Megan Barnes: Embracing her passion at L.A. Sun & Sport

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Megan Barnes, owner of L.A. Sun & Sport. The store is moving from Shoppes at Northpark to 14201 N May Ave. this summer.
Shannon Newby, sales specialist, Megan Barnes, owner and Riley Ravencraft, manager/buyer.
L.A. Sun & Sport offers more than 20 different swimwear brands.
L.A. Sun & Sport also sells flowy maxi dresses and active wear.
Loose tops and long skirts for easy summer dressing.

Megan Barnes
Embracing her passion at L.A. Sun & Sport

Armed with three degrees and some valuable experience that helped solidify the kind of business environment and ethics she valued and needed, Megan Barnes came back home to Oklahoma.

Not that she was unhappy in California, but when presented with an opportunity to buy L.A. Sun & Sport in July 2013, she didn’t hesitate. She’s been enjoying the journey ever since and is looking forward to relocating the store in a couple of months.

She’s been enjoying the journey ever since.

Two weeks after she bought the store, Barnes went to an important swimwear market in Miami. It was her first time at market. Buying for her store. Buying for her customers.

After a whirlwind trip back to Los Angeles to pack up her belongings, she returned to the store, determined to learn everything she could about marketing, buying and being an owner.

“It was like drinking from a fire hydrant,” Barnes said.

But she knew all three of her degrees – graphic design at UCO, MBA from OCU and fashion design at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles – had prepared her for this moment.

It was a test, however.

“Fashion school was so intense it kind of made my MBA school look like kindergarten,” she said.

After graduating, she worked as an assistant fashion designer for two companies and the experience was eye-opening in many ways. Most important, she refused to let situations that stifled creativity and encouragement beat her down, to steal her passion. In fact, it fueled her determination, made her stronger and ready for the challenge of being a store owner.

Since buying L.A. Sun & Sport in Shoppes at Northpark, she has added more active wear and what she calls Southern California clothing like flowy silhouettes and maxi dresses. Swimwear continues to be the focus, and she welcomes input from her manager and staff, along with customers.

“I try to buy what’s best for the customer,” Barnes said.

Some swimwear attracts younger customers while other styles, both swim and clothing, appeal to a wide range of ages.

Swimwear isn’t an easy business because the fit isn’t always small, medium or large. Some of the store’s swim tops go to a G cup. That’s a lot of inventory and sometimes it’s just a guessing game which size customer will walk into the store.

“I want us to be able to give those girls a choice, to leave here feeling good about themselves and to look good at the pool and have the support they need,” she said.

“We also have lines that try to give you a push up, that give A cups a little bit of push. We try to cover all our bases so everybody feels good when they walk out.”

The staff also strives to be helpful and honest.

“I told the girls to always tell the truth,” she said. “I don’t want people to think we’re just trying to sell to them. I want them to leave here thinking this is a bunch of their friends that they can get opinions from and feel good.”

The worst thing, she said, would be for customers to comment to others that they didn’t think the store fit them well.

“I want them to say ‘I finally found a suit I feel good in.’ I want that for them as well as for me,” she said.

Barnes likens L.A. Sun & Sport to the “Cheers” of swimwear stores.

“You come in and we’re all friends, and we’re not going to shove stuff down your throat. The girls know hard selling is not OK with me.”

Barnes has many plans for the business, including a move this summer to 14201 N May Ave., Suite 205. She expects to be open in the new location by Aug. 1.

Fashion design will come later, though much of what she learned helps when buying swim and clothing for the store. And when the time is right, she already knows patternmakers and other industry professionals. She’s also adamant about being able to test drive her own designs before they hang in her store.

“That’s the one thing I did learn from the industry,” Barnes said. “I didn’t get into this business because I like clothes and I want to try them on and have fun. I’m doing this because of that passion I found inside myself 11 years ago.”

She said she had not thought of herself as a creative person until she decided to major in graphic design. It was when she had to really think about her final presentation that she realized she wanted to own a store and design some of the clothing she would sell.

“I’m just now getting there,” Barnes said. “I have goals and so many things I want to do with the company. I just have to wait until it’s the right time.”

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