A Boston native, Spencer Antle went to college in Miami to be closer to the Caribbean. Today, Antle's business, Island Company, makes swimsuits, resort wear, sunglasses, and sunscreen, which are sold in upscale hotels in the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean. Last year, Antle's business, based in West Palm Beach, Florida, had sales of $3.3 million, landing it a spot (No. 2,534) on the 2011 Inc. 5000. —Darren Dahl
I studied creative writing in college, because I wanted to get into the film business. After graduation, I moved to Los Angeles and spent the next six years as a slave, writing and working on sets. The 13 scripts I wrote never went anywhere.
When my girlfriend and I decided to take a vacation to the Turks and Caicos Islands, we couldn't find her a cool bikini to wear. So I thought, How hard can it be to make one? I made some phone calls and found a factory in Brazil that produced samples of the designs I had drawn up. We started selling those out of the trunk of my car. Eventually, I began designing other clothes, like board shorts. Everything I did was inspired by my love of the Caribbean lifestyle.
My girlfriend and I broke up a few years later, but the company has continued to grow. It now has 80 employees and six stores in vacation spots such as Nantucket, Grand Cayman, and East Hampton, New York. I like doing things myself. I design the products, shoot the catalogs, and have basically installed every computer in every store.
A big turning point was when Johnny Depp wore one of our T-shirts in a TV interview. Our website exploded. It was kind of surreal for me, because I spent so long getting ignored by people in Hollywood, only to have the biggest film star in the world wear my shirt.