It’s been a big year for New Plymouth based startup Sol + Sea which create ocean-friendly skincare products. It was awarded a Callaghan Innovation grant, won Venture Taranaki’s Powerup competition and has recently signed a contract with some of New Zealand’s biggest retailers to sell its natural skincare range.

Founder Glen Stephens has achieved all of this ‘outside of normal business hours’ as he continues to run his own property, design and build company.

He is also completing Soda’s BOOST programme, learning how to create a capital raise strategy, supported by mentor Kate O’Leary.

But how did this architect and avid surfer start his own skincare company?

Following a family visit to Tahiti in 2017, Stephens started researching and working on a range of reef-safe skincare products.

“I grew up in the Pacific Islands and return often with my family so noticed the deterioration in the coral reefs over a couple of decades. While climate change, pollution and ocean temperatures are contributing factors, so too are chemical UV filters used in big brand sunscreens which wash off into our oceans in tourism hotspots around the globe,” he explains.

“So I created Sol + Sea – an environmentally conscious lifestyle brand focussed on performance skincare for ocean enthusiasts and adventurous people. Our products contain mineral based UV filters which are reef-safe and mineral based.”

The products are created using New Zealand marine bio-actives and native botanical ingredients. Every aspect is made in New Zealand using eco-friendly packaging with five per cent of profits donated towards environmental initiatives.

“Sol + Sea is a purpose driven brand, promoting ocean conservation. In the future I want to see the business as a true iconic New Zealand brand exported around the world.”

Starting your own business is never easy and Stephens is no exception.

“I’ve had to navigate continuous roadblocks along the way, especially during Covid. Our budget and timelines have doubled. But what I have found is that persistence beats resistance! Keep the momentum and achieve progress every day.”

His advice for fellow entrepreneurs: “Ask yourself why. Do it for the right reasons, set goals and timelines and maintain a tight network of trusted people around you. Have courage, determination and self-belief as it can be challenging.”