Pepper’s Closet, brainchild of serial entrepreneur Elizabeth Stone and her marine biologist husband, Michael, is a unique line with a lot of heart.
It’s sort of an eclectic amalgam of the Martha’s Vineyard “Black Dog” clothing line and Snapple, combining area-specific symbols (ocean creatures, very Ocean State) with “it-comes-with-the-product” cool factoids.
But the startup is focused on more than just a sartorial statement or a fact-of-the-day rush; Stone and Stone are looking to use their experiences to make a difference.
They do that a couple of different ways.
The tanks, T-shirts, onesies and headbands the company currently sells via its Indiegogo site are an easy way to get people talking and interested about the ocean, its inhabitants, and what researchers are learning about them both. While a lot of scientists have much to share, “a lot of it is inaccessible,” Michael said. “No one wants to read [just] scientific papers; it needed translating [so that] everyone can learn seamlessly.”
Fun outfits do just that. And, seeing as everyone wears clothing, Pepper’s Closet can have an educational reach that’s wider than that of say, a line of stuffed animal whales or a picture book about oceanic conservation.
Then, the company uses part of the income from their products directly for good. “We donate ten percent of all our profits to ocean conservation and clean-up efforts,” Elizabeth said. The funds also bolster scientists doing projects around the world, connecting them to jobs that use their college-honed skills instead of having them float professionally unconnected as post-grads.
The team also organizes marine-specific service projects, such as their forthcoming beach cleanups with Save the Bay in October. “The goal is to create a community around this,” Elizabeth said. “We can’t do this on our own. Together we can make the difference, using the clothing to do that.”
This desire is ingrained in the company’s ethos so soundly that its very name is a derivative of its mission. Pepper is the Stones’ (real cute) one-year-old daughter and a sort of representative for those the startup is aiming to serve.
“We want to pass this on to the next generation,” Elizabeth said. “We want them to be ocean’s stewards; a lot of times are people are unaware of what’s going on in the ocean. 50 percent of our air comes from the ocean. Not only did we want to pass it down to our daughter, [but to] everybody, [so they] can feel like they’re a part and involved.”
Michael added, “it’s a passion project, sort of for ourselves and for our family, and kind of for everyone, for the ocean.”
The pair, now joined by a host of folks “passionate about conserving, improving and educating on all things oceanic: marine scientists, activists, parents & passionate beach bums alike,” started their Providence-based business a year ago, with the help of BioSci Labs in Coventry.
There, the team was able to get assistance for its current Indiegogo campaign, launched Friday, through which they’re looking to raise between $25,000 and $50,000 for their startup. “One of the reasons were doing this line is to expand our line and bring manufacturing in-house, make sure we’re doing best practices,” Elizabeth said. “The disadvantage of Rhode Island is definitely the lack of VC funding and space; however, BioSci Labs has really bridged the gap … [it has] 141,000 square feet and has the ability to help a company scale up.”
And Pepper’s Closet has plans to do just that. “We’re using Indiegogo to work with Rhode Island School of Design [to eventually] design bathing suits with our own textiles; athletic, beach-kind of wear; tank tops, T-shirts and onesies,” Elizabeth said. Hats and other accessories are down the line, and the Pepper’s Closet team hopes that Ocean State’s maritime heritage, beach-y culture, and various ocean-focused organizations will embrace the lines for good, along with them.
“The call to action: we’d love to have as many people come support this as possible,” Elizabeth said. “With the Indiegogo campaign, the more backers we get helps us spread the word and join as a community.”