Can’t find a swimsuit that will last? These Northeastern sisters gave up and started their own brand

One-piece swimsuits and a bikini from By Lima.
By Lima swimwear designed by two sisters at Northeastern University. Courtesy of the Boyan Lima sisters

Two sisters, Mia and Sofia Boyan Lima, grew up on Isla Mujeres, a Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Cancún. Living the island life, the two wore swimsuits daily. 

At the time, the two teenagers struggled to find sustainable, affordable, high-quality swimsuits that would last. Around the island, there are a lot of little shops, but the swimsuits they found were of low quality, breaking apart after wearing them only a few times.

Mia and Sofia Boyan Lima working together on a new design. Courtesy of the Boyan Lima sisters

“We decided to start this swimwear brand that would allow tourists and islanders like ourselves to own swimsuits that checked all those boxes: high quality, sustainable and affordable,” says Mia Boyan Lima. 

Mia Boyan Lima, 19, is a rising third-year student at Northeastern studying business and psychology with a concentration in marketing. Her sister Sofia Boyan Lima, 17, will be studying business administration beginning in September at Northeastern. 

Being able to use Northeastern resources has been invaluable, says Mia. She loves having the ability to reach out to professors for advice. Plus, she can take what she learns in class and apply it to her business immediately. 

Now, over two years into the operation, the two sisters have plans to grow By Lima beyond Mexico, with a second swimsuit line coming out soon. 

To top it off, Vanity Fair London in the April 2023 issue and Tatler Magazine in the May 2023 issue featured products of By Lima. 

“I’m really excited about it,” says Mia. 

The sisters started By Lima in 2020, right before the pandemic hit when Sofia was 14 and Mia was 16. The brand launched in December 2021. 

The pair put together the website, grew the brand online, and designed the swimsuits. Behind the scenes, the two are in charge of administration, sales, marketing and deliveries. The company hired 10 women who live on Isla Mujeres to produce the swimsuits in a small factory. 

Currently, the sisters are selling the swimsuits online in Mexico, with pricing in pesos, and at a boutique store at Hotel Secreto. 

“I think one of the main struggles of starting a business at a young age is lack of experience and knowledge,” says Sofia. “We started By Lima based on trial and error, and that’s pretty much what we’re still doing.”

The sisters suffered a significant setback in a fraud case. The first designer they hired in 2020 stole everything they had created—fabrics, designs and money. The family hired a lawyer and quickly discovered the woman was a fraud. Despite a lawsuit, the woman fled the country. 

“So we had to start over again,” says Sofia. 

“It’s a hard story to tell when we’re just starting the brand,” says Mia. “It’s like, ‘you went through all of that in one year!’” 

But, “it turned out for the better,” says Mia. 

At the time, the company wasn’t using sustainable fabrics. When everything collapsed, they decided to re-organize and move in that direction.

The fabric is made up of 100% recycled and sustainable material from ECONYL, a regenerated nylon constructed from abandoned fishing nets and nylon waste from landfills and oceans worldwide. 

The fabric has many great features, including pilling resistance and the ability to stretch in multiple ways. The swimsuits, which come in one-piece and bikini sets, with designs that reflect the island and younger sales base showcase seashell adornments and wrap around waist ties. The bathing suits cost roughly between $25 and $50 U.S. dollars. 

“It confirms that’s what we wanted for our brand and what we wanted to offer our customers, especially because of its quality,” says Mia.  

With family already living in the city, both sisters knew Boston was where they wanted to study. With co-ops and the ability to gain real-life experience in the business world, it drew both of them to Northeastern. 

“We love the city,” says Mia. “When the college application time came, I knew I wanted to study here.”

Beth Treffeisen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at Follow her on Twitter @beth_treffeisen.