Meet the Founder: Ryan Kell of Sea & Summit
Ryan Kell describes himself as a “mellow dude” who loves surfing, volleyball, hiking, camping, and all things outdoors. While he’s pretty easygoing, he’s also a hard-working small business owner who is passionate about protecting people and the environment.
Determined to make a difference, Ryan created Sea & Summit – a revolutionary line of certified organic sunscreen with plastic-free packaging. At the time, most lotions and balms were made with unpronounceable chemicals. Instead, Ryan crafted his sunscreen with plant-based ingredients like coconut oil, sea buckthorn, and lavender.
What began as a project to help his friends in the Santa Barbara area has turned into something much larger. Still rooted in SoCal, Sea & Summit is making a difference all around the world.
Recently, Ryan took time out from his adventure-filled schedule to tell us more about his journey and share his advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
01 Why did you start Sea & Summit?
I’ve been working and playing in the sun all my life – about 8-12 hours per day. When I researched what I was putting on my body, I found out that most sunscreens were dangerous for our bodies and the planet. I realized that I needed something better and that I was going to have to make it myself. Before I knew it, I was supplying sunscreen to friends and lifeguards across California, and things grew from there.
More and more people are realizing that having a natural and organic sunscreen is an essential part of their outdoor adventure kit. Also, tourist-impacted areas are following Hawaii’s lead by outlawing chemical sunscreens. I felt that if I could create a better sunscreen, it would be a win-win for the entire world. So, that’s what I did!
02 What obstacles did you face along the way?
The traditional business model of making sunscreen is pretty detached from local and sustainable values. So, finding suppliers who can meet my standards for natural ingredients and sustainable packaging was a challenge. It’s a lot tougher than it sounds. Though, at the same time, I want to encourage other businesses to hold themselves to the same standards.
I refused to use plastic packaging and I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I failed over and over again until I got it right. Perseverance is key. I’m grateful for everyone who has remained faithful in our evolution. My customers and the stores selling Sea & Summit made it possible for me to be where I am today!
03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Check-in with yourself as often as possible. Make sure you’re staying humble and open-minded in order to seize all the organic opportunities around you. It’s important to be honest with yourself – know what you’re good at, but also recognize the areas in which you’ll need help.
Most importantly, stay true to the principles that prompted you to start your business in the first place. Whatever keeps you in that headspace, make it a practice.
04 What’s on the horizon for Sea & Summit?
The forecast is sunny! People want to get outside more than ever now. They’re going to need Sea & Summit and we’re pumped to make that possible.
We’re loading up the Sea & Summit van for a fun summer packed with new supplier meetings, visits to stores, mountain hikes, lakeside dips, and all the surf sessions we can muster!
You can follow us on Instagram to find out where we’ll be next and learn about new job openings for our ever-growing team.
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
To maintain balance, I need to feed my soul everyday by spending time in nature. My happy places are the ocean and the Sierras. Because I spend so much time outdoors, I need lots of sunscreen to protect my skin as do all the people around me. So, while I’m playing, I’m also working and learning.
What inspires me is hearing from people who are stoked about our sunscreen. They tell us that Sea & Summit enables them to do what they love while treating their bodies and our planet right! Feedback like that keeps us focused on what matters most.