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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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Sand Cloud co-founders Brandon Leibel (left) and Steven Ford (Photo: Brandon Leibel/Sand Cloud) Sand Cloud co-founders Brandon Leibel (left) and Steven Ford (Photo: Brandon Leibel/Sand Cloud)

Two Alumni Land on Forbes 30 Under 30 List

Brandon Leibel (’12) and Steven Ford (’12) are co-founders of Sand Cloud.
By Ryan Schuler

“When I think back to my time at SDSU, I can't help but feel good.”

What began as an idea one day at the beach has landed two San Diego State University alumni on the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the category of Social Entrepreneurs.

Brandon Leibel (’12) and Steven Ford (’12) are two of the 600 honorees of the annual achievement, selected from more than 15,000 nominees.

“It's a huge honor to be recognized by such a prestigious magazine,” said Leibel. “It's not a goal of mine to win awards, but this was definitely great exposure for Sand Cloud. At the end of the day, all I care about is raising more awareness for Sand Cloud and getting more people to learn about our sustainable mission.”

In 2014, as young SDSU alumni, the duo came up with an idea for a beach towel company with a social cause. Their original concept was a beach towel with a built-in pillow.

Shortly after meeting Bruno Aschidamini at a corporate job the three shared, the trio quit their jobs, moved in together and formed Sand Cloud. In addition to beach towels, Sand Cloud offers other eco-friendly accessories, including clothing made from recycled materials, reef-safe sunscreen, reusable water bottles and reusable metal straws.

The company donates 10% of its profits to marine life organizations and partners with groups such as the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, Marine Conservation Institute and Surfrider Foundation to support preserving beaches, oceans and marine life.

“When I think back to my time at SDSU, I can't help but feel good,” said Leibel. “I met some of my best friends in college, including my business partner. SDSU was an amazing time in my life.”

But this is not the first time SDSU alumni have landed on this prestigious list. 

Last year, Kevin Gelfand (’11) and Martin Reiman (’12), founders of Shake Smart, were honored as part of the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the category of Food & Drink. 

Shake Smart currently has 16 locations around the nation, including locations at the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union and the Aztec Recreation Center on the SDSU campus.

Entrepreneurship at SDSU

Aspiring entrepreneurs at SDSU have many resources at their disposal, including working with the university’s startup incubator, the Zahn Innovation Platform (ZIP) Launchpad, or the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, which provide education and resources to students interested in entrepreneurship.

Leibel offers some advice for students hoping to follow in his entrepreneurial footsteps.

“My advice to any entrepreneur would be to make sure you know what you're getting into. It's not a glamorous route and can be very lonely at times. It takes blood, sweat, and tears to become successful, and it's not for everyone. There will be months, maybe years, where you won't receive a paycheck. With all that being said, I can't imagine taking a different route. You only lose when you quit.”