Can a passion project turn into a career?

  • Jaffrey resident Ethan Abitz models a crew neck shirt and a hat from his clothing line, American Coastal Apparel, which he started earlier this year.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • In addition to selling products out of his dorm room and online, Abitz has a store presence at Shacks Clothing Store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.  COURTESY PHOTO

  • Abitz sells a lot of his clothing out of his Sacred Heart University dorm room.  COURTESY PHOTO

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, November 14, 2016 5:22PM

What started as a doodle of a sailboat and a love of the coast has turned into a passion-project Ethan Abitz hopes to one day turn into a career. 

Abitz, a Jaffrey resident and freshman at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, started a nautically-themed clothing company – American Coastal Apparel – back in March. Originally investing $250 worth of Christmas money into the business, Abitz has already sold about $8,000 worth of product. 

“I’ve always enjoyed clothing, but I started getting fed up with how ridiculously priced everything was,” said the management and marketing major, of his decision to start the company. “I have always taken pride in my presentation and I wanted to start making clothes that I liked.”

Inspiration for the nautically-themed shirts, sweatshirts, and hats, came from Abitz’s love of the coast. Abitz said that in addition to having family that lives on lakes, he has also spent many summers vacationing in Maine or on the Cape. 

Abitz enjoys the coastal waters so much, that he has built charity into his business model to help combat coastal pollution. Presently, five-percent of every sale goes to Surfrider Foundation, a charity that devotes resources to helping the oceans. 

“I don’t want this to just be about clothing,” said Abitz. “I want this company to do some good for the world.”

While a large percentage of his business is conducted via word-of-mouth and sales out of his dorm room, Abitz says his website – www.usacoastal.com – and a few clothing stores in Massachusetts that have picked up his clothing also attribute to his sales. 

“I think this is something that speaks to everyone,” said Abitz. “A lot of people like sailing and the ocean."

Abitz said he didn’t have any specific goals in mind when he started American Coastal Apparel, but he has been encouraged by the growth of the company in a short period of time. 

“After I sold out of my first 20 shirts in two weeks, I realized this could be something real,” said Abitz. “If you asked me eight months ago where I thought this would go, I would have told you that it would have said in high school.”

Abitz doesn’t know if American Coastal Apparel will ever be a company he can sustain a healthy pay check from – currently every dollar made is invested back into the company – but he sees a future in entrepreneurship for himself. 

“You have to go with the waves and not fight the tide,” said Abitz.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.