San Diego entrepreneurs discuss their business and love of the ocean
Brandon Leibel and his two best friends, Bruno Aschidamini and Steven Ford, quit their corporate call-center jobs in 2014 in search of something more meaningful. Their shared love of the marine life led them to sell beach towels on San Diego’s beaches. They were willing to do whatever it takes; they moved in together, sold their furniture, and Leibel even started driving Uber to make ends meet. These three friends eventually created Sand Cloud, a San Diego-based beach lifestyle company committed to saving marine life.
To date, Sand Cloud has done $20 million in sales, and the company donates 10 percent of its profits to nonprofits who share its mission to #SaveTheFishies, including the Surfrider Foundation, the Marine Conservation Institute and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. The company also made an appearance on Shark Tank, one of the world’s favorite TV shows, in 2017. While their signature beach towels are what made them popular, customers also love their clothing, water bottles, accessories, and new bedding line, made exclusively for retail giant Bed, Bath & Beyond.
- As founders, why did you decide to make marine conservation apart of Sand Cloud’s company culture?
Since we’re from San Diego, we have always appreciated the beach lifestyle. It seemed like a natural fit to work towards preserving something that was so crucial to our lives.
- How has that mission impacted your business?
Our mission to #SaveTheFishies serves as our guiding principle. We donate 10 percent of our profits to organizations that aim to help conserve marine life, but that’s not all we do. We run a devoted Brand Ambassadors program, and we believe that education about the severity of ocean pollution in an artistically tangible way people can choose to be apart of a community that is making a difference. And they have. So far we’ve donated over $100,000 to the conservation of the ocean and the lives of those in it.
- Why is it important for Sand Cloud to use recycled materials in the t-shirts and towels?
It’s important because Sand Cloud goes further than just donating to nonprofits – we believe in action. We want to actively participate in the ecosphere. Our goal for this year is to transition all of our apparel to recycled fabrics. For us, that means using plastic bottles, recycled cotton, and other recyclable materials. We’re looking into new technology to produce more products like our water bottles and metal straws that can replace single-use plastics as well.
- What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who want to incorporate a charity element into their business?
Make sure you are authentic. Customers can instantly tell if your message is not genuine, and people will call you out on it. Don’t make claims if they aren’t true. Partner with local nonprofits that are small and really need the money, rather than larger nonprofits that get a hefty amount of donations on their own. Also, let your non-profits broadcast through your channels to help authenticate and spread their word, too.
- Do you believe that the sustainable and socially responsible mission is a key part of Sand Cloud’s success?
Absolutely. Sustainability is the main reason why we’re successful. There will always be other companies creating products, but what truly sets us apart from the crowd is our mission. We’ve stuck to the same sustainable mission from day one and has largely informed Sand Cloud’s brand identity.