International Women's Day - Lauren Wardley
To celebrate International Women's Day, Ocean Independence gained some fascinating insight from Lauren Wardley on her entrepreneurial spirit, motivation and passion.
Founder of Ethical Yacht Wear, Lauren Wardley likes to keep occupied. She founded One Back in 2018, an ocean-conscious t-shirt company giving something back for each product sold. Then in 2019 she continued to launch Ethical Yacht Wear, filling a wide gap for sustainable uniforms in the superyacht market. All this was achieved whilst working on a busy yacht. As a long-standing stewardess on M/Y SAMADHI, Lauren found the incredible environment on board fostered a great sense of growth despite gender, which further inspired her to explore opportunities aligned with a clear respect for the environment. Celebrating International Women's Day 2022, Ocean Independence gained some insight from this dynamic professional on her vision, motivation and passion.
Lauren's journey within the superyachting environment over the last seven years has been something of an upward curve. From taking her STCW in Fort Lauderdale in 2016 to a full-time career in the industry alongside running two businesses, her life could be described as something of a whirlwind.
"I started out with my love for hospitality and my passion for the ocean and travel," Lauren recalls. "I had previously worked in all areas of bars, restaurants, cafes and ended up managing hotels. I have a huge desire to make people happy and to create experiences that they can really appreciate. When I found out I could do all of this on the ocean, I was sold! It was not exactly the career path I intended to follow however I am so very grateful I did."
Lauren did face challenges along the way as a stewardess, the biggest of which she has found to be the issue of sustainability. "It is hard when you see yachts that do not recycle or consider their environmental impact. It hurts! It is good to see that SAMADHI has done everything possible and continues to work in the direction of making a big eco-focus on board. Furthermore, the work-life balance can be very tricky – if nothing else, I have found that the little personal time you have is always a big driver to achieve as much as possible. Therefore, I have tried to learn languages, to play instruments, become knowledgeable about the stock market and the best thing yet…build Ethical Yacht Wear."
With that in mind, Lauren's remarkable journey behind her brand is a great story to encourage others, "My inspiration for Ethical Yacht Wear stems all the way back to another company I own called One Back" she explains. "I took the vision for One Back from Toms Shoes and 4oceans. These were two newer brands (at the time), and I absolutely loved their business models, with their focus for sales giving back to social issues. I started One Back to sell organic cotton (non harmful) t-shirts to sponsor ocean clean up and research.
"I realised businesses could be used as a force of good and I want to do just that - make a change and be able to help the planet and its people through commerce. I also quickly learned that the garment industry is the world's second largest polluter, just after the oil industry. So, there I was, with my little One Back branded T-shirts, and fortunate to have an article written about me in Dockwalk's 'Crew Created' section. Before I knew it, I had yachts contacting me asking if they could use my ethical, sustainable t-shirts for their uniform. Initially, I was somewhat protective over my branded tees with my logo, however, before I could think twice I realised what an amazing change it could be to offer the industry a sustainable alternative to their current uniform - I jumped straight on it! I did not want to just stop there either – I felt like I wanted to not just give back by providing sustainable, Fairtrade uniform but also to sponsor an organisation that pays disadvantaged people on the front line of ocean pollution who pick up plastics as their job. Obviously, the knock-on effect is twofold – it reduces plastic pollution and decreases global poverty. The Plastic Bank has just achieved their billionth bottle from entering the ocean!"
Evolving Ethical Yacht Wear from an idea to a brand was quickly achieved, with Lauren establishing the website, purchasing the domain name and hiring a freelancer during a 12-day crossing. In her words, "I just winged the rest!". Having always been interested in entrepreneurship and business, Lauren drew on the relevant books she'd read and podcasts that helped her through tedious laundry duties, stating "I applied everything I had learned and somehow, very fortunately, it worked. It has taken some time and we are still growing and evolving all the time which is so very exciting."
It is also fair to say that the yachting industry has truly taken Ethical Yacht Wear to their hearts, with Lauren being overwhelmed by the support. "I have been blown away by the reception of Ethical Yacht Wear from the industry. It makes me very happy that sustainability is something people are interested in, and my dream is for every yacht in the industry to be using sustainable, Fairtrade uniforms. In all honesty, my dream endorsements come from my friends, current clients and those that have been with us from the beginning. Those guys are my biggest supporters and their testimonials, love and support mean so much."
Since the brand has become so highly respected, Lauren's aspirations for the years ahead are certainly achievable, and she remain wholly driven by her core values. "I would like to be the largest supplier of yacht uniform in the industry, supporting our clients in a switch from non-sustainable to sustainable in every way we can," she affirms. "I currently run an ambassadors club called the SEA club (Seastainable, Ethical Ambassadors Club) and a huge goal of mine is to continue to bring like-minded industry individuals together to continue to make a change for the better. Currently we run beach clean ups and initiatives to give back and make a positive change within the industry". Regularly expanding the Ethical Yacht Wear collection, Lauren launched the Eco Hybrid Range in 2021. This line of skorts and shorts has revolutionised the bottom half of a uniform, made from recycled stretch performance material incorporating ocean-bound plastic. New lines are in the pipeline, and it will be interesting to see what evolves next.
A certified yoga teacher and music-lover, Lauren tries to make the most of any spare time she can get, explaining, "Music is my life – I listen to it and watch live shows as much as possible. I also do a lot of yoga in my spare time and make sure I try and get in the ocean on an almost daily basis!". Clearly with such a zest for life and determined attitude, Lauren has the energy for plenty more exciting achievements to come in the future.