Entrepreneurs Tackling Climate Change: “Chemical sunscreens are absorbed by coral reefs which leads to their death”

With Lisa and Tony Palmer

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Don’t use chemical sunscreens, chemical sunscreens are absorbed by coral reefs which leads to their death (these same sunscreens are absorbed into the human bloodstream — but that’s a different question). The demise of these coral reefs will contribute to the imbalance in our oceans and have subsequent negative impacts that are too numerous to count.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa and Tony Palmer. Tony and Lisa are the Founders of “Blue Beauty” brand TropicSport. TropicSport is a brand passionate about giving back to like-minded organizations and cares for the earth’s fragile oceans, reefs and beaches. Based in Dallas, the husband-and-wife team has a successful track record of leading outstanding businesses. Tony is president of global brands and innovation at Irving-based Kimberly-Clark. Lisa worked in finance and as a fashion buyer before staying at home to raise the couple’s now 16-year-old twins.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After taking a long break from surfing, one holiday in Australia I was back in the water teaching my young twins how to surf. I quickly realized how much damage had been done to the ocean from so many things including pollution, global warming and chemical sunscreens. Having grown up in the water in Australia I had a lot of friends who suffered from skin cancer. The final straw for me was when I was diagnosed with Lymphoma. My research showed that chemical sunscreens were not only toxic to the reef but also that they get into the bloodstream and are toxic to people. The fact that chemical sunscreens are absorbed into your blood and are hormone disruptors was extremely personal to me. Armed with that knowledge I was inspired to protect my young children and others I care about by creating a non-toxic highly effective, aesthetically pleasing product. It wasn’t long before I started embarking on the 4-year product development journey which would become TropicSport sunscreen.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

To protect people’s health while caring for our planet, and communities. We do so with a highly effective environmentally safe sunscreen with great aesthetics they love.

Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is taking to tackle climate change? Can you give an example for each?

We work to ensure our packages are refillable, recyclable and never single use. Single use sample packs are the worst. We support cleaning our oceans of plastic in partnership with Surfrider. Our active raw materials are uncoated non-nano zinc and titanium dioxide which prevent the absorption and bleaching of the coral reef. And of course, we use no toxic chemicals in any of our products.

What was the most difficult thing you faced when you first started your company/organization? Can you share how you overcame that. This might give insight to founders who face a similar situation.

FDA regulated products have very steep learning curves. Mineral sunscreen can be extremely difficult to manufacture successfully. After our first product run failed, putting our launch behind by 6 months thereby missing our first summer season, we hired a veteran in the industry. There are some things you have to hire the experts for!

Many people want to start a company to tackle environmental issues, but they face challenges when it comes to raising enough money to actually make it happen. Can you share how were you able to raise the funding necessary to start your organization? Do you have any advice?

For us, we set out to solve a real problem for real people who really cared about the global environmental issue. We were obsessed with finding a great unique solution to that problem when others were buying off the shelf substandard solutions. Whenever we had any kind of road block, it was the quality of our product that kept things driving us forward. Even when we thought this was just too much work, we couldn’t give up on such a phenomenal product that was so well liked by anyone that tried it.

Our hope is that mineral sunscreens become mainstream. They are hands down better for you and for the planet. We wanted our mineral sunscreen to feel smooth like current sunscreens and also last longer than others available. So, we reformulated until our product could meet both the US 80-minute test and the Australian water resistance test of 240 minutes. All of our initial investors tried the product and loved it. They’re really passionate about doing well by doing good. We hand selected investors that were not only passionate but also add real value to our business. This has been invaluable to have such a great group of advisors as investors and as a board.

Do you think entrepreneurs/businesses can do a better job than governments to solve the climate change and global warming issues? Please explain why or why not.

In our situation, the government has actually been a positive influence. For example, the government in Hawaii has banned chemical sunscreens and others are looking into it. The FDA has started to question the safety of the chemicals as well. We hold out great hope that the government will continue to act responsibly. It is the special interest groups hired by chemical sunscreen companies that care more about profits than the environment that try to argue against the facts and negatively impact our progress as a business and more importantly as a protector of our planet.

What are some practical things that both people and governments can do help you address the climate change and global warming problem?

Don’t use chemical sunscreens, chemical sunscreens are absorbed by coral reefs which leads to their death (these same sunscreens are absorbed into the human bloodstream — but that’s a different question). The demise of these coral reefs will contribute to the imbalance in our oceans and have subsequent negative impacts that are too numerous to count.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My wife. I have a full-time day job. TropicSport began as just a passion for me, not a means to support myself. As it has become more and more demanding on my time — which I don’t have — my wife has stepped in to help full time. Lucky for me, she’s smarter than I am. (Lisa wrote this) And more modest. Oh, and if I get two votes it is our management team and investment board, they are awesome advisors’ supporters and confidants.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Startups are harder than you think — there is a reason why everyone doesn’t succeed with them. You only hear about the one success story, not the 100 failures for each success. When we first started the company, one of our investors kept warning us to be ready for the day things went wrong. At least we knew it was coming. The day our first production run failed and we had to go find a new manufacturer knowing our debut would now miss summer — brutal!

As I mentioned before, there are some jobs that only experts can do. If you can identify those roles from the beginning, it will save you time and turnover. One way is to acquire experts to invest and to be seated on your board. Everything requires a lawyer — sad to say. You can break rules that you didn’t even know existed. For example, would it occur to you that you must warn people not to ingest sunscreen. Startups are like building a new house, everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much. Many consumers don’t want to have anything to do with you until you have been around for at least a few years — staying in business in the interim is a neat trick.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the world, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would ask people to do random acts of kindness for others and the planet– we live in a very divided world and it is amazing how this can restore one’s faith in the human race.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

Instagram: @TropicSport

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tropicsport.us/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TropicSport_

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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