Exercise — Prior to running my own business, I loved being outdoors all the time! It was my stress relief and my happy place. I loved being up in the mountains, biking or walking or at the beach hanging out with the kids, swimming and surfing. As my business started to grow, exercise took a back seat and I noticed the impact it had on my overall sense of well being. I’m not back to doing as much as I used to, but I do try and get out most days for a run, walk or bike ride.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Henderson.
Rachel Henderson is Co-Founder and CEO of Project Sunscreen, an Australian inspired, dermatolgoist developed sunscreen line based in Los Angeles. With a master’s degree in public health, a skin cancer survivor and a mom to two beautiful kids, Rachel’s mission is to educate people on the importance of sun protection. Rachel’s sunscreen line is ranged nationally across the United States.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I’m a native of New Zealand where I lived until graduating from university prior to putting on a backpack and heading out to explore the world. In my late twenties I came back to get a ‘real job’ and moved across the Tasman to Australia where I lived and worked for 10 years in the medical research field. I’m also a former model and competitive mountain bike rider and lived and trained in Germany for 1 year. My love of the outdoors intrinsically is a huge part of my life and the reason I have pivoted my career from the world of corporate to the world of start up.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
From an early age I was very curious and interested in the world around me. I was drawn to people that exuded confidence and were always up for an adventure. I enjoyed daydreaming and always had a ‘million’ business ideas. These ideas always ended up on the back burner until the idea of producing a roller ball sunscreen came along. After having spent countless days/months working on a concept, I decided to sneak into my local Target late at night with my bottles that had photocopied labels stuck to them. I pushed aside the existing ‘boring’ competitors and placed my little bottles on the shelf and stood back to get an idea what they looked like compared to all the others. Seeing the bright colorful bottles popping out among the sea of blue, white and yellow bottles made me realize that this idea was worth fighting for and worth investing my time and money in. It was my ‘ah ha’ moment!
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I think by nature, we as humans are predisposed to trust others. I know I certainly believe that people will do what’s expected and by virtue, be dependable. I learned the hard way that this doesn’t always happen and that I need to trust my ‘gut’ and myself. Just because someone inspires trust, doesn’t mean it will happen.
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?
I believe that as an entrepreneur you HAVE to make mistakes and the difference between success and failure is how to LEARN from these mistakes. What I learned is to surround myself with ‘experts’ and people who love our scrappy little startup. I believe in being transparent and honest with what I can and can’t do and really listen to what other people say. The hardest thing for me is the loss of control. That’s the challenge of running a start up — you have to wear so many hats initially and look like you are totally in control while paddling furiously just beneath the surface to stay afloat! The team I have now I love — we work in such harmony and it’s great to have great diverse group of people working with us from LA (where I am), the US, Europe, Canada and New Zealand!
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
In my early 20s, I started noticing small blemishes on my face that would come and go. At first, I thought it was acne, but when they started to bleed, I immediately visited my dermatologist who informed me it was skin cancer. It was most likely caused from sun exposure from a much earlier age –stemming from my childhood in NZ, mountain bike training and living in Australia. As a mom, it made me very nervous to think that my own children could suffer the same fate, so I decided to do something about it. At Project Sunscreen, ultimately our mission is to protect everyone, everywhere, everyday. We set about to create a fun and easy to apply sunscreen that kids actually enjoy using — so every bottle features a ‘roll on’ application. We’ve also developed a mineral based formula, which blocks the UVA/UBA rays rather than filling our sunscreen with toxic chemicals that soak into the skin. We’ve paired that formula with creative packaging that appeals to our audience — specifically Kids, Teens and Adults and topped it with a cute cap topper which can be attached to beach bags, school bags and the like.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
1. Sleep — starting a new business and diving into a world where I’ve had to embrace the unknown meant I had many sleepless nights. I’ve realised the importance of trying to get a solid night’s sleep. It’s not easy, and my mind still races but I try to meditate before bed, take a hot bath, kick back with my family and watch a funny show or read a story before bed.
2. Exercise — Prior to running my own business, I loved being outdoors all the time! It was my stress relief and my happy place. I loved being up in the mountains, biking or walking or at the beach hanging out with the kids, swimming and surfing. As my business started to grow, exercise took a back seat and I noticed the impact it had on my overall sense of well being. I’m not back to doing as much as I used to, but I do try and get out most days for a run, walk or bike ride.
3. Diet — As an athlete (in my former life!) I know how important a healthy diet is. I’m not perfect and there are days when I skip meals and sneak in too many cookies but overall, I try and maintain a healthy diet of fresh produce, watching my sugar intake and eating organic.
4. Friends — Life can feel overwhelming at times, especially now with the pressures of juggling home schooling for my 2 kids, launching my new business and running the household. My friends provide me with the much needed “village” that it takes to try and manage it all. Even just meeting for a cup of tea, glass of wine or chat over the phone fills me so much love and energy.
5. Letting go — realizing that I can’t control everything, but I can control how I respond to certain situations has helped me ‘let go’ of potentially stressful situations.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Knowledge that it only takes a few severe sunburns at a young age to increase the risk of skin cancer. Help people realize skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US & 1 in 5 will develop it. Importance of wearing sunscreen and getting schools onboard with more sun protection and getting kids to apply sunscreen before going outside to play.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. You will hear “no” — a lot — I try to see it as not just ‘no’ but as someones’ way of saying they don’t know the answer or that they are afraid as what you are trying to do or ask that is new to them! Try to find a solution to ‘no’ instead.
2. It’s ok to not have all the answers — this is my hardest as I like to be in control!
3. You need to be creative in the way you think — always look for an alternate solution
4. It’s a 24-hour x7 day a week job — you have to be the boss, chief bottle-washer and everything in between!
5. Your relationship with your family and friends change and it’s hard to adjust to that — missing out on the fun while having to work the crazy hours as no-one else is going to make it happen
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
I am a big believer in where there is a will there is away! One of my biggest frustrations with the company is that I don’t have enough resources right now to do what I want to do in regard to recyclable packing. Without giving too much away, I have plans to develop packaging that is innovative and as yet has not been offered in sun-care. If it works, it will revolutionize the way we buy and use our product.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
We are very active on Instagram, twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. We love hearing from everyone and always welcome constructive feedback as I believe we are ALWAYS learning — that is how we grow as a company.!
Thank you for these fantastic insights!