lady startup

If you are looking for a brand that is everything 90s, Kara has created one.

Mamamia is supporting women who are running their own race with #ladystartup . Meet the faces behind the businesses we’re celebrating…

Kara Otter is a one woman show.

The designs, postage, prints, website, customer service, sales and social media. It’s all her.

She’s inspired by everything 90s and has created an ethical swim and street clothing label from her hometown of Bondi Beach, Sydney.

Read her interview with Mamamia.

What is Karameleon Australia?

Karameleon is a swim and street clothing label that is inspired by 90s vintage and flair. I use my own hand-painted artworks as prints and I sew my one-off custom-made pieces myself.

Kara Otter. Image supplied.

What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?

I was a designer for around ten years working for fashion houses without soul that produced mass quantities and were more about copying than originality. This eventually burnt me out.

How did you come up with the name Karameleon? 

Kara is my first name and a chameleon is an animal that changes its colours and patterns depending on the environment. My prints always change and are always made each season.

What is the staff structure of Karameleon?

At the moment it's still just all me, although I do have to admit that my boyfriend is a giant help.

LISTEN: Speaking of kickarse women, George McEncroe started a by-women, for-women ride-sharing service. Post continues after audio.


Did you require investment to start your business?

I saved up enough for my first collection while working in the industry and really trying to keep the costs down where possible. I continued to work for the first two years of starting my business to cover costs.

What kind of advice did you get before you started and from who?

I didn't really get much advice. I just dived in because I didn't want to hear why it wasn't a good idea and how the timing was wrong.

Scroll through to see some of our favourite designs by Kara. Images via Facebook. (Post continues after gallery.)

What's the single best piece of advice you got?

Don't expect much too quickly. It takes lots of time and lots of work.

What's the one bit of advice you would give yourself if you were starting again?

Start with less products that you believe in most, and push a very straight forward and clear message to people.

At Mamamia we have an expression "flearning" - failing and learning. What have been your biggest flearnings since you started Karameleon?

One that really shocked me recently was sending a bikini to a really big influencer who had emailed me (I was so flattered) only to message her on Instagram and find out I had been scammed by someone else with a fake email address.


What's the smartest thing you've done since starting your business?

The smartest thing I have done is continuing to work in the early stages so that I still had an income (even if it was small). This helped me still be able to cover living expenses while getting my feet off the ground.

Are there any apps that have made it easier to do what you do?

  • Planoly - I can pre-plan all my social media posts and see what it will look like before posting.
  • WhatsApp - to communicate with people overseas.
  • Banking apps - they have made it so easy to transfer money that you don't even need an eftpos machine. Eliminating fees!

What do you do when you're feeling like you're in a hole emotionally (or financially)? 

I write down positive affirmations and try to recognise all the things I am grateful for. Getting a pedicure doesn't hurt either!

How many hours a day do you work on your business? 

I would not even be able to tell you. If I'm not designing, sitting on my laptop or on a shoot, I always have my phone on. My social media is constantly being checked and updated.

What are your non-negotiables?

Weekly time with my grandmother and nephew is 100% non-negotiable and nothing matters to me more.

Come summer time on a hot day, I also feel like a dip in the ocean is a must. Even if it's only for five minutes.

What's the biggest misconception you had about starting your business?

I think subconsciously you expect that things will take off straight away. It doesn't happen like that (well, certainly not for me). However, your lucky break could be just around the corner so you just have to keep on going.

Tell us about your proudest moment. 


When I get the most amazing emails from customers telling me how happy they are with their purchase. Makes it all feel worth it.

What does your personal life look like? Who is important to you in your life and work?

At the moment, my work is very much my personal life. I am so close to everything that I do. They are my creations, my artworks and my ideas. So it is a fine line separating my personal life from Karameleon.

However, I do try and keep Sundays as the day for friends and family where I do nothing work related. I know that they can feel the pressure I have on myself to make Karameleon a successful business.


What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?

Be prepared to work HARD.

Be strong. There's always going to be that person that tells you it's not a great time to start your business, or what you are doing isn't good enough. You will be your own biggest critic so you don't need to take on negativity from anyone.

Who do you go to for help and advice?

I have an amazing bunch of women around me that have been in similar situations. I know they will always have positive words to get me over any hurdles.

Since we're in the #LadyStartUp spirit, which Lady Startups do you recommend? 

  • Live Softly is a lady friend who is empowering disabled craftspeople in Nepal.
  • Doodad and Fandango is a lady friend who designs and makes fabulous jewellery.

You can see more from Karameleon Australia at their website, Instagram or Facebook. If you have a #LadyStartUp or want to recommend one for us to cover, drop us an email:


Got January-Dread at the thought of a new year in your current job? Keen to take control of your life and be your own boss? Come and join Mia Freedman for the Lady Startup Activation Plan, an online course where she personally takes you through every step and gives you every resource to go from idea to launch. Enrolments are open for just a few days. Details here.