Baywatch — a comedic remake of the 1990s TV hit about sexy lifeguards — made one-piece suits the must-have of summer 2017. But given the rising rates of skin cancer in the U.S. you need to cover up more perhaps — your entire body. The skin cancer rate among men has increased 1.7% annually between 2003 and 2012, according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate for women rose 1.4% over the same period.
Getting melanoma prompted actress and interior designer, Sarah Buxton of Los Angeles, to create a full-body swimsuit with UPF 50+. At first, she made it for herself only and then discovered the huge market demand. It turned into Tutublue, a business that took her all the way to ABC’s hit business reality show Shark Tank — the grand dream for small business owners.
“My goal moving forward is to get everyone covered,” Buxton said. “Skin cancer can happen to anyone and being covered is much better than what sunscreen does to our health and the environment and is more consistent and fool proof too.”
“The Skin Cancer Foundation says sun protective apparel is the best way to protect yourself,” she added. “It is also better for the environment since sunscreen can be very toxic and it is bleaching the coral reefs.”
Dancing into the tank donning her signature full-body suit with two similarly-dressed models, Buxton pitched her business in a February 2016 episode of Shark Tank. She had only been in business for a month and a half when she taped the segment. She had sold 400 of her signature suits, which have a design patent pending. They retail for $220 and cost $47 to manufacture in Los Angeles. She’s sold about 1,000 units since the episode aired.
None of the sharks bit on Buxton’s offer for 25% of her company in exchange for $200K. They thought she was too early and overvalued. Buxton wishes she had asked for less money and provided more evidence of market demand. But as an actress, Buxton was used to rejection.
“As an actress, I am constantly being told no and the experience has given me the drive to keep moving forward,” said Buxton. “This is a really difficult way to make money. But I’m constantly being told I change people’s lives, which keeps me moving forward.”
As a result of the airing, Buxton scored a partnership with a competitor — Sun Protection Zone, the leader in sun protection clothing.
“I’ve since added beach leggings, shorts and rash guards and expanded our market to include men, kids and a baby collection,” Buxton said. “I am continuing to develop new and innovative products that will be released on an ongoing basis.”
Sun Protection Zone has helped her get into more than a dozen new retailers, putting her on track for major growth this year.
“There has been a lot of growth because of my new partner,” Buxton said. “I’ve been able to add more products to the line, focus dollars towards marketing, advertising and PR and utilize my partner’s extensive manufacturing experience.”
Over the next year she’s aiming to get her suits sold on cruise lines, spas and hotel gift shops.
“People who can not spend time outside due to the dangers of sun exposure, like those who have had skin cancer or lupus or other skin disorders, can safely get back outside,” Buxton said. “But it is also great for those who want to proactively protect their skin from the sun, especially athletes and those spending multiple hours outside. I love hearing the stories of how I have made a difference in people’s lives.”
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