LEOMINSTER — For as long as she can remember, city native Lauren Conti has been drawn to the ocean.
“I have been surfing since I was eight years old, so I practically grew up in the water,” the 19-year-old Clark University sophomore said. “I also have such a soft spot for animals. So many animals are dying and getting hurt from pollution and trash.”
A business she launched last fall has evolved into a passion project for the female entrepreneur and competitive surfer. A portion of sales of the handmade and poured candles Conti creates through LLOceans goes to The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization developing and scaling technologies to rid the oceans of plastic.
The endeavor is near and dear to the lifelong Leominster resident’s heart as a lover of all things ocean.
“As I am an avid surfer and love nature I wanted to give back to the environment,” Conti said of the inspiration behind turning her entrepreneurial efforts into something more than just nice candles. “It is an important cause to me because I surf and spend so much time in the ocean.”
She spent time gathering materials including jars, wicks, wax, oils, and more before launching LLOceans on Instagram and sells her candles at school while she works on building a website.
“It was a slow start to get it more well-known on campus but eventually people knew me and my business,” she said of growing her business. “One of the professors on campus even wanted me to join more entrepreneurship clubs and events.”
She offers a variety of delectable candles and recently launched new Christmas scents and packaging. When asked what the reaction to LLOceans has been from her circle, Conti shared that she has gotten “a lot of positive feedback” from many people and that her family and friends “thought this idea was really cool.”
The Conti clan has had a cottage up in York, Maine, for generations, a spot where Lauren and her extended family have spent many a summer day splashing around Long and Shorts Sands beaches and surfing together. It was here that her deep love of the ocean was born — and what inspires her to do what she’s doing through LLOceans.
Her parents and younger brother are incredibly proud of the budding environmentalist and business owner. Her mom Jill Conti praises her daughter’s efforts, saying “she’s passionate about cleaning up our oceans.”
“It’s devastating if you know the real statistics,” Jill Conti said. “Can you imagine 800 million pounds of plastic in our oceans every year? Animals get confused and think it’s food. The plastic can’t be digested, and creatures die. It’s so sad.”
She said her daughter has always loved animals and at one point in time she was thinking about being a marine biologist or veterinarian “but she can’t imagine the sadness of putting an animal down, so she chose to put into preventing death of our planets’ beautiful sea creatures.”
She went on to say that she admires Lauren and the work she is doing to bring awareness to the ocean.
“In a time of much craziness going on in this world now, we need more heartwarming stories.”
Lauren Conti said launching her company has helped her “learn and grow so many skill sets” — and develop a thick skin.
“Not only do I know how to start a business, but I also know how to market, sell, deal with money, etc.,” she said. “This company also helped me learn how to get rejected and bounce back from that as a businesswoman.”
She’s currently between two majors and trying to decide whether to do marketing or economics with an entrepreneurship minor. Either way, Lauren Conti said she plans to continue advocating for the ocean and all the creatures who call it home.
“I hope to do something in business whether that be running my own or working for someone else,” she said. “I would love to do something with a major surf brand!”