Startup Story: Lazy Turtle

A brand that embodies the Naples laid-back beach lifestyle.

Megan Elwell

FOUNDERS: Megan Elwell

YEAR FOUNDED: 2019

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 1 (herself)

The Business: Megan Elwell, 39, founded Naples-based Lazy Turtle in March 2019. The company sells T-shirts, hoodies, rash guards, hats and other beach gear, all featuring its cute turtle logo.

The Idea: When Elwell and her family moved to Naples from Chicago some three years ago, they needed Sunshine State apparel instead of Windy City garb. But they had a hard time finding rash guards and T-shirts they wanted to wear outdoors. So Elwell started making her own. She named the company Lazy Turtle because her three kids had developed a love for sea turtles after seeing all the nests in the area.

The Location: Naples is an ideal place to start a company like this. “My whole family are water people,” says Elwell. “So that’s the brand I wanted to create, and there is inspiration everywhere.”

Her Background: Elwell, who has an MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, worked in corporate finance for about eight years. She also did a stint in the consumer-packaged-goods industry. She drew on this past experience and the marketing fundamentals she’d learned in business school when launching her new venture.

Getting Started: Elwell worked with a graphic designer to create the turtle logo. “I wanted it to be a brand that embodies the Naples laid-back beach lifestyle,” she says. She found a company on the east coast of Florida called SunSafe to supply her shirts. “That was an important thing to me, the quality of the products,” she says. “As a mom with three kids and also wearing the apparel myself, I was sick of buying these shirts that would only last a few wearings. For me, it’s really about wearability, comfort and a soft fabric that makes you reach for the shirt again and again.”

Surfing the Web: Once she had her logo and products, Elwell created an online retail site for the company and uses its social media accounts to help drive traffic to the e-commerce storefront. “We have a pretty healthy social media following,” says Elwell. (The company has more than 1,300 followers on Instagram and 1,100 on Facebook.) “We get about 30 to 40 orders a month online, but I would like to grow that.”

What’s in Store: Lazy Turtle products are currently sold in eight retailers in Florida and the Caribbean. Elwell hopes to at least double the number of retailers she works with in the near future and plans to do that by attending trade shows and making sales calls by phone and email. She also takes part in local events and partners with likeminded nonprofits. Lazy Turtle donates 10% of its profits to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the world’s oldest sea turtle research and conservation group that’s based in Gainesville.

The Money: Elwell has completely self-funded the new business. (She declined to provide specifics in terms of startup costs or revenues.) “I set a budget and I stick to it,” she says. “It’s still early, so right now I’m just trying to stay afloat as I grow.” Though committing to donate 10% of her profits to the Sea Turtle Conservancy can be challenging at times for the fledgling business, she feels it’s an important part of her company’s mission. “I really want to model for my kids and encourage other businesses that what’s most important is giving back and leaving the world a better place than when you found it,” she says. “I do think that consumers more and more are aware of these kinds of things and they are searching for retailers that have a mission beyond just selling a shirt. The average consumer wants to spend money on a good product, but they also want to feel like they are contributing to the greater good in some way.”

The Staff: Elwell is the only full-time employee of the company and handles all aspects of the business herself, though she does work with freelancers at times. She hopes to be in a position to hire staff one day. “That would be delightful,” she says. “As I grow, I would need someone to help with fulfillment and sales. But I don’t have that luxury right now.”

What’s Next: Elwell looks forward to her first full season in business here in Florida. “I would like to increase our local presence,” she says. “I would love for this to be a local Naples company that tourists to the area look for and locals feel good about.”