Diving deep to boost sustainable bikini business

Wed, 24th May 2017

Local designer Steph Gabriel is one of 30 entrepreneurs hoping to learn business secrets from Sir Richard Branson.

Earlier this year, OceanZen Bikini founder Steph Gabriel told her best friend that she wanted to meet Sir Richard Branson and she wanted Leonardo Di Caprio to invest in her sustainable swimwear business.

Two months later, the Alexandra Headland resident was extended an exclusive invitation to attend Sir Richard Branson’s Entrepreneur Program on Necker Island and “freakishly” landed a last-minute place in the ING Bank Dreamstarter Campaign for the month of May to help make it possible for her to attend.

The Dreamstarter Campaign is a crowdfunding initiative that is similar to Kickstarter, only it is dedicated to ethical business, something OceanZen is the very embodiment of.

The business removes harmful plastic bottles and fishing nets from the ocean and transforms them into fashion-forward bikinis.

ING Bank will donate $15,000 to OceanZen’s campaign if Gabriel can raise $40,000 in 30 days.

The $40,000 will allow OceanZen to get the next swimwear collection off the ground, produce a sustainable eco-water bottle and get Gabriel to Branson’s Entrepreneurial Program.

“It is an all-or-nothing situation,” Gabriel says. “I am a strong believer in you attract the things that you want in life and this is really exclusive and there is no application process for it. They choose 30 entrepreneurs from around the world, so it is pretty amazing to be considered.

“Who knows, maybe Leo is just around the corner too.”

Gabriel founded OceanZen Bikini after seeing first-hand how plastic is impacting the oceans and has been involved with some incredible research projects around the world before going on to gain a degree in Environmental Marine Science at the University of the Sunshine Coast. 

The 27-year-old now splits her time between continuing her environmental awareness and conservation work with the successful bikini brand.

Gabriel says she is still pinching herself that she has been given an opportunity to connect with Branson, one of her business idols.

“Branson is a very disruptive entrepreneur, he breaks all the rules and that has made him the success that he is today. This is how I like to see myself, with OceanZen breaking the rules, swimwear is not usually made from fishing nets from the ocean,” she says.

“Technology is allowing us to regenerate things that would otherwise be thrown out, so many brands are shifting towards sustainability and I am so happy to be a part of that movement.”

It is estimated that eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans every year.

Gabriel is hoping people will see the potential of her sustainable business and get on board her campaign by donating what they can, or choosing a supporter package from Ingd.me/oceanzen by 10am on May 31.