New Smyrna’s Christina Cuccinello carves out her own place in the surf business.
In an unsuspecting home in the coziest of places in New Smyrna, a homegrown business is making waves in the surf industry. Surfboard designer, Christina Cuccinello, took some time to talk about where her company, BellaSol, came from and where it’s going.
Building a surfboard company sounds like a daunting task. It takes someone passion about the sport and a vision for what they’re building. And while Cuccinello has a fun and easy going vibe about her, she is passionate, motivated, and has a clear goal with her brand: Make cool, beautiful, and affordable boards for women of all ages.
“I was looking around (at a concert) noticing all of these other girls were wearing Hollister shirts the same as mine,” Cuccinello said, when asked about how she was inspired to start her company. “I wanted to have my own thing going on.” She went home and designed her own t-shirts that said “bella” on the front and “soul” on the back. Inspired by her Italian heritage, the phrase encompassed her positive personality and unknowingly started her own brand.
It wasn’t long until people were coming up and asking her where she bought the homemade shirts she was wearing. A call to a local printing company and fifty t-shirts later, her company was born, literally from the trunk of her car.
Cuccinello’s entrepreneurial spirit pushed her to go beyond the t-shirt designs when a local surf store asked her if she would be interested in creating designs for skateboards and then surfboards. Having been self-taught in design and business up to that point, she accepted a mentorship that helped her with the ins and outs of building your own board line.
Between starting this new venture and coming up with her fresh designs, she works full-time as massage therapist, something that’s helped her more than you’d immediately think. Cuccinello’s time as a masseuse at the Grand Floridian in Disney taught her about hard work, excellent customer service, and the rewards of being disciplined. Definitely not what you would imagine of a laid-back surf enthusiast, but a huge benefit to creating a successful brand.
Bella Soul soon changed to BellaSol, reflecting the beach and surf lifestyle of the business. Instead of a trunk full of t-shirts, it’s now a warehouse full of soft top boards, epoxy boards, and stand-up paddle boards designed for women of all ages. “I was sick of seeing nothing but the same hibiscus designs for women’s boards,” Cuccinello said. Her designs and illustrations are inspired from her own life. “I’ll wake up and have this idea and jump onto my computer and get my ideas down.”
Cuccinello didn’t just happen into the surf scene with the BellaSol, though. She fell in love with the activity soon after moving to Florida, visiting the beach on the weekends, and ultimately moving to the shore four years ago.
Being the new kid in the surf scene has its difficulties, but it seemed to call her. “I really loved the culture, and coming from a really tight knit old-school Italian family, the surf culture really are about a small clique. It’s hard in a way, but being on the outside, you have to really prove yourself…and the way you prove yourself is always just stick with it. Keep on doing your thing and people will notice. Then people will start slowly accepting you.”
Recently, she’s expanded her line to include accessories and additional options for her boards. Bamboo tops and colored fins are just a few things you’ll see on BellaSol boards these days. Cuccinello excitedly said, “I had this idea for pink fins, called up my manufacturers with the idea,” and now offers a way to make a customer’s board even more their own.
You can catch Cuccinello at local beach happenings with her BellaSol tent, and her boards in some local retailers, but she’s making the most of the Internet where she able to sell to a larger audience around the world. However, she maintains being very involved with her local community, providing a product and a voice for other young women to look up to.
One place you might not see Cuccinello is sponsoring any professional surfers. She said, “I guess I should, but I’ve always done my own thing. I’m kinda carving my own path, you know? And whether it’s right or it’s way wrong, I’ll figure it out.”