Behind the Scenes with Stien from Seafoam Surf - Eco Friendly & Sustainable Surf Wear
Tell us a bit about your surf wear business? Seafoam is an online shop specialised in women’s surfwear. It offers independent & women-powered surfwear labels from across the world with a heart for ethical and sustainable production. You can find everything to keep you covered in the ocean. From surf bikinis, leggings, one-pieces to rash vests, but also handy eco-friendly accessories to accompany you before and after your surf sessions. I run Seafoam from my home in Pembrokeshire, Wales, while being a full-time mama to my 14 month old boy. What made you decide to start a business in the first place and also why in the ocean sports industry? In 2012 I moved to Wales from Belgium, after travelling for a few years combining my passion for surfing and snowboarding with working abroad. While I am a qualified PE teacher, differences in the way the UK deals with paperwork (even way before Brexit) meant that I couldn’t start teaching straight away. It actually took months to get paperwork sorted. So I had a lot of time on my hands. Yes, my surfing improved massively that year. Ha ha Anyway, during the few years of travelling, I experienced multiple bikini fails and was frustrated by how terrible the bikini designs were, if you actually wanted to surf in them. In my search for more reliable bikinis, I came across a few small labels that already existed around the globe. However, there was nothing really like it in Europe at the time. So I thought we needed to bring these awesome labels closer to the European ocean women. I took my time to research and learn all I could about setting up and running a business in the UK, until finally in 2015 I invested my personal savings in the first stock of 4 small women-owned labels and the rest is history.
Brand new addition to the Seafoam line-up arriving in the next few days: Lore Of The Sea. PC: John Wolfson What's a typical day/week like in your shoes? Until just over a year ago, I would teach as a supply teacher most days. Now my actual full-time job is raising my 14 month old. You often hear of women setting up businesses in their maternity leave, so I thought I would have plenty of time for Seafoam. (Haha!) Oh, was I in for a surprise! My boy has been a major cat-napper since he was born... 30 minutes naps are his thing. So I try to be as efficient as possible in those 30 minutes with whatever needs to be done for Seafoam. Sending out orders quickly is very important to me (no one likes waiting for the postman to see him turn up empty handed), so usually orders will be treated as soon as possible while I try to entertain my boy. The post office run will be done in the morning as our local post office shuts at midday. If it’s a sunny day, I might take the opportunity to walk there with the buggy. It’s quite a steep hill to descend and climb twice, it would take around an hour return, so that would be my work out for the day. Nowadays most other work, like emails, bookkeeping, payments, planning, … will be done in the evening. Other than that, I try to get to the beach and in the waves as much as possible (now we are allowed again), it’s only a few miles away luckily.
Do you have a selection criteria for the brands that you sell? When the idea of Seafoam started developing, there were very few ’surf bikini’ labels around, so the choice was fairly straight forward. I tested a few on my travels and later learnt from customers' experiences and feedback on what worked best. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy market and some labels are sadly no longer around, but many new ones have popped up everywhere. While the labels evolved, so did my criteria for stocking them on Seafoam. Nowadays, It’s about so much more than just their staying-put ability. I care greatly for sustainability, so labels need to have a heart for sustainability and show a willingness to improve their impact. Something else that I wanted to aim for since the very beginning is offering an inclusive size and product range, something for every body (literally). So far this has been quite limited due to limited self-funding both for Seafoam and for the brands themselves, bigger size ranges mean bigger investment. However, I am so stoked to see a big push for not only more inclusive sizing, but also a bigger diversity in models this year.
Zealous Clothing SS21 PC: @annigoesintothewild
What's been the most difficult thing to have had to get your head around when you started up? Good question, I think working out how much to invest in each collection. It’s still a difficult thing to get right, even after 5 years. Predicting when sales will pick up and what exactly the ocean women out there would really like to wear that season. Looking back I over-invested in those first collections. I have stocked pieces that sold out within days and when re-stocked they would hang around for ages. Every year is also very different in terms of ‘busy times’ and Covid certainly hasn’t helped in terms of ‘predictability’. So while I absolutely love picking new collections, every year I end up hoping I got it right, both in terms of finances and sustainability. Have you encountered any hiccups along the way? It won’t come as a surprise when I say Covid-19 has really thrown a spanner in the works. Right at the moment I stopped teaching as my day job and Seafoam was gearing up for its fifth season, most of the world went into lockdown. As a swimwear business based in the UK, that meant sales went pretty much dead… The big birthday celebrations were also overcast by Brexit uncertainties that still haven’t totally been resolved. I can only hope there are better times ahead, and many will take the opportunity to surf warmer waters when they are finally allowed again.
