At 26, he has already turned over a million dollars and removed 64 tonnes of rubbish from the ocean. Social entrepreneur and designer Brian Linton has successfully merged slow fashion with ocean conservation in a buoyant business model that has won him nominations for Entrepreneur of the Year
As a boy, Brian was fascinated by tropical fish and purchased an aquarium with his pocket money. The fish geekery, at its apex, had led to 30 fish tanks and thousands of fish living in his room at his family home in Singapore.
The middle-schooler lived on a tropical island surrounded by water. One would assume this left little to be desired in terms of exotic ecosystems at your fingertips. Why then was this boyhood hobby driven by the need to collect his own breeds of fish? ‘I would raise it for six to seven months and then breed it, and have babies, and then sell a few hundred of them back to the fish-shop for one to two dollars a piece.’
The now 26-year-old social entrepreneur talks about the fish in a blasé tone. There is no hint of grandiose smugness at having operated a fully-fledged fish farm, at 12. I surmise that this ‘garage business’ prompted the start of Linton’s natural savvy: understanding what sells.
His company, United By Blue (UBB), has merged slow fashion with ocean conservation in a buoyant business model that has won Brian Linton nominations for Entrepreneur of the year (in the U.S.) by Business Week and Wall Street Journal.
As opposed to the charitable organisation whose donations go to a cause, Brian decided to get his hands dirty – pledging to remove one pound of trash for every product sold. The company has hosted 85 ocean clean-ups across 18 states in the U.S. in the two and a half years it has been operating. UBB’s products reach ten countries and can be found in stores such as Urban Outfitters, among many others. As a result, they have removed 64 tonnes (141,000 pounds) of trash from the sea.
A perusal of the website presents a curious marriage of sustainable-chic khaki clothes and apparel (think casual and understated), and an announcement of the company’s next clean-up. There’s a grassroots feel to it. And it couldn’t be closer to the truth: the company provide the logistics and materials for the clean-ups making the experience as painless as possible for volunteers. The events see between 50 and 100 university students, townspeople, service organisations, businesses and schools, come out to help. For Linton, clean-ups need to be as appealing as the apparel and one of the priorities is to ensure ‘a beautiful and spectacular event for people to attend.’
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Surprising this idea, and never ceases to amaze how one can configure a successful business model, sharing revenues for activities that benefit many more stakeholders than direct customers.
How does he achieve it? Donations? Volunteer corps?
Thanks for sharing this!