It might sound like an odd pairing, but fashion and fishing are all in a day’s work for Claire Neaton ’12, cofounder of Salmon Sisters. The unconventional company is run by — you guessed it — two sisters who oversee a sustainable fishery and apparel line based in their home state of Alaska. Together, the Salmon Sisters were named to Forbes’ 2019 “30 Under 30” social entrepreneurs list.
For Salmon Sisters, social enterprise is at the nexus of fashion and fishing, and it’s what makes the company stand out. Neaton and her sister Emma Teal Laukitis not only source high-quality Alaskan salmon, halibut and cod sustainably, but they also raise awareness about the importance of fishing for wild seafood with integrity and the environment in mind. They also donate one can of wild salmon for every item sold on their online shop. To date, Salmon Sisters has donated more than 80,000 cans to the Food Bank of Alaska.
“It’s neat to realize this fish has a purpose — it’s going to feed someone,” said Neaton in an article for Vermont Quarterly. “Customers get a healthy product and they know where the food is coming from. I’ve always been interested in that.”
The inspiration for Salmon Sisters came from Neaton and Laukitis’ upbringing in a commercial fishing family. Their father settled the family on a homestead in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands, nestled between the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean, and raised his daughters to fish and appreciate the environment that supported their community’s livelihoods. Today, the Salmon Sisters provide “beautiful protein” in the form of wild Alaskan fish and trendy apparel that reflects their way of life to customers around the world. Apart from fish, their website sells everything from passport wallets made of salmon leather — adorned with fish scales and all — to t-shirts, sweatshirts and sturdy boots.
And if the name “Salmon Sisters” sounds familiar, it may be because you’ve heard it before, right in your own home. Recently, Neaton and Laukitis were featured in a Microsoft commercial that highlighted their hands-on, mission-driven work.
While Neaton has her hand in many aspects of the business with her sister, it’s business itself that brought her to the University of Vermont. As a student, she earned her degree with a concentration in marketing from the Grossman School of Business and minored in nutrition in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
She joins an impressive roster of fellow Catamounts who have been named as Forbes’ “30 Under 30” social entrepreneurs over the years: Kristof Grina ’12, a plant and soil science graduate who went on to create Up Top Acres, a company that conducts rooftop farming in Washington, D.C.; and Sasha Fisher ’10, who launched Spark Microgrants, a non-profit organization that supports East African communities in pursuing their own development projects.
This year, Neaton joins alumna Ariel Wengroff ’10 and chemistry professor Michael Ruggiero, plus nearly 600 others, on the 2019 Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list, which spans 20 different categories ranging from consumer technology pros to immigrants.