The Must-Have Summer Accessory With a Cause
Written By: Elaine Cutting Sand Cloud Towel
Photographed By: Michael Wesley
Styled By: Nikki Schiffman
Sand Cloud began as a simple thought. Brandon Leibel was napping on the beach one afternoon after work when the idea came to him. “What if beach towels came with pillows attached?” This passing thought would grow into not only a unique and exquisite towel brand, but a representation for a cause that is so much bigger, supporting the preservation of beaches like the very one on which this idea began.
Enamored with this idea of creating his own towel brand, Leibel joined up with his friends, Steven Ford and Bruno Aschidamini. Together, they wanted to make a difference, not only in towel manufacturing but in the world. “We always knew we wanted to partner with a cause we believe in, ” Leibel says. As a resident of San Diego, Leibel loves the beach, so naturally preserving beaches was an issue that he was passionate about. “The beach is a part of our lifestyle, ” Leibel says. “It’s about the quality of life for us and the sea life. There are animals washing up every day. It’s a huge issue.”
The business expanded quickly. After starting Sand Cloud, Leibel quit his job. Leibel, Ford, and Aschidamini moved into a small apartment together, where they worked near 24-hour days to coordinate everything to make Sand Cloud a success. They decided to hire manufacturing from Turkey to get the highest quality towels available, despite having to overcome the daily struggle of language and time zone barriers. Sand Cloud initially began with 100 towels, which they sold to family and friends, and has grown ever since.
A social cause isn’t realized by simply manufacturing and selling a product, however. Leibel knew that, like any good cause, the word had to be spread, awareness had to be earned, and a reputation had to be made. On top of the stresses of forming a new business, Leibel, Ford and Aschidamini ran their own social media site, posting messages, sending emails, and building brand awareness. Many weekends saw the three of them walking up and down the beach, adding Instagram followers on the spot and spreading the word of their company with the local beachgoers who were also passionate about keeping their favorite beach spots clean.
However, Sand Cloud wasn’t built on their efforts alone. Leibel began an Ambassador program made of people who are passionate and active about preserving marine life to help support the cause. Ambassadors help promote Sand Cloud on social media and drive the brand into regions beyond where Leibel himself could reach. These Ambassadors receive discounts on items, are featured on social media accounts, sneak peeks at future products, and will often be asked opinions to vote on new towel designs, all while knowing that their donations and efforts are going towards preserving the very beaches their towels decorate. They’re a real part of the team. “We put aside our pride and ask the people what they want, ” says Leibel. “It makes them more interested.”
Through these efforts, Sand Cloud is now a thriving business that proudly supports ocean life preservation through organizations like the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a rehabilitation organization that rescues marine mammals and nurtures them back to health before returning them to the wild. Other organizations Sand Cloud supports include San Diego Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation. “We picked what feels right, ” says Leibel. “They’re good people, we knew where the money was going and we knew we’re making a difference.”
Now, after celebrating its two-year anniversary in May, Sand Cloud is still expanding, growing and making a difference. Although the team is still small and concentrated, Leibel, Ford and Aschidamini have their own office, complete with interns, independent contractors and people to help with delivery. The three are still heavily hands-on invested in their cause. Last June, Sand Cloud hosted a beach cleanup in San Diego. Partnering with San Diego Coast Keepers, Leibel and his team, along with roughly 50 Ambassadors, picked up over 30 pounds of trash from the coast. Although the small Sand Cloud team is becoming incredibly busy, they hope to schedule another beach cleanup day sometime this year. “Anything we can do makes a difference in a crucial way, ” says Leibel. “We all share the ocean and beach. It helps the human race, marine life and the beaches.”
Leibel’s favorite beach spots: Windansea, Pacific Mission, La Hoya, and Del Mar.
How to help keep your beach clean: “Clean up after yourself—trash is going to end up in the ocean if it’s not in a can. Recycle trash on the street. If you see trash, pick it up, ” Leibel says.
Trek to Thailand: Leibel recently went Backpacking in Thailand for three weeks where he was inspired by beautiful beaches with crystal clear water. Ever-conscious of his cause, everywhere Leibel went, he struck conversations with new friends about beach preservation and handed out free towels to help spread the word further.
Many Ways to Wrap: There are many ways to style a Sand Cloud towel. “They’re so multi-functional, ” says Leibel. “I’ve seen them used as a towel at the beach, a wrap, a wall tapestry, even as bedding decoration as you can see on Instagram and social media.” Leibel is happy with any way these beautiful towels are displayed. “They’re buying into a cause and that’s the best part.”
See These Cool Beach Towels for a Cause
Michael Wesley is a San Diego based lifestyle photographer who brings a unique eye for style and color to any project. With travel in 26 countries, a die-hard love for the ocean and an appetite for adventure, this California surfer is always on the hunt for capturing the coastal lifestyle that he is so lucky to live. Check out his work at WWW.BLUEWESLEY.COM