A Measure of What Moves Us
You are never more than 85 miles away, at any point in Michigan, from one of the Great Lakes. This known fact is the inspirational basis for the lifestyle apparel and accessory brand, EightyFive Miles. Co-founded in December 2016 by siblings Brian Schwartz and Carey Potter, as a way to celebrate the natural beauty of the Great Lakes and give back to those whose conservation efforts protect them.
Having grown up in Grand Rapids, Brian and Carey have deep-rooted memories of packing up the car and heading out for a day of running along the lakeshore and diving into Lake Michigan. Those memories resurfaced for Brian after living out-of-state for some time. He found his way back to his hometown with the intent to explore new work opportunities, live closer to family, and create those same memories at the lake with his children.
Brian and Carey had discussed opening up their own business that evoked the memories spent around the Great Lakes. Furthermore, they wanted to give back to these cherished coastlines that beckon families, locals, and travelers each year. When they came across the 85 miles fact, they began tinkering with that idea and worked with a local marketing company, Reagan Marketing + Design, to assist in establishing the EightyFive Miles brand.
Brian Swartz and Carey Potter
Apparel and accessories
One percent of annual sales is donated to the Alliance for the Great Lakes and Michigan League of Conservation Voters
The front profile of a boat floating in the water became the signature logo that launched the business. The design was printed on various apparel and product items that centered around the lake lifestyle and a percentage of annual sales would be dedicated to Great Lakes conservation efforts. With the merchandise only available through their website, they needed to develop traction in the industry to gather a following and stock their brand in storefronts.
Brian sought out advice on successes in the industry from someone who had grown a brand from simple means to something big. Brian met with the owner of Cherry Republic, whose products and charitable giving has found the company national recognition and statewide success, but had started as a popup business selling t-shirts. The honest conversation surprised Brian with an epiphany after a quote from the owner, “I’m in the business to give money away,” put some perspective on where he wanted to steer the EightyFive Miles boat. “That was the spin for the company, to put the mission first and put everything else second,” Brian explains.
Conserve. Educate. Celebrate. The simple, yet focused statement signifies the vitality of each action and respectively a chosen lifestyle.
Brian explained the mission derived theme, “With conservation in the forefront, we also have this mission to educate consumers about the need for conservation, the need for protecting our natural resources – whether it’s the land, air or water – but also to celebrate that as well.” Brian doesn’t perceive making a profit and doing what’s right as conflict but rather as mutually inclusive goals. Dedicating one percent of all sales to go to conserving the Great Lakes is first and foremost, the mission behind the brand.
"With conservation in the forefront, we also have this mission to educate consumers about the need for conservation, the need for protecting our natural resources – whether it’s the land, air or water – but also to celebrate that as well.”
The lifestyle brand encourages that everyone can make a difference and support Michigan’s natural resources. Customers can simply share in supporting the Great Lakes through their purchases.
EightyFive Miles partnered up with two organizations, Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, that shared in the same beliefs and whose efforts help advocate for sound policies. Brian had the opportunity to join the Michigan League of Conservation Voters on a variety of events throughout the state and nation’s capital to advocate the importance of conserving Michigan’s land and water.
“Our mission is to talk about conservation but also educate as well. There’s nothing more that I want for my kids to be able to enjoy the Great Lakes as I did, and I want their kids to be able to enjoy the Great Lakes too,” Brian remarked.
While EightyFive Miles was not originally intended to be an advocating brand – the notion of protecting the lakes where he adventured in his youth and now shares memories with his kids has personalized the brand’s mission.
A search through the EightyFive Miles website and blog postings advocate for everything from cleaning up trash along the lakeshores, educating about Great Lakes’ invasive species, and calls for action on land and water policies in Michigan. These posts have resonated with many Michigan natives who find the brand and intent to be inspirational. “If you have the right mission and story, people can connect to it,” says Brian. The EightyFive Miles brand encourages that everyone can make a difference and support Michigan’s natural resources. Customers can simply share in supporting the Great Lakes through their purchases.
For Brian, 85 isn’t just a number, “it’s a measure of what moves us.”
Families will pack a car and drive for an hour and a half to spend the day splashing, laughing, burying feet in the sand, and eating homemade sandwiches on a sun-bleached towel. It’s what moves us to create these same memories with our loved ones and share with tourists the best local spots and nearby kayak rentals. EightyFive Miles spreads the word to preserve and protect land and water resources for future generations.