Q & A with Sett Surf Founder James Marshall
A little secret here – I often go to Kickstarter, Go Fund Me and other crowd funding sites to see what might be coming in the surf market. That’s where I discovered Sett Surf, a cream to use before surfing to help prevent surf rash (aka “chafing”) or to use afterward to help soothe the burn. What pulled me in is Founder James Marshall’s brilliant sense of humor [because who expects a banker to even have a sense of humor?] and what hooked me is the all-natural ingredients used in the product [because we have enough pollutants going into our oceans.]
Some guys seem to wear their rash as a badge of honor. But it is tremendously damaging to your skin. Washington, DC Neurologist, Dr. Nick Olmos-Lau offered this brief explanation of sea water chemistry and why it causes chafing.
“Seawater is a solution primarily composed of salt ions: Listed in order of descending abundance by weight are: chloride, sodium, sulfate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bicarbonate, bromide, borat, strontium and others. As water evaporates, sea salt is deposited on the skin as crystals. Variations in the composition of waters from different seas are thought to be mainly due only to the changes in the amount of water present.
The first salts that precipitate are calcium carbonate (which is) limestone; a very gritty, rough and irritating substance.
Dr. Olmos-Lau continues on why chafing occurs so often in the seas and oceans. “The effect of sea salt on the skin is either a micro or macro-abrasive. Continuous skin friction can produce skin damage or abrasions of variable severity. This starts at the surface involving the epidermis first. If it goes deeper into the dermis, it can produce severe pain – similar to a burn – and/or bleeding.”
If you’ve ever suffered from severe surf rash, you’ll understand why it’s a smart move to use a product like Sett Surf. Here’s our Q&A with James Marshall, founder of Sett Surf.
Q. You launched your business via KickStarter. What was your financial goal? How long did it take to get there?
A. I needed to raise £5000 on Kickstarter, which covered the costs to complete the first production run, as well as sending rewards out to all of my awesome backers. The Kickstarter campaign ran until mid December (2015), and sourcing ingredients started almost straight afterwards, with the finished product landing at the end of March (2o16).
Q. You used humor in your KickStarter video—and it came across as very natural. Why did you choose to use humor in your appeal for start up money?
A. For that very reason – it is natural! Clearly there is a large element of trust involved in backing a Kickstarter campaign; the backer may never had heard of the person, and they are pledging money for something that hasn’t been made before and there is no guarantee of receiving their reward, or getting a return. So, in essence backers are putting their trust in me as a person, not some faceless brand. I think it is crucial to have a human personality as well as knowing and clearly communicating the business side of it. Besides, it was way more fun that way too which is refreshing after a corporate career!
Q. You said you worked with cosmetic experts to get the right blend of natural products to develop Sett Surf cream. Without giving away any secrets, can you describe that process?
A. I won’t lie to you, it wasn’t all smooth sailing…My first prototype was horrible, smelled like rotten fish and went moldy after a month or so, haha! But we learned from it and refined the brief, and came up with a formula which people seem to love – which is what is important. Product refinement is a never-ending process in my eyes (perhaps I have perfectionist tendencies), but the product we have now is fantastic!
Q. Your cream is made of all natural ingredients. How does that impact its shelf life?
A. It has a shelf life of three years, and is good for twelve months once opened. It contains natural preservatives which help this, and part of the EU regulatory process was testing preservative efficacy, so I am confident in it’s longevity.
Q. How does Sett Surf cream compare to using aloe or cocoa butter?
A. I would say better, but I am biased, haha! The key difference is that it was created with surfers in mind; for example, it sinks into skin so it doesn’t leave a slippery layer like some standard body creams, but the natural oils and candlelila wax help provide a protective layer. It contains both Aloe Vera and Cocoa Butter, as well as a whole range of extra goodies like Manuka Honey, Seaweed and Tea Tree Oil which increases the diversity of active ingredients which help your skin.
Q. Many American surfers use a product called Belly Jelly to fight board rash. Have you compared Sett Surf cream to Belly Jelly? If so, how does it compare?
A. I haven’t directly compared it to Belly Jelly, but I have compared it to Pawpaw ointment which is extremely popular in Australia and New Zealand among surfers, and the general population. The tester applied some SETT Surf Rash Cream on one side, and the Pawpaw ointment which he normally used on the other. He said the SETT Surf Rash Cream was much better, so much so he wondered why he used to use the Pawpaw ointment in the first place! He was so happy he wanted more, so I was stoked to hear that feedback.
Q. Many surfers use Vasoline/petroleum jelly to fight rash. You don’t like that because it’s petroleum based. Can you explain what using a petroleum-based product does to the ocean?
A. It’s not only the ocean, it’s our bodies and our clothes or wetsuits that it is harmful to also – a trifecta of harm! At the most basic level, petroleum demand means oil tankers in the ocean, and we all know what happens when an oil tanker, or pipeline leaks oil into the ocean – absolute carnage and devastation to the environment. The harsh, abrasive chemicals also wear down and fade your clothing, and if not refined properly, it contains carcinogens (the nasties that cause cancer) which could be absorbed through your skin into your body. Not cool all around, if you ask me…
Q. It seems that Sett Surf cream is intended to be used AFTER a rash appears. Does it help prevent surf rash if applied before surfing?
A. It will soothe the burn if a rash is present, and help keep your skin in great condition for defense and recovery. There is a clear trend in people’s awareness about the damage sun & sea can do to your skin, and I think looking after your largest organ (your skin) with a quality natural solution is important. The natural oils and candelila wax in SETT Surf Rash Cream may create a barrier between your skin and board/boardshorts/wetsuit etc when applied before surfing, but due to the repeated friction (sometimes over hours) I’m afraid I can’t guarantee it will always stop a rash from forming.
Q. If applied before surfing, does Sett Surf cream damage a rash guard, board shorts or wetsuit?
A. The natural ingredients were selected to be gentle on your body, your clothes and the environment, when compared to petroleum products, for example.
Q. Where is Sett Surf cream made?
A. It is made in Cambridgeshire in the United Kingdom – this is to ensure it meets the strict European Union regulatory guidelines, among other factors.
Q. I noticed you live in UK and the price on the website is quoted in pounds. Can Americans buy it? Where will the price be converted to dollars? (e.g. in your shopping cart, when the charge hits the credit card it will be converted by the issuing bank)
A. Of course – I have a number of US based backers, as well as all over the world. The price will be converted into the relevant currency by the customer’s card issuing bank, just like any other purchase from a UK based company.
Q. About how long will an American wait to receive the cream, once ordered?
A. I am working to a 5-7 day delivery time to USA, and will be sure to keep customers updated with shipping info.
Q. Do you have any plans to distribute Sett Surf in the U.S.?
A. When the time comes and it makes sense, yes I would love to! I am speaking with some people for distributing and having stock in physical stores in a number of countries, including the US, and am always keen to meet more people in the industry. In the meantime, I can ship to most places from Sett Surf website orders.
Q. Is there anything I haven’t asked about that you believe surfers should know about Sett Surf?
A. SETT Surf has partnered with SurfAid, and I am donating a portion of all profits to this awesome cause. SurfAid’s aim is to improve the health, well being and self-reliance of people living in isolated regions connected to us through surfing.