It Takes Everything You’ve Got; Pandemics, Wildfires & Building A Brand

San Francisco Bay wearing Ocean SF


When I closed my first angel investment of $50,000 I did it sitting on the bathroom floor of an industrial kitchen in Oakland. I was wearing a rubber apron and peeled off my rubber gloves to answer my 11:00 a.m. call. The floor was cold, but it was quiet and private. I was able to sell my vision in 25 minutes in what was possibly the worst set of circumstances.

I put that money in the bank and worked the next fourteen days straight washing dishes, serving at wedding receptions and bottling Gold Bar Whiskey on Treasure Island. The fact that I did this is something I am really proud of. My husband had died unexpectedly a year and a half before. As someone who had expected to live forever his affairs were not exactly in order. I take full responsibility for this as I expected him to live forever as well. Him dying in the middle of raising our children provided more challenges than I could have ever imagined.

That was four years ago. Long enough to earn a college degree. This is what I thought to myself in July as I marked the anniversary of my husbands death. I was standing on the tee box where he made his first hole in one the year before he died. It was early evening and the air was warm and still. The fifth fairway lay before me emerald green with the sky above turning just the slightest shade of pink. Instead of earning a degree I got an education in courage, determination, and the power of love and hard work.

Ocean SF was beginning to take shape in my mind. I had just made my first mid-layer jacket prototypes with the help of a Gucci pattern maker in Los Angeles. I was working with a technical fabric that would keep the cold air out and the warmth in. The fabric was 100% Merino Wool and had the added benefit of keeping you warm even if it got wet. The prototypes turned out better than anyone expected.

After my husband died making the decision to continue to pursue my dream was a difficult one. I had to consider the security of my daughters and ensure they had financial support. Raising two teenagers and starting a business was not the easiest route to take. But, I was passionate and had good advisors. Very good advisors.

Sydney Chaney Thomas

As an environmentalist, avid skier and sailor, with a love of clothes Ocean SF provided a vehicle for my talent in marketing, my obsession with clean water, and my distain of polyester. I knew there was nothing else in the world that would marry my passions more than designing sustainable outdoor wear. I was willing to do anything to make it happen. If I had to work three jobs I would. If I had to work seven days a week I would.

What does it take to build a brand? Everything you’ve got.

During the most difficult times I would open my fathers desk and pull out his metals. It reminded me that I am the daughter of a man who fought in three wars and earned a Bronze Star for bravery and a Purple Heart. I was certainly not going to be a quitter. I called on my courage and persevered.

Squaw Valley wearing Ocean SF – 2019

Now, I own a C Corp and am producing in a pandemic. Does it scare me? Not really. When the worst thing you could ever image happens there’s not much to be afraid of. As I write this there are wildfires sweeping through California. I look out my window the sky is white and full of smoke. When the wind shifts the sun is a dark golden color. This alone makes me even more committed to seeing my environmental vision of sustainable and ethical outdoor wear come to fruition.

Wear your values people.

Love and blessings to all.

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