Author: Skyler Spaulding
In 2020, the Portland-based commercial fishing boat, the Emmy Rose, sank off-shore of Massachusetts, where all crew members perished at sea. As a fishing family who understand the dangers of the industry, Taylor and Nikki Strout’s hearts broke for the families of the crew members.
In an effort to help the families and spread awareness, Nikki and Taylor held a fundraiser using their platform: Rugged Seas, the company they started to upcycle used fishing gear into bags, backpacks, totes and more. There was overwhelming support from the families, fishermen, and people all over the country. Over 7,000 shirts were sold and almost $70,000 was raised within a couple of days.
When we first came across Rugged Seas here at Sawyer Island Consulting, we found that the Maine outerwear merchants and fishing industry activists shared many of our goals for our city, state and our environment.
SIC has been working with Rugged Seas to grow their company since 2020 and it’s been a partnership made in Maine heaven.
“After hearing their story, my co-worker Katherine and I got really excited because, not only are they Mainers, but they also have a mission which is all about supporting the fishing industry and spreading awareness about the hardships that industry endures,” says SIC brand strategist Sofia Canning.
Fishing For A Voice
Taylor and Nicole Strout were born in Maine and are raising their three boys in the state. They hail from a fishing family long dedicated to representing fishermen. Through Rugged Seas, the Strouts offer a voice to their community, drawing attention to their struggles, and giving back to the industry.
Taylor, the son of a lifelong fisherman, founded Gulf of Maine Fisherman Apparel in 2012. He started by selling hoodies for local Maine fishermen to show pride for the industry. After returning from Dutch Harbor, Taylor felt the stressors that commercial fishermen in Maine were facing needed to be addressed.
While working on ideas to represent fishermen and their way of life, Taylor decided to repurpose bibs and other fishing gear into quality apparel. Fishing bibs are a recognizable tool due to their bright colors, waterproof material, and presence in fisheries everywhere. Rugged Seas offers a line of bags made from recycled and remnant bib material, as well as apparel to promote fishermen and the industry.
Rugged Seas isn’t just for the fishermen who work through any conditions to bring seafood to our table, it’s for everyone who loves, respects, and wants to show support for the industry.
Match Made in Maine Heaven
At Sawyer Island Consulting, we are committed to Rugged Seas’ mission, along with growing their company and profits.
Canning says, “My goal is to first spread awareness about the industry and make people more aware of how the seafood they’re eating got here and there’s a story behind it. When you get into the actual product and what they’re selling, it’s really different. Everyone loves a good tote bag and you don’t see this elsewhere. It’s pretty unique.”
SIC helps Rugged Seas navigate strategically and financially to achieve their potential. As Canning said, “there’s so much opportunity with Rugged Seas that sometimes it’s difficult to figure out which one to capitalize on. They’ve had so many opportunities thrown at them, so to be able to support Nikki and sort through those and decide which one is going to be the most valuable.”
Beyond sharing their mission, we have concrete monetary goals for Rugged Seas.“My goal for Rugged Seas, beyond just sharing the mission, is to make the company profitable and we want to reach $1 million in sales. We are on track for that, so we want to keep that going through initiatives like paid advertising, selling down at the OpBox, handing out flyers, and every little thing that you can do for a start-up to meet that number goal is important. When I look back, there’s a lot of different things going on to move this company forward,” says Canning.
We are excited to work with a hard-working family with a mission to both help the fishing community and bring exceptional apparel and bags to the market.
- Skyler Spaulding, Sawyer Island Consulting Marketing Intern