Students Start Apparel Company to Support Ocean Preservation Efforts

June 25, 2012

Erin Mullen ’15 and Ryan Hartmann ’15
Erin Mullen ’15 and Ryan Hartmann ’15 in the tanks they created for Breakline Surf Company.

Erin Mullen ’15 and Ryan Hartmann ’15 returned from their trip to Hawaii this past spring break with much more than a tan; they brought back with them an idea to start their own business. “We’d been on a whale-watching tour during our trip, and the experience made us want to create a business that supported ocean preservation efforts,” Mullen said.

So the international business majors started narrowing in on the idea of creating their own apparel company. “We wanted clothing with a beach-inspired, summer-surf vibe,” she said. “Once we got started with it, we loved the whole idea of it.”

Within a few weeks, the duo had purchased a domain name, began building a website, and started sketching design ideas for t-shirts and tank tops. Drawing on a mutual flair for fashion, Hartmann’s graphic design skills, and Mullen’s artistic talent, the sketches became designs and the designs became the real thing.

“I drew up the logo and the t-shirt designs and Ryan used his skills in Photoshop to implement them into regenerated images. We found a local company to construct our first line of clothing.” In just a few short months, they’ve nearly sold out of their initial stock of 100 t-shirts and tanks.

The social entrepreneurship aspect was critical to Hartmann and Mullen, who identified foundations such as the Pacific Whale Foundation to support with 15 percent of profits.

“Our mission at Breakline Surf Co. is to utilize an expanding market for surf-inspired clothing to reduce the negative impacts on the ocean and marine life,” Mullen writes on the website.

So far, the company has blossomed on word-of-mouth advertising and the small amount of start-up capital both Hartmann and Mullen contributed. “But we have plans to grow, possibly add some swimwear down the road.” They’ll also expand the foundations they support to include those that participate in preservation efforts of East Coast waters.

“It’s been great seeing kids on campus with our shirts, but what’s really cool is how we have been able to translate a lot of what we have learned in class,” Mullen said. “We’re contacting big companies and talking to heads of foundations. We are learning how to talk to people in the business world and how to represent ourselves.”


By Kristen Manieri

Office of Marketing & Communications
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