Her Freedom Project with Steph Gabriel

Meet Steph Gabril. Sunshine Coast’s very own marine princess saving the ocean one bikini at a time. Being 28 years young, she has visited more countries than most see in a life time (52 countries and counting) and has made it her soul fulfilling mission to conserve and preserve the ocean in any way she can. While living in the Cayman Islands and working with Atlantic sting rays her environmental journey began. Upon returning home to study full time (and work two jobs I might add) she launched Oceanzen Bikini, and this really was just the beginning.
Can you tell us about your Freedom Project?
Oceanzen bikini supports a cleaner ocean by using a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets from the ocean and was inspired through a raw and sincere passion for the ocean, but more importantly was inspired through discovering how polluted our oceans are. I’ve been involved with some incredible research projects around the world, From researching humpback whales in Ecuador, living in the remote Galapagos Islands researching Sea Lions and Sharks and the effects of climate change, along with extensive coral reef analysis’s, I learned of the effects humans were having on the ocean.

The ocean is our last true wilderness that we have left to explore and it needs to be protected. Research shows that only 1 in 5 plastic bottles actually get recycled after single use and every second approximately 1,500 plastic bottles end up either in the ocean or in waste landfills.These numbers are rising. Our oceans are becoming heavily impacted from marine debris, which often consists of single-use plastic packaging; plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic straws, all of which can potentially take 1000 years to break down. It was in my third year of Uni studying environmental science that I launched oceanzen, and it’s been a whirlwind since 🙂


What does “Freedom” look like to you and how will you know you’ve made it there?
Freedom to me is working for myself. Everyday you can wake up, brush your teeth and go to your job, working for someone else. OR you can work for you, doing something that you love and believe in everyday, and by your rules and your time. At the moment, I’m the only one that manages oceanZen. I do it all (apart from social media) which I was able to hand over to an intern, but I have built this little empire on my own, and a dream would be to have a huge office, with lots of awesome, passionate free spirits joining me as we all work towards saving our oceans.
What excites your most about your Freedom Project?
I love it when we receive emails from girls who genuinely feel as though they have learnt something from us. Whether that be to say no plastic bags, recycle more, or just respect the ocean and marine life a little more, that only inspires and motivates me to keep going. Lately have even had a couple of brands email me for advice about how they can make their business more sustainable. It can be as simple as switching your packing to something more eco-friendly and avoiding plastic! Small changes can make a big difference. This excites me with OceanZen, because everyday I get to help make a difference to our oceans.
What has been your major hurdle throughout the journey of your Freedom Project? Have you over come it? If so, how? If not, why not?
Hmmm definitely motivation. It can be really isolating owning your own business, and quite often it can be disheartening if your not seeing the results you envision. It has been one hell of a rollercoaster with ocean zen, with lots of laughs but plenty of tears. It can be challenging to pick yourself up and try to keep moving forward when you feel as though your hitting brick walls, but my advice is to ride the wave, hold on tight and stick it out, because when you come up for air it’s awesome 🙂
What would your advice be to women who have yet to start their Freedom Project?
Start yesterday! Don’t waste another second doing something that doesn’t bring you happiness. We all have to sometimes work shitty jobs in order to get where we want to be, but as long as you don’t let it break your spirit and as long as you continue to stay motivated to follow your freedom!! When I launched OceanZen, I dived straight into it, and asked questions later haha. Life is now. Use it 🙂
Now, to the exciting part, tell us about the ING campaign you are currently involved in? How did you hear about ING’s campaign and what do you think helped you succeed in getting them to donate such a hectic amount of money for your cause?
So exciting!! Applications were well and truly over in February for the May intake, but someone pulled out last minute. I heard about ING’S campaign through an event I’ve attended over the last two years called Rad livin by Don’t Tell Summer. The event is for anyone who wants to/has launched their own business and wanting to do something rad with their lives and we always walk away so inspired. They have kindly donated $15,000 to the crowdfunding campaign, however the catch is that I have to raise an additional $25,000 in 27 days in order to keep their donation, if I don’t they will sadly withdraw their donation. I say, challenge accepted! Passion and motivation have got me this far 🙂
What will the donations directly go towards?
If we make it to $40.000 the funds will go towards:
– As we grow and begin to ship across international waters into countries only dreamed, we need to produce more stock. The sustainable fabric is more expensive to produce due to the recycling system of repurposing recycled fishing nets and plastic bottles, and therefore we can only afford limited quantities. With every bikini purchase, our customers are reminded with a strong message of how they can help save the ocean and we want to keep doing GOOD for our oceans, by having more girls rocking our sustainable bikini’s.
The brand is small and completely self- funded, however has caught the attention of an incredible entrepreneurial program held by RICHARD BRANSON! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to join Richard Branson for a week of business coaching and intensive training with 30 other entrepreneur business owners from around the world. This is a rare opportunity to learn, leverage and grow OceanZen into a global network and help positively impact our environment and oceans on a larger scale, with the opportunity to pitch to potential investors!We envision OceanZen to be more than bikinis! We would love to design and create more sustainable products that can positively impact our environment. We are in the design phase of launching our sustainable eco-water bottle to encourage our customers to say no to single-use plastic bottles, and would love to launch this product in October. Globally, 80 BILLION plastic water bottles are produced annually with 80% of those ending in landfill or the oceans, which then potentially take anywhere from 500-1000 years to break down.
If we reach our $60,000 stretch goal:

Our ultimate goal is to help save the ocean, in as many ways as possible, as fast as we can.

  • Will cover our ‘8 ways to save the ocean’ film included in some of our pledge rewards, which will help educate viewers how they can make small changes to their lifestyle that will make a BIG difference to the environment.
  • Our dream is to align with a marine conservation organisation in a partnership and collaborate with an event and product to raise awareness on a global scale. We want the world to know about the threats our oceans face and help be the change!
  • Contribute to branching out our sustainable swimwear styles into more variety for ALL ages.. Yup we want to bring out a matching mums and bubs range!
  • MIAMI SWIM WEEK! The largest and most internationally recognised swim show in the world, we would love to rock the catwalk in our sustainable bikinis, drawing attention to the global issue of marine debris. We want to strut that catwalk representing our message for sustainability with the strongest voice and DISRUPT THE FASHION INDUSTRY!!! Our stretch goal won’t completely fund Miami swim week, however it would set us up through the application process and event foundations.
  • If we reach our tipping point we will donate 10% of profits to a non-profit, marine conservation organisation that aligns with our values for a cleaner ocean.


How can people help you achieve your goal?

I will be completely humbled by any donation, and apart from feeling awesome knowing you have contributed to help saving our oceans, we also have some awesome exclusive rewards on offer to say THANK YOU!

Anyone can help achieve our goal by:

  • Sharing our campaign with your friends and community through facebook, Instagram, email, word of mouth or any creative outlet or platform you have.
  • Support OceanZen by making a donation and helping us to ‘startsomegood’.

You can donate here.

If you want to follow more of Steph’s journey, you can find Oceanzen Bikini on Facebook and Instagram too.