Sporting a hammerhead shark black cap with a matching black tee, Sydney Bell casually sat behind a table and excitedly greeted students at Stony Brook University’s Shop Red West “Meet the Designer” event on Wednesday, March 27.
The eighteen-year-old freshmen debuted her ocean-inspired apparel for the first time on campus and sold almost half of her inventory within the first hour.
Bell is the founder of Tidal Tee’s Apparel, an online sustainable and affordable apparel company inspired by her love of the ocean that works to raise awareness to current issues regarding the ocean. 100% of her profits go to ocean conservation non-profit organizations each month. So far, she has donated to organizations like The Bimini Sharklab, The Black Fish and, National Geographic’s Pristine Seas.
“Usually I’ll pick like two or three [non-profits] that relate to the design I’m coming out with and then I will put a description of them on social media and I’ll have my followers pick which organization to donate to,” she said.
With the help of her father, Bell set up her company last year during her senior year of high school and began selling her clothing to her friends and eventually her success took off from there.
“I got a lot of support,” she said “and now I’m selling all over the world. I have ambassadors in 22 states and 16 different countries.”
She states her family has definitely been supportive the whole way through and calls her younger brother her personal ambassador.
“He always wears my apparel. We wear the same size so that is convenient for both of us,” she chuckles. “He was my first model and he’s always gotten his friends to buy stuff, too, so he’s like my own little ambassador I guess.”
Bell is a Marine Vertebrate Biology major and knew she wanted to be a marine biologist since the third grade. She’s always been artistic and states her art also inspired her to set off and start her own company.
“My teachers have shown me letters that I have written about scuba diving and different art projects I’ve done of sharks,” she said.
The sustainable designer uses water-based ink in all her tees to eliminate chemical runoff into water sources. They are made in U.S. factories that use solar panels and recycle their water.
One of her three designs that are selling this month at Shop Red West is a limited edition hammerhead tee in blue that is made of 100 percent recycled water bottles that have been recovered from the ocean and other locations.
Her goals for her time here at Stony Brook are to get involved and travel as much as possible.
“I want to do more study abroad trips. There is a study abroad trip in Jamaica that is specifically for marine science,” she said.
After Stony Brook she plans on going to grad school and eventually she’d like to get a position as a researcher where she can go out into the water, scuba dive and travel. She’d like to travel down south as well and do research there.
“That is where there are more sea turtles and sharks and those are two species I’m interested in,” she stated.
“They are really trying to bring different student entrepreneur opportunities on campus and are reaching out to different student entrepreneurs,” she said.
Prior to her success she said, “people thought this would be a crazy idea, but I’ve shown that through hard work and doing something you are passionate about, you can get there [success] and you can do anything you set your mind to.”
Currently Bell is selling three shirt designs and a hammerhead shark cap at Shop Red West and plans on expanding depending on her success here. She usually comes out with 1-2 new designs every month and would like to make her newest designs available on campus as they are released.