Meet Kay - Surfer, Eco Warrior, Hawaiian dweller and Owner of Surf Soap
Tell me a bit about Surf Soap and the ethos around your products?
Surf Soap was created to provide ocean lovers with hair and skincare products that they could
trust to not harm our aquatic environment. Whether you lather up on a boat, beach, or in your
shower at home; many of the harmful ingredients that are in our typical soaps and shampoos still
make it out to our seawater and into our marine life. We provide products that are not only safe
and eco-friendly, but they also actually WORK due to my previous training as a hairdresser and
studying chemistry and trichology (study of the hair and scalp).
What made you decide to start Surf Soap in the first place and how long have you been
running your business?
Surf Soap has been open for a little over 5 months now, but I have been formulating,
researching and developing products for almost two years. We put all of our products
through rigorous testing by surfers before releasing them into the shop.
I started Surf Soap because I would often take a quick shower after dawn patrol (the
only time I usually have to surf) and started to notice signs on beach showers that said
“no soap or shampoos”. I wondered why that was, so I studied it. And it turns out, that
typical soaps and shampoos actually are really harmful for the ocean and its
inhabitants, so I set out to create a good, well-functioning product that was also
accessible so people would have something to reach for that wasn’t going to cause
harm to the water.
What's a typical day/week like in your shoes?
Oh man.. it varies, but it typically looks like this: I have a day job currently, so I am
building Surf Soap in between that and raising my daughter, Ellie, who is 3.
I wake up around 0500, and go for a walk followed by yoga on most days. Some
mornings when I can, I get up and surf. Then, it’s the typical flurry of getting a toddler
up, looking over my planner, and having the first of many cups of coffee (haha). Then,
I’ll go to work for my day job. At lunch, I work on Surf Soap, and then finish my day job
around 5pm. I listen to whatever book I’m currently enjoying on the drive home, and
then I try to spend at least an hour with Ellie doing whatever she wants. Dinnertime
arrives quickly, and she usually helps me with that. After dinner, we walk or watch a little
tv together and then get her to bed. After she’s in bed, I either take care of marketing,
blogs and emails, or I go into the shop to make whatever batch of product is due to be
I’m not sure if many people catch the fact that each of our products is and always will be
handmade – we control the quality and process that way.
Around 9 or 10, is typically bed time. Then I get up and do it all over again. Hopefully, as
Surf Soap grows, it will be my full time job and I can dedicate even more time to
researching and developing new products.
Living in Hawaii sounds like a tropical paradise location, is it all palm trees and bikini surf
Haha, I love this question. I love to travel, and always get swept away by whatever town I am visiting at the moment. The thing about actually living somewhere though – is you still have to make money, you have to make Costco runs and stock the fridge. I love the sunshine and warm weather, so I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but there’s still highs and lows. For example, running a business here is insanely expensive, so I have to work twice as hard for very little income, especially since we are just growing. And people don’t visit you as often as you’d think, so it’s tough to find the time and money to see family. We are so grateful to be able to live here, and there ARE rainbows every day – but like anything else, it comes with its own unique challenges.
What's been the most difficult thing to have had to get your head around when you started up? Starting up, there’s a lot of organization to be done. Being a manufacturer and distributor of product is usually two separate businesses. We do both, we also do all of our own design and marketing, advertising, and running of the website. It’s a lot to handle, and figuring out a balance is still something we are working on daily. As we grow, we will be able to hire those things out so we can focus on just the product, but for now, we run it all and just have to be flexible. Have you had any hiccups along the way? Yes. It seems like every day – but it is so worth it when we read the amazing glowing reviews our customers leave us. For example, our website crashed the day before our grand opening. We had been marketing it for months, and the DAY BEFORE we opened, my husband and I were on the phone (because I was away on a work trip at the time) literally redesigning the site from scratch!! We’ve run out of ingredients when we started getting more orders, and out of packing material. So we’ve had to get very creative but I think we are starting to get in a good flow. Growing quickly is so good and brings welcome challenges but it definitely can be stressful – and includes a lot of looooong nights.
