Profile: Ocean & Sea
Ocean & Sea is a design and branding studio founded in 2013 by Brendan and Amanda O’Shaughnessy. What began as a series of self-structured creative challenges, called the Daydreams Project, grew into a full-fledged lifestyle brand. The sentiment behind their work is to Dream Again, and everything in their line of apparel, prints, and accessories celebrates this spirit of wonder and exploration.
How did you develop the concept for Ocean & Sea?
Amanda: The concept of Ocean & Sea came about while we were at the beach on our honeymoon. I was trying to figure out how to help my kids pronounce my new last name, O’Shaughnessy. I realized while looking out at the water that the first part of our name sounded a lot like “ocean” and the end sounded like “sea” and put them together—Ocean & Sea!
What are your respective backgrounds?
Brendan: Growing up I was fortunate to have a slew of artists in my family that lit my art making torch from as early as I can remember. I started off by drawing and painting non-stop but it wasn’t until my teenage years when I found my voice through photography that my path became clear. From there, my interests turned to printmaking and finally graphic design.
Amanda: I’ve always loved art. Brendan and I were both in the same art department for our degrees at UMKC. I love to draw, paint and enjoy inspiring others through teaching art.
Was Ocean & Sea your first entrepreneurial venture?
Brendan: My first entrepreneurial effort came in the form of a landscaping company I created when I was thirteen. From there, I started a clothing company with some friends at the time when I was seventeen. Third time's a charm, right?
How has your vision for Ocean & Sea evolved since you first founded it?
Brendan: Evolution has been the theme since day one. We’ve evolved from a creative project to a full-fledged lifestyle brand and now we’re focusing our efforts into building our client list through design and branding services. (We’ll continue to pump out products though!)
How did the two of you meet?
Amanda: We met in 2005 from overlapping friend groups. Random story—the first time we met, we ended up playing airsoft at our friend’s house. From there it was pretty much love at first sight.
What are your respective roles in the company? What is it like working with your spouse?
Amanda: Brendan is the leader of the company, for sure. He does most of the networking, social media, graphic design, product design and is generally the face of the company. I help with ideation, drawings, problem-solving, accounting, shop hours, some social media and taxes. Working with a spouse can be both challenging and rewarding. All in all, it feels good to be doing something creative together!
Why do you think “LA KC NY” resonates with so many people?
Brendan: While the local KC pride boom has been tremendous for both morale and business opportunities it can also feel too introspective at times. I think our LA KC NY design became a banner to how amazing Kansas City is while dually connecting to a larger coast-to-coast narrative. Secondly, I truly don’t know how to explain it but there is an uncanny connection between those three cities that I had no idea existed until hearing the thousands of stories since its release.
Where did the inspiration come from to build your mobile sailboat pop-up shop?
Amanda: The mobile sailboat pop-up shop was designed to help us create an engaging shop experience for our customers. It was inspired by the “wind wagons” (wagons with sails from the 1800’s) that sailed the plains and helped us to make the connection from our name to the Midwest. We were able to transform our two-dimensional sailboat logo into an interactive pop-up shop thanks to the support of our amazing followers.
What have been some of the challenges of small business ownership? What have been some of the best moments?
Brendan: In our present day culture there seems to be a huge disconnect in perception versus reality and that rings true with owning a business. We’re still only a tiny team to many people's surprise, this gives us the flexibility to stay nimble but challenges our ability in juggling tasks and determining when it’s appropriate to seek outside help in accomplishing goals.
Funding our Kickstarter to build a mobile sailboat pop-up shop was one of the many pinch me moments. Funding campaigns are excruciatingly difficult to pull off, honestly in my opinion they end up serving best for marketing purposes (and obviously funding your project). Just like in business, there are always hidden and surprise expenses around every corner!
Who are other artists or designers who inspire you?
Brendan: James Turrell, Stefan Sagmeister, Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Isamu Noguchi, Richard Serra, Kehinde Wiley, Chuck Close & Linnéa Spransy (I could go on for pages).
Amanda: All of the ones Brendan mentioned plus Adam J. Kurtz, Jessica Hische, Timothy Goodwin and Sarah Walsh.
What advice would you give to other aspiring designers or entrepreneurs?
Brendan: Just start. This is going to look different for each person, goal and concept but you simply need to start. Having success in business directly correlates to almost everyone's opinion of modern art, “I could’ve done that.” Actions speak louder than words!
Amanda: I agree with Brendan, don’t wait until you have everything 100% together. We’re always learning and growing.
What makes Kansas City’s creative community unique?
Brendan: We’re basically the largest city that still feels like a town. The synergy that you get from this reality is an enormous amount of collaboration and support unlike any other city. We’re still in a time of growth where there is ample opportunity for small businesses to succeed. If you’re wanting to start a business and live in KC, I truly believe you’re in luck.
Keep an eye out for Ocean & Sea sailing around town in their mobile sailboat pop-up shop, at their downtown Mission studio, and find them at the Made in KC Marketplace on the Plaza.