When you think of fishermen, you probably think of, well…men. Men with scruff and greying hair, wearing yellow rubber overalls and battling massive swells while pulling in giant nets of fish. Maybe you’re actually thinking of Deadliest Catch, but some fishermen are actually quite young, and some of them (gasp) aren’t men at all.
The sisters of Salmon Sisters, Claire Neaton and Emma Laukitis, grew up fishing in a remote Alaskan town out of False Pass. Now they live in Homer, Alaska and they sell fish and lifestyle goodsto people around the country. Everything they make and sell is inspired by their lives as fishermen. As Claire puts it, "We provide the connection for people [between] their lives or their lifestyle, and their land."
An online store that sells Alaskan apparel, home goods, and fish may seem super niche, but that's exactly why the brand is doing so well. Salmon Sisters not only appeals to fellow fisherman, but people in remote Alaskan towns and anyone who has lived in or visited Alaska. There’s a youth and honesty to the brand that’s not trying to be a vintage throwback to the yesteryear of fishermen, but instead, embracing and championing a whole new fishing lifestyle.
Claire studied Business in college and Emma studied English and Art. When they graduated in 2013, they took their studies into the real world: Claire researching the business of seafood distribution, and Emma screenprinting her illustrations, inspired by Alaska. Their individual passions and shared commitment to fishing and Alaskan wildlife led to Salmon Sisters.
Most of their goods are made in Alaska and they're all shipped from their operation in Homer, Alaska using beautiful gummed tape that Emma designed, patterned with their logo. But getting the fish and the apparel ready to ship is actually the easy part. Claire manages the inventory and logistics, and when you're shipping to remote parts of Alaska and transporting perishable goods, that's a huge challenge. The nature of seafood sales is that any shift in weather can affect market prices and that means quick fluctuations for their stock. These variables make their business an all-hands-on-deck operation with various family and friends helping to process orders and make big catches.
“We lived out there, and we know what it’s like to get something in the mail that’s something about who you are and it’s such a great surprise.”
Salmon Sisters is not only a brand that embraces the fishermen lifestyle, but equips people for it. Emma and Claire wear their brand hoodies and leggings out on the boat, and they use their printed enamel mugs and totes all the time. Though Emma said, "We've been trying to make more things that aren't specific to fishermen."
“One of the coolest things for us is to see where our products go. The best part is seeing [which] little Alaskan bush villages know about Salmon Sisters and are loving it. It’ll probably take a month for it to get there. You know, that’s the reward for doing this whole thing. We lived out there and we know what it’s like to get something in the mail that’s something about who you are, and it’s such a great surprise."
“We really like having the busyness, and then being outside and being off of your computer and working with your hands.”
But let’s not forget about the fish. Year round, their fleet is out catching salmon, Pacific cod, sablefish, halibut, and crab. During the summer months, Claire and Emma fish on the Bering Sea and in Prince William Sound to catch salmon and halibut. While they're out fishing, the sisters are still running the lifestyle part of Salmon Sisters, but connection to land is a bit more sparse. When they find a pocket of WiFi, they hop online to catch up on emails.
Emma said, "[We] love having the opportunity to just be gone and have some reflection time, which is so needed when you're in the thick of it, in the day-to-day ... I think we both embrace it, because we really like having the busyness, and then being outside and being off your computer and working with your hands."
Most of the fish sold on their website are caught by either Emma and Claire themselves or someone in their fleet. After the fish are caught, they're brought to Peter Pan Seafoods where they're processed, packaged, and sold back to Salmon Sisters. Emma and Claire are really excited about a recent addition to their business model, donating one of their cans of salmon to the Alaska food bank with each purchase from their shop.
Salmon Sisters has not only caught the eye of Alaskans and Alaska lovers. This month, they're featured in Alaska Air's magazine and they were chosen as a finalist in Outdoor 30 Under 30, highlighting young people in outdoor industries who are breaking the status quo. From their Instagram and their blog to their line of clothing and tasty fish, Emma and Claire are doing everything they can to educate people about a new generation of Alaskan fisherman who are committed to the sustainability of the oceans, lands, and people of their region.
See what's new with Salmon Sisters and explore the growing community of young Alaskan fisherman on Salmon Sisters' Instagram.
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