with bikinis has always been that they are so impractical and I am constantly pulling at them (or holding onto them for dear life in the surf so they don’t come off). Brilliant idea. Glad you are recovering after Sandy. Sh*t does happen to some extent to everyone and you have bounced back. SO good for you!!! Your daughter is really cute and I want to go to Costa Rica!!!!
    Jess recently posted..De Cluttering your life!My Profile

  4. says

    Beautiful suits!!! I don’t surf (or really have plans to try) but I still like the way those suits look – I hate bikinis with really small bottoms!!!
    Kim recently posted..StrugglingMy Profile

  5. says

    So great to know! Now that I am resigned to the idea of living in Florida forever, I figure I should get back in the water. No surfing on the Gulf Coast but we have lots of fabulous kayaking and paddleboarding and boating and… lots of bikini wearing. I’m going to definitely check them out. Of course, now, between the two of you, I want to go back to Costa Rica :)
    Amy @ Mommy Rodeo recently posted..Toddler travelingMy Profile


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