Blue Ocean Life is a clothing brand with a mission much bigger than stylish t-shirts and hoodies. Founder Mike Coughlin wants to help solve what he believes is a mental-health crisis facing the nation.
Coughlin, 40, has faced his own struggles, and the ocean played a key role in his healing. He was four and a half years old when his 12-year-old brother died in an accident.
“After he died, we survived as a family by going to the ocean, Manomet Beach in Plymouth and the Cape,” he said. “My father said that salt water heals all wounds. I would learn as I was older that I had post-traumatic stress when I was a child. That transformed into anxiety.”
Coughlin turned to computers and schoolwork to heal or at least distract himself. After graduating from Boston University, he moved to New York City to work at a startup digital marketing agency.
“I gained a lot of experience there and I was very ambitious,” he said. “In 2010, I left and moved to Boston to start a new digital marketing agency. I was trying to proceed with what I thought was my lifelong journey of becoming a successful entrepreneur, and then someday creating a foundation to honor my brother. Things didn’t go very well.”
Coughlin was forced out of the company and was suddenly going broke.
“There was only one place for me to go, and that was to live with my parents,” he said. “When you’re in your late 20s, it’s a humbling experience, but a lot of people have been there and learned hard lessons.”
His parents had moved to Cape Cod from Brockton, so Coughlin spent hours walking along Chapin Beach in Dennis.
“I was putting together the idea for a new business concept, but also benefiting from being on the beach and near the ocean,” he said “I realized that being near the beach and being in the sun was good for my anxiety. I started to research whether the ocean helped with anxiety and mental health. Sure enough, I discovered a book called ‘Blue Mind’ [by Wallace J. Nichols] that explains the science of how being near water will make you happier and healthier. The light bulb went off. It was time for my professional and personal missions to merge.”
That was the beginning of Blue Ocean Life, which focuses on helping people live happier and healthier lives. The slogans on Blue Ocean Life’s clothing include “After the Ocean Comes The Rainbow” and “Saltwater Heals Everything.” One dollar of every sale is donated to the International Surf Therapy Organization, a California-based nonprofit.
Coughlin continues to work as a freelance digital strategy consultant while building Blue Ocean Life. At first, his products were sold only online, but he’s recently discovered what he said is a better approach. Last spring, he took his wares to a Love Live Local popup event.
“I sold a lot more than I did in months prior on the website,” he said. “It was a turning point where I knew that I needed to focus on the Cape. And since then, things have really started to turn around because I’m interacting with various small business owners, chambers of commerce, and people in wellness and mental health in the Cape area. I’m ramping up for what I believe is going to be a big year, turning Blue Ocean Life into a platform online and offline for people on the Cape to support a powerful mission and to support each other.”
Blue Ocean Life