Alumna grows eco-focused clothing company dedicated to ridding world's oceans of plastic

January 28, 2022

Ambition Unleashed: Mckenna Haz wears her commencement robe outside in a field of flowers

For Mckenna Haz ’21, the ocean is life.

Having grown up on Vancouver Island on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, the entrepreneur has transformed her dreams of a world free from plastic pollution into a quickly growing business — with multiple international clients.

Haz, who founded SEAAV Athletics while still an undergraduate student on Quinnipiac’s Mount Carmel Campus, was recently one of 30 businesses selected to be part of the WBENC Collegiate Accelerator, sponsored by Walmart and FedEx where she earned a $5,000 grant. Since then, she has been in contact with the diversity team and apparel buyers at Walmart.  

Her company makes sustainable athletic wear using recycled materials. All of its products are made with post-consumer water bottles, and with each purchase, the company removes one pound of waste from the shoreline.

“I feel so fortunate because I am so passionate about what I am doing — and helping these larger corporations adopt a more sustainable model is how I have opened the door to removing more waste from the oceans,” Haz said. “I grew up with the ocean practically in my backyard and always knew I wanted to create something that could have a positive impact on the world.”

“I’ve known since I was young that I’d create a business with a purpose in my lifetime,” Haz said. “What I didn’t know is that it was going to be fueled while I was in university.”

During her first year at Quinnipiac, as part of her intro to entrepreneurship class, students had to pitch a business idea for their final project — and she pitched SEAAV Athletics.

“The thought of up-cycling something and repurposing it into something else had been spiraling around in my head for a few years,” she said. “It clicked during that semester that I should combine my two passions: athletics and the ocean.” 

Although her ambition was rooted long before she came to the East Coast, Quinnipiac gave her the keys to unlock it.

“I can still vividly remember the 2011 Pacific earthquake, which led to tons of plastic waste entering the world’s oceans,” Haz said. “Since then, I have been passionate about my oceans. I want to raise awareness of the importance of recycling.”

In SEAAV Athletics’ first year of business, the company diverted more than 170,000 plastic bottles through its ocean clean-up initiatives with an area partner, and then repurposed them into its apparel. SEAAV Athletics’ big goal is to remove 1 million plastic bottles from shorelines by 2025.

“Sustainability and ethical manufacturing was one of my top priorities when launching SEAAV,” she said.

SEAAV uses biodegradable packaging from a company that plants a tree with every bag purchased. SEAAV manufactures their apparel in a WRAP-certified factory in Indonesia, and they use over 80% RPET (recycled polyester) in each of their pieces.

She has started sustainably manufacturing in the U.S., this has allowed her to reduce her company's carbon footprint, with less inventory coming from overseas. It has also allowed her to manufacture faster and create more exclusive collections.

Haz majored in advertising and integrated communications and minored in entrepreneurship and small business management at Quinnipiac. 

She credits several professors at Quinnipiac for helping her build a strong foundation for her success. Her professors helped her with her business plan, traveled to business competitions with her, helped with her pitch and opened the door to their connections. 

“They’ve done it all. I’m forever grateful,” she said.

SEAAV started as a project for a class for Haz, and as she really started to get into it, it no longer felt like work for her, but rather, creating. She did everything from the logo to the website, all within Quinnipiac’s Arnold Bernhard Library.

“I’ll be honest, it’s really difficult running a business in college, especially if you’re a solopreneur,” she said. However, she said she is looking to grow her business, and is looking to Quinnipiac alumnae for help to fuel her growing company.

Haz urges those who want to start a business in college to get creative and have good time management. She advises those that it is a massive time commitment, so it is imperative to make sure they have the bandwidth to handle taking on a business.

“I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by amazing friends, family, professors, and my Quinnipiac Athletics coaches supporting me,” she said. “It is fundamental to have people power. Without them, SEAAV would not exist today.”

While at Quinnipiac, Haz was a successful rugby player. Rugby has taught Haz many lessons, with two of them being:

  • When you get hit, you get back up and keep going.

  • If you can build a community of people that believe in your mission, you will be successful not only in sports and business, but in life.

Haz urges those who want to get into entrepreneurship to “follow your gut, it never fails you; and surround yourself with good people.”

However, she hasn’t just devoted her life to creating a business dedicated to cleaning the world’s oceans. She has also rolled up her sleeves — and pants — to be part of the cleaning process. Haz has spent the past few months in Florida assisting in ocean cleanup.

“I am extremely passionate about this,” she said. “There is so much we can do. I am proud to be able to make even a tiny impact on this global problem.”

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