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At a recent fitness competition in Arlington, Texas, Etila Santiago was working as a judge where she would help determine the placings for over 100 elite bodies. While she was there, she also took part in business meetings, made time to train, and was busy discussing her new Etila Swimwear line. She also works as a fitness lifestyle coach. You might be overwhelmed just reading that, but a busy schedule is nothing new for the girl who nearly won a Bikini Olympia title before retiring from competition to pursue new opportunities.
“I’ve been working really hard for a really long time on it. I’m giving this my best.”
Santiago shared that the initial response from customers has been very positive. She has fully committed to the process of making her new business grow because she’s taken a lot of the responsibilities on herself. She’s not only designing the swimsuits, but she maintains the website, handles shipping, manages the social media, and tests everything out herself before it becomes available.
Santiago explained, “I want the bikinis I promote to be the kind I would wear. I always make sure they are perfect. Everything with my name on it, I want it to be the best.”
While it is a lot of work, she feels that being able to focus on variables she can control serves her well. She isn’t complaining about the work either. This was actually a dream of hers growing up.
“Even before I started competing, I had always dreamed of owning a swimwear line,” she said. “I guess that’s because I love the beach, I love summer, and I love being able to enjoy that part of the year.”
The native of Brazil isn’t afraid of working hard to chase a dream. As a matter of fact, hard work was what helped her excel as an athlete. Before taking on the role of judge and business owner, Santiago was an IFBB Pro Bikini competitor, and she was a very successful one. Throughout her athletic career, she won four shows, including the 2019 Toronto Pro, Musclecontest Brazil Pro, and the Iron Games contest. In 2020, she won the New York Pro and placed third in the 2020 Bikini Olympia. That event was considered one of the most competitive contests in the division’s history. Janet Layug won and Jennifer Dorie placed second, but some fans felt Santiago could’ve won it.
She transitioned to judging following that contest and began pursuing the longtime goal of starting her swimwear line. Delays beyond her control got in the way and came with many challenges, but she never considered backing out or giving up.
“It’s really hard, honestly, because all the pressure is on me because I have to do this by myself, but it works,” she stated. “If something goes wrong, I want to know I was the one that made that mistake and it’s on me.”
Much like when she would push herself in the gym for her next contest, Santiago pushed herself and got comfortable with being uncomfortable so she could reach her business goals. She does have support and encouragement with her on a daily basis thanks to her longtime boyfriend Tyler Manion.
“He’s been very supportive, and that’s been really good.”
One positive sign of success for Santiago is that her business venture will lead her to the same place she sought as an athlete – at the Olympia. Etila Swimwear will be featured as a part of the 2023 Olympia Expo in Orlando, FL on November 3rd and 4th, an opportunity she is excited about, a chance to connect with thousands of new customers at the fitness industry’s most prestigious event. Like every other show she goes to, her schedule will be hectic, but she is looking forward to all of it.
“I’m judging too, and when I went to the Olympia to judge in 2021, I was like “man, I miss this feeling,’” she recalled. “I will never leave this industry because of what it has done for me, and I’m very happy to be able to share my bikinis and swimwear at the Olympia with my booth.”
Olympia President Dan Solomon watched Santiago rise through the ranks as a competitor and he’s optimistic about her rise in business as well. Solomon explains, “It’s incredibly exciting to see Etila transition from the stage to the business world. I’m hoping her story inspires more women to pursue their passion. Etila is proving the power of dedication and hard work.”
Santiago may have competed in the Bikini division, but she wants fans at the Olympia to consider her products for reasons beyond the stage. Comfort and fun matter as well, and she feels her swimwear can be a part of that for them.
“I know many people that come to the Olympia just want to enjoy their lives and be comfortable. That is what my line is about. I’m doing my absolute best at this for them. If people find my line to be different and comfortable to wear, that is what I want to hear.”
Be sure to visit the Etila Swimwear booth November 3-4 in Orlando at the Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend. To see the entire Etila Swimwear collection, go to www.etilaswimwear.com . And follow @etilaswimwear on Instagram.