How do you stay motivated? I come from a background of running marathons and competing in Ironman triathlon, so that training has really helped me understand the practice of moving through challenges, even when my body is telling me to stop. I also am a practicing Buddhist and love yoga, so those things have allowed me to train my mind. When things get crazy, I look at my vision board, I remind myself of the impermanence of life and all it’s challenges, and I move forward – because we all deserve to achieve everything we set our mind to, the question is, can we get up each morning
and do the little behind-the-scenes things that set the foundation for achieving those goals? That’s what divides the achievers from the dreamers.
What's next for your business? We are growing! We have some amazing products in the pipeline, and are working with some amazing shops in Hawaii and the US. We would love to be in more surf shops. I contact some every week – so hopefully we will be made even more available as time goes on.
Top 5 eco tips that you would recommend readers of this blog adopting: 1. Pack your own lunch in reusable containers. Not only is this an eco-friendly way of living, it also saves you money and calories. You can consume better quality food at a fraction of the cost and without using single-use plastics. Win-win in my book 2. Use and seek out plastic-free options for your personal care. Obviously I have to rep Surf Soap on this, but I also know that one product won’t work for everyone. Find something you love, support a small business if you can, and go plastic free. 3. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth. I grew up in California and Utah, so maybe it’s just been ingrained in me, but this is something simple that everyone can do to save a little H2O. 4. Walk or bike whenever you can! Good exercise, and saves emissions. I live in the suburbs currently, so I know this isn’t always feasible. Doing the best you can with what you have will always be the most sustainable option to live an eco-conscious lifestyle 5. Buy good quality clothing that will last through trends and multiple years of wear. Try to avoid petroleum-laden fabrics or fabrics that include microplastics if you can.
Do you have any advice for other women looking to start their own business?
Set yourself up for success. Examine your current lifestyle and living situation. If you have kids, do you have a supportive partner? Do you have a way to earn money if you need to while you build? I’ve studied business for a long time, and one throughline is that it takes 2-3 years to really get going, unless you get super lucky. Definitely go for it, because it’s so rewarding, but try to be realistic too while you are building it. And also, don’t kid yourself. “Working from home” or “working for yourself” doesn’t mean you’ll have mimosas by the pool at lunchtime. It means going from a 40 hour workweek to a 100 hour workweek, and your boss is now your customers. So going into it prepared to work hard, I think anyone can be successful at it. I would love to encourage anyone who would like to chat or who might have questions to please message me on Instagram (@soli_surfer) or Facebook (@Kay Pn) as I know how hard this is and would love to mentor and coach someone just starting out.
What do you do to relax? Walk; giving myself that “me time” in the mornings from 0500-0700 has been a huge help in improving my mental state and preparing me for each day.
What did you have for breakfast? Haha – I’m boring. I usually have the same thing every day. I practice intermittent fasting, so my first meal needs to have a super balanced blend of nutrients. I have a smoothie with berries, superfood vegan vanilla protein powder (I use Orgain), Laird Power Mushrooms powder, AmazinGrass greens powder, flax and chia, and a big huge handful of spinach. Some days I’ll add avocado or granola as well. Gotta get as much packed in as I can.
Favourite podcast? I have a couple, but my main staple is How I Built This. It’s so motivating to hear the stories of others who have been in my shoes and come out the other side successful. I then switch to Audible, I have a goal of reading 2 books a month, and since my commute is about 45 minutes, that’s my “reading” time. I love non-fiction and memoirs.
Essential road trip soundtrack songs? Hmm.. My road trips usually span weeks so I go from Dirty Heads to Disney. For sure you need some Hawaiian reggae in there though, and throw in something like Surfaces for a good mood boost while you’re at it.
What’s your favourite product you sell and why? I love my All-In-One – probably because I created it as something that I would buy (that’s how all of the products get made. Who wants to make a product they themselves won’t even use?) I also always have a Coconut Better Butter in my purse because it’s just my happy little piece of the beach while I’m working in my building. I’m in the Army and work in a secured facility so it’s nice to bring in some beachy vibes when I can’t get outside for a few hours. Stay tuned though because our summer lineup has some really fun offerings that I’m sure will become more of my new favorites.
How can we connect and find you and your products? Facebook: surfsoapcompany and Kay Pn Instagram: @soli_surfer and @surf_soap Twitter: @surf_soap Youtube: Surf Soap Co Hawaii