Beaches inspire SDSU alumni to create beach towel business

by Christine Whitman, Senior Staff Writer

San Diego is known for its numerous attractions, restaurants and miles of beaches that draw thousands of tourists annually. Those beaches also inspired two former Aztecs to start a beach towel brand called Sand Cloud.

San Diego State alumni Brandon Leibel and Steven Ford, as well as Long Beach State alumnus Bruno Aschidamini, created Sand Cloud with the idea of making better beach towels.

Leibel and Ford met Aschidamini at their former job, American International Group, selling corporate life insurance.

“Bruno became a close friend and mentor to us,” Leibel said. “We brought him on because we all shared a common goal of starting a beach brand, and he has been instrumental in our business growth.”

After they solidified their idea for Sand Cloud, the three left their jobs at AIG on the same day.

A big part of that idea: Give back to the marine life that swims feet away from customers using Sand Cloud towels. Ten percent of new profits are given back to marine life organizations, such as San Diego Coast Keeper and the Surf Rider Foundation.

“Our brand is really beach towels crafted with purpose,” Leibel said. “We want to use the towels to raise awareness to giving back to our beaches, something that inspired our beginning.”

The team believes the beach towel market is untapped and full of potential.

“I feel like there’s no limit to how far we can expand our company,” Ford said. “We know we’re doing something special, and we’re a game-changer.”

Sand Cloud sells a variety of products. The first product was the pillow towel, for which the team raised over $15,000 through a Kickstarter campaign. The team later branched out with a pocket towel, an oversized pocket towel and a bag towel.

“We thought our towels were just going to be used on the beach, but we have people in the Midwest buying towels from states where they’re nowhere near water,” Leibel said. “These customers feel connected with our brand because we’re grassroots.”

Sand Cloud comes up with the designs for the beach towels, but not without the help of more than 6,000 ambassadors used to curate the brand. The team chooses ambassadors by matching the brand to those who fit its ideals.

“We have great engagement with our ambassadors because we are very transparent,” Leibel said. “We don’t guess what they want; we ask what they want.”

The trio began advertising Sand Cloud by simply walking along San Diego’s beaches and talking to potential future customers.

“The first followers we ever got on Instagram were from walking down the beach and asking people to follow our company,” Ford said.

They started with Instagram as their social media platform of choice because they’d seen other companies branding their products effectively in that way.

“The visual aspect of Instagram is what truly sells our product,” Leibel said. “All of our products are on Instagram, and it creates traffic to our website for free.”