A Chat with Our Founders: Launching a Sunscreen When No One was Allowed Outside
Finishing it’s second lap around the sun, Lani & Kai is continuing to evolve each day through the guidance of co-founders, Sam Juraschka, Robyn Fukumoto, and Steven Lesley.
Back in 2019, Sam, Robyn, and Steven set their sights on a new business in the Insta-world of direct to consumer brands. Launching exactly a month after the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, it would take every crayon in the box to launch a sunscreen when everyone was stuck indoors. Lani & Kai, meaning land and sea, was born out of a relentless desire to be outside and a deep gratitude for our planet. Here is their story.
Where did the idea of Lani & Kai originate from? Was it always in your career plan to start a company?
Robyn: As serial entrepreneurs, we were itching to dive back into our own ideas. Sam came from the world of Private Equity where she manufactured the largest sunscreen brands and witnessed the massive margins these brands were earning on their chemical formulas. With my background working in social impact and seeing the massive decline in the health of our reefs in Hawai'i, it felt like the perfect opportunity to do better.
How did you set Lani & Kai apart from competing sunscreen brands?
Sam: The benefits of switching from chemical sunscreen, which represents over 60% of the market, is massive. Liquid-like chemical sunscreen works by absorbing into your skin to create a chemical reaction to turn harmful UV rays into heat. This chemical reaction not only creates allergies, but circulates harmful toxins into your bloodstream. There have been a TON of articles on the subject, culminating in Johnson & Johnson pulling Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreen off shelves this year.
We set out to create a mineral sunscreen people would actually wear. The mineral sunscreen on the market is typically 2-3x more expensive than chemical sunscreen, and it's best known for leaving a white-cast once you've rubbed it in, We created a formula that uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that has a silky finish once rubbed in, and is a comparable cost to the chemical brands.
How do you think the brand has evolved? What efforts is Lani & Kai making to continue to grow?
Robyn: We've learned a ton from 2019. We expanded from being direct-to-customer to a massive number of retailers across the country (and soon to come: in the Cayman Islands and in Japan!). We've found groups of fellow sea huggers in our community who give us new life everyday with their care for the reefs and ocean ecosystem. One area we're still working on is getting refillable packs. COVID wrecked the supply chain and our refillable pumps and packs are floating on a boat somewhere waiting to get here.
Advice for anyone trying to venture into the business and/or beauty world?
Robyn: Definitely do it. More and more brands are considering how to be more eco with packaging, effects of their products, causes they can champion. Find your niche and chase it, figure out the fewest possible steps to sales and go all in. You'll only learn if you try!
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