By Robert Gold
Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
Candace Bouffard starting thinking about designing a clothing line during her high school years.
It was a more realistic aspiration than her longtime dream of becoming a professional surfer, the Cape native thought.
When she started attending Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston in the fall of 2010, she took it the next step by creating the Beach Bum Surf Co. name.
After a year in school, the idea was still being molded by Bouffard.
“I was gaining designs and plans,” she said. “It was more like an idea in the clouds.”
Bouffard was spending the summer of 2011 at her mother’s home in South Dennis when, one July evening, her life‘s plans took a drastic turn.
She was eating dinner when she suffered a seizure.
She had never suffered one before and felt no warning signs.
“I couldn’t talk. I was shaking,” Bouffard said.
Her mother, Marie Boisvert, rushed her to the Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.
“It was terrifying, absolutely terrifying,” Bouffard said. “It was out of the blue.”
Doctors told her she had bleeding in her brain due to a group of blood vessels tangled together, known as arterio-venous malformation, or AVM.
“It had been slowly bleeding over the years,” Bouffard said. “It had never gotten bad enough to make any symptoms.”
Bouffard underwent seven-hour emergency surgery the next morning at the hospital, which prevented her from more hemorrhaging and suffering more serious symptoms, such as losing her ability to speak.
But she was in the hospital for a week and underwent a six-month recovery.
She couldn’t drive, was on serious medication and had to postpone college.
Bouffard didn’t need physical therapy but struggled with the stress and fear after her surgery.
“Every time I got a headache, I would rush to the emergency room,” Bouffard said.
Recuperating at her mother’s Cape home, Bouffard started pouring her energies into her business idea.
The medical scare gave her a new sense of urgency.
Bouffard realized her love of surfing and beach life could merge with fashion.
Her focus at school included fashion design, merchandising and graphic design, so Bouffard created her own logos and developed the look of the shirts on her own.
In summer 2012, she unveiled a men’s and women’s Beach Bum T-shirt, which she designed and hand-printed locally.
She and her mother pitched the shirts to local retailers and landed the merchandise in the shop Mocean, in Mashpee Commons, and the clothing boutique Sass on Main in Hyannis.
Her mom has supported her from the start, Bouffard said, both emotionally and with the business.
For Boisvert, that was never in question. She speaks with pride about her daughter: “She wants to live life to the fullest. She’s very talented and creative.”
Ryan Hewson, who owns Mocean with his wife, Darcey, said about a dozen people a year pitch their apparel ideas to him.
He accepts about 20 percent for his outdoors store. Hewson said he was impressed with Bouffard’s organized business plan and clean and simple design.
“I think she is a tenacious girl with a plan to grow her business and wants to make it happen,” Hewson said, who has served as business mentor to her. “The whole idea of Beach Bum is the right thing for Cape Cod.”
Bouffard, now 22, said she is working on expanding her line, including tank tops, hats, sweatshirts and other beach gear.
She aspires to open her own store and has just started a crowdfunding effort at gofundme.com to find investors in the venture.
Bouffard now has deals with a handful of additional shops on the Cape — Adrift Cape Cod in Orleans, Sick Day Surf Shop in Wellfleet and Green Eyed Daisy in Falmouth.
“It’s not just a piece of clothing I’m selling,” Bouffard said. “I’m selling the lifestyle.”
Bouffard gets an MRI once a year to monitor her health.
She hasn’t returned to school at this point, instead channeling her energies into growing the business.
Due to the surgery, she needs to avoid any sports that could cause a high impact collision to her head.
Because of that, she hasn’t returned to surfing.
But by focusing on this Beach Bum, Bouffard said she gets to remain around the surfing scene.
“I want to have this career,” she said. “I want to do what I love.”