Gunter, left, and Forbes, right, started Wildlife Collections as a side business after graduating from college.

By Charles Petty

In an age of ethical business models, one local company is selling products not just to make a profit, but also to help in the effort for the conservation of wildlife.

Operating in Sanford is a company owned and operated by two childhood friends – D.J. Gunter and Carter Forbes.

Forbes and Gunter are childhood pals who wanted to start a business that was unique and had a purpose. Forbes always had a love of the ocean, furthered by his attendance at the University of North Carolina at Wilmngton (Gunter attended UNC-Charlotte) so it felt right to start off selling an ocean-themed product. That product was jewelry to begin with, but the pair soon started to think of ways to diversify the brand.

After getting out of college Forbes and Gunter began an after hours, part-time collaborative effort for online retail space dedicated to that, which Forbes described as “stumbling into it happily and learning along the way.”

“When we go out of college and wanted to co-create this company, we needed to be able to work on it after hours from out regular nine to five jobs,” Forbes explained. “During lunch breaks, holidays, weekends, it was in these periods of time where we were able to begin most of our work.”

This past year, a small side project aimed at rehabilitating turtles really took off. Wildlife Collections, the name of the new venture, gives buyers the opportunity to track an actual animal.

Along with selling the jewelry, the two friends wanted an opportunity to give back and help wildlife conservation. The company began marketing bracelets that benefit aquatic wildlife like sea turtles and whales while tying the items to specific, real-world animals.

Among the organizations that Wildlife Collections collaborates with is the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the oldest and arguably the most accomplished sea turtle organization in the world, headquartered in Gainesville, Florida. The group’s research and conservation efforts reach from Florida to Costa Rica and Panama, and the group tracks turtles for the purposes of research to study nesting habitats. This organization has been alongside Wildlife Collections to help spread awareness on turtle rescues and nest tracking.

Forbes and Gunter thought the idea of tracking animals with the purchase of a bracelet was both a unique marketing tool and a great way to help conservation.

“It would be great for customers to get with their bracelet their own animal to help track and protect,” he said.

For obvious reasons, Wildlife Collections has been able to fit well into an online market. Not having to be committed to a brick-and-mortar store helped Gunter and Forbes be much more flexible in expanding their business model. For example, the company started off pretty small to begin with but was able to grow over time by word of mouth. Now, Wildlife Collections has taken off and both Gunter and Forbes have seen a significant increase in sales and demand for the bracelets.

Forbes and Gunter are now hoping to expand Wildlife Collections in the near future to include other animals, and to find more animal conservation organizations with which to partner. with aid in saving precious wildlife.

“Our main mission is to make people happy as possible with our product and making an impact saving animals,” Gunter said.

For more information about the company, visit