Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in clothing but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Morgan Oughton, owner of Spacefish Army, located in St. Pete Beach, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am the owner and founder of Spacefish Army, an eco-conscious activewear brand for ocean lovers.
Our core customers are Scuba Divers, Free Divers, Snorkelers, Paddle Boarders, and all who are drawn to the beauty and mystery of the water and want to feel a part of it. The dive industry has been long overdue for an update from all black wetsuits, and we believe that function shouldn't hinder fashion. Our designs are thoroughly tested by dive professionals, and our prints are colorful wearable art featuring the same marine animals that we travel around the world to see.
We offer both men's and women's SPF50-rated Rashguard & Legging styles and have recently expanded our line to include Shorts and Sports Bra Bikinis for our recruits to conquer even more land and sea adventures. Now we see Spacefish popping up in more Beach Yoga classes, Resort Pools, and Cross Fit Studios.
Tell us about yourself
I've always been an artist and have dabbled in every medium I could get my hands on, including murals, special fx makeup, storyboarding cartoons, photography, and web design. My love of bright colors and wild prints can be seen in my teenage hair & wardrobe when I first started sewing my clothes. I graduated with a BFA in Fashion Design. I had a successful career working as a Designer and Art Director in NYC for over a decade before I gave it all up in pursuit of…well, happiness.
In my travels, I accidentally stumbled upon something that caused this jaded New Yorker to stop and think about more than the rat race – scuba diving. It took me a few years to gain the courage (and money) to follow through, but in 2016 I sold all of my belongings and traveled for a year to complete my Divemaster course in Bali, Indonesia & Instructor course in Utila Honduras, then moved to Hawaii to start my new career as a dive instructor. I was so inspired by all the wonderful animals I was surrounded by every day, and I started to draw and paint again, and I decided to turn some of that art into a few leggings to wear underwater so that my students could recognize me. When every day more and more people were asking me where they could buy them and the shop I worked for wanted to start selling them, I thought I couldn't pass up the opportunity to combine my two careers and passions and just see where it led.
Five years later, I feel absolutely blessed to have an audience for my wacky, colorful style that creates such a strong sense of community worldwide. Whenever the stress levels of running the company are particularly high, I like to scroll through our tagged photos online of all the wonderful people that bring our clothes with them on their greatest adventures. Swimming with Whale Sharks in the Philippines, Manta Rays in Hawaii, Dolphins in Egypt, or Sharks in Galapagos, and they are looking great and are SO thrilled to be wearing their Spacefish Army. That makes my heart swell and that the long crooked road it took to get here was all worthwhile.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Each step feels like a big accomplishment at the time. I still remember getting the first order on the website from a name I didn't recognize! Every day brings new challenges in not only maintaining but growing our brand. With COVID cancellations and restrictions over the last few years, we had a very rocky start to our first three tradeshows debuts. We arrived at the Diving Expo DEMA last year with our hopes high to finally make a big impression in the industry, and we did. Neon sign blazing and all, it was the first show we had appointments made in advance and a nonstop flow of people who already knew the brand and were so excited to visit the booth and place orders. We have been pretty nonstop busy ever since. After years of putting my heart and soul into it, I was pretty overwhelmed when it felt like everything had finally "clicked." We are now sold in over 120 stores and eight scuba yachts worldwide, and I am particularly proud that we have reached the shores of Okinawa and Fiji.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Spacefish Army is my baby, and it is a struggle for me to pass important responsibilities off to others. I have been burned in the past working with the wrong people, and it is really hard to gain that trust back, although it is vital for our long-term growth. Finding those key people has definitely been the hardest part.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Know your customer! I have read this time and time again on business pages, and it is vital information that I can't imagine trying to start a business without. If you don't know who you are designing for, how do you know what to make? If you know your customer, you know the purpose of your products.
- Ask for LOTS of advice, but don't always take it. This has been true for any part of life. I have found that a lot of successful people forget what it's like to struggle, and their advice is often too generic since they assume you know the steps to get there when you don't even know what step 1 is.
- Stay Passionate, and don't forget to celebrate how far you've come. Business is HARD. If you aren't truly passionate and believe in what you are doing, you might not have the nerve to keep going when it gets tough. You can't have big victories without lots of small ones, so be sure to celebrate them all!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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