In Founder Focus we introduce entrepreneurs and innovators working on our next generation of new business startups, social enterprises and small businesses.

At a glance

Founder: Natalie Jones

Business: Seasick Sunscreen Co

Founded: 5 March 2019

HQ: Wellington

Can you tell us a bit about your business?

Seasick Sunscreen Co is a wāhine Māori-led social enterprise. Our mission is to stop ocean pollution from plastic sunscreen bottles and chemicals by creating a plastic-free sunscreen made with just 7, naturally-derived ingredients.

Who would have thought conventional sunscreens are made with a long list of harsh chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate (now banned in Hawaii and many other international dive destinations). Chemical UV filters such as these often cause people with sensitive skin and eczema to have painful allergic reactions and they can also be toxic to marine life.

For the first 3 years of business, I made the sunscreen myself in 8 kg batches in my kitchen. I spent 2022 upscaling production (from 8 kg to 100 kg) which meant outsourcing manufacturing. Major delays to production meant this was hugely challenging – I entered the “dark night of the soul” phase for several months and almost shut down the business as it was looking like I would have no product for summer. Thanks to my support network, I made it through this challenging period and am back on track.

The ocean is at the forefront of the battle against climate change – that’s why we donate 2% of revenue to support ocean conservation programmes such as Love Rimurimu. I am also on a mission to become NZ’s first reef-safe certified sunscreen brand.

  • No. plastic bottles diverted from landfill = 6062
  • CO2 emissions prevented (6kg CO2 per 1kg plastic) = 3.6 tonnes
  • Donations to ocean conservation = $1632

What’s the backstory for your business idea?

As a fair skinned ocean enthusiast and conservationist, I wear a lot of sunscreen. I had no idea about its impact on marine life until a dive trip to Hawaii where I learnt about the issue. After failing to find a sunscreen on the market that ticked all of my boxes, I started making it myself. After many months of trialling recipes, I finally had a formulation that felt great and achieved the Australia New Zealand Sunscreen SPF certification (AS/NZ 2604:2012).

The health of the ocean is what drives Seasick Sunscreen Co. Whilst this still rings true, I was amazed to learn from customers that approached me at the many markets I attended saying that my sunscreen was the only one they could use on their children and people with highly sensitive skin. Providing sunscreen to children and people with allergies has since become a major part of our business model.

What programmes, learning or mentoring have been of assistance so far?

  • Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. Solo founder? Yeah right! Seasick Sunscreen Co would not be possible without the many helping hands that have made this company all it is today. The Kōkiri Māori Business Accelerator was instrumental in fast tracking my business (and most importantly my mindset) from a “side-gig” to my full-time job. I have surrounded myself with incredibly supportive and talented people who are incredibly generous with their knowledge and I am very grateful for this.
  • Going right back to the beginning though, before I even started, someone recommended to me that I learn about the Lean Startup Model which meant designing a minimal viable product (MVP) as quickly as I could so I could start getting feedback from REAL customers (outside of friends and family who more often than not will tell you everything you do is great, hah!).
  • I mentioned the Dark Night of the Soul earlier a.k.a when I was facing a bunch of challenges and felt burnt out and overwhelmed. If it wasn’t for a Founders Drinks event hosted by Creative HQ that I attended right in the middle of this difficult period, I’m not sure I would still be running the business today. Turns out beers and rants can actually be incredibly helpful in dark times of need.


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