An Animal Ecology graduate who has expanded her passion for the marine environment to designing swimwear made from recycled fishing nets is a finalist in a national competition for aspiring young female entrepreneurs.
Ellana ‘El’ Pierce, who graduated from the University of the Sunshine Coast in 2020, is one of five finalists from across Australia invited to pitch their ideas to judges ‘shark tank-style’ at Questacon in Canberra on 16 February 2022.
The 23-year-old currently living at Banksia Beach won the popular vote category of the Kickstarter Challenge out of 82 entries that gained more than 8,000 votes in total on social media over four months last year.
El, who is moving to Cairns, worked as a research assistant after graduation, including with USC’s Seaweed Research Group at its Bribie Island facility, while pursuing her sustainable swimwear line ‘El Adrift’, made from the nylon of fishing nets removed from the ocean.
“I love working hard to get closer to my dream of making a difference while still being creative and using my skills,” she said. “I am so grateful for the Kickstarter Challenge opportunity and excited to be prepping for the finals.”
All five finalists of the challenge, presented by the Accelerator for Enterprising Women and launched last May by the Prime Minister, will share in seed funding, business mentorship support from Visa, and a place in Future Women’s ‘Jobs Academy’.
El said she loved the conservation, business management and tourism aspects of her Animal Ecology degree, which also widened her career options.
“I feel that my experiences and growth through uni allowed me to overcome my fears to launch into my business,” she said.
“When I applied to USC, I wanted a tailored, individual learning experience – and that’s what I got! It was one of the best decisions I have made.
“I loved uni. The degree grew my fascination with the ocean and my drive to make a difference in ocean conservation.”
El intends to show through her business that science and technology “can go hand-in-hand with fashion, beauty and fun”.
“It’s easier than we think to make a difference in what we believe in,” she said.
“I aim to clean the ocean of industrial waste and discarded fishing nets that are detrimental to marine species, and to encourage conscious consumerism in the fashion industry.”
She has already appeared in a segment on Channel 10 News after launching her startup from her kitchen table earlier last year.