Zealous Clothing SS21 PC: @annigoesintothewild
How do you stay motivated? Seafoam has been created from a passion for surfing. Running it is something I truly enjoy. Being able to help fellow ocean lovers find that perfect piece, so they can enjoy their time in the ocean without worry, is rewarding. When reading feedback and reviews from happy customers I’m secretly doing that little happy dance. Not many might realise, but Seafoam is actually more of a hobby than a job. While it ticks over and makes money from sales, I re-invest all of this into new collection and to grow size ranges etc. Choosing collections is like being a kid in a candy store though, but it is by no means my ‘job’ yet, I hope it one day will be though. What's next for your business? In light of the current climate, I am simply hoping for a good summer season here in the Northern Hemisphere. After that, let’s hope international travel is allowed to resume and surfers can finally get to warmer destinations again. Unfortunately, it’s hard to plan new projects when everything is still so uncertain.
OY Surf Signatures 2021 PC: Seb Zanella
Do you have any advice for other women looking to start their own business? Take your time to plan & research. If it feels right, go for it. While I strongly believe you should follow your dreams, be realistic as well and consider existing competition in your planning stage. Once you’ve launched, it’s really important you dare to say no and stand your ground if something doesn’t feel right or if it doesn’t align with your business idea. Keep working hard and keep believing in your dream and in yourself. There is a quote up by my desk by Christopher Columbus “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”, which I strongly identify with when running the small business that is Seafoam.
What do you do to relax? Surfing is number 1 and I try to do a little yoga to keep the body and mind in check. But during flat spells or when daylight is scarce, I am not the kind of person to drop myself on a sofa and do nothing. Even if I would be, my little boy doesn’t give me much of a chance to do that. haha My brain is always thinking of things to do and create, so sometimes relaxing to me is having a little time to get creative.
Stien catching a nice wave. PC Samantha Hunt
What did you have for breakfast? Oh I am a big breakfast person! The most important meal of the day to me. This morning I had one of my favourite granolas by Deliciously Ella with coconut yoghurt, unfortunately I ran out of cocoa nibs otherwise that’s the perfect cereal combo!
Favourite podcast? I never really got into listening to podcasts. Maybe I just never listened to a good one? Essential road trip soundtrack songs? Ooooh that’s a tricky one! My music taste is quite wide. Pre-Covid restrictions I regularly drove big distances to see family abroad. My soundtrack would depend on how awake I was behind the wheel. Here are some of my favourites: - Jungle by Tash Sulatana - Oblivion by M83 (Any M83 song really!) - The Fire Shall Devour Them by The 3 Corners of The Earth - Spirit Bird by Xavier Rudd - The Chain by Fleetwood Mac
Oy Surf Signatures 2021
Where are you hoping to go on holiday/visit when travel restrictions have lifted? First of all, I am desperate to visit my family in Belgium. My 14 month old still hasn’t met any of my family due to travel restrictions!! My husband’s parents live in France, so that’s next on the list. Pre-covid I started a little tradition of a yearly solo or girls surf trip to Chicks On Waves in Portugal and I really can’t wait to get out there again. It’s always so good to surf in warmer waves with a fun bunch of girls.
What’s your favourite product you sell and why? Honestly, I love them all! I couldn’t pick just one at all. I love the elegance of Salt Gypsy’s pieces but haven’t been in warm enough water for these for a long time. Zealous makes SUPER reliable bikinis in such cute prints and never disappoint customers. Monique Rotteveel’s leggings are the comfiest ever and I have lived in them for years too! Every single brand I stock is very much loved. Oh and as a mum, my child proof Klean Kanteen is always following me around too. :)
Where can we shop your curated designs and keep up with Seafoam news?
www.seafoamsurf.com or on instagram @seafoam_surf
Stien sporting a Salt Gypsy one piece captured by Samantha Hunt.