As organic and all natural appear more frequently on product labels, some consumers are wondering how this effects performance. Athletes are desperate for sunscreen that holds up during hours of profuse perspiration and shampoo that can remove major chlorine buildup after miles in the pool. With their Sun Barrier, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion, Zealios is putting performance first through a unique, proprietary elixir, which includes safe synthesized compounds.
Austin Britts and Kevin Fuller first started experimenting with personal care formulas in Berkeley in 2009. As veterans in the world of chemical commodities Britts says they, “knew how to get the goods.”
After much experimentation with formulas, in 2013, Sun Barrier was brought to market. The combination of SPF 45 Paraben and oil-free sunscreen with 8 percent micronized zinc oxide was perfect for performance driven consumers. To boot, Sun Barrier dries on clear, feels light on the skin and has earned the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) highest endorsement for water resistance.
“Initially,” Britts says, “we didn’t have a broad understanding of consumer packaged goods. At first our goal was creating Paraben free personal care products because at the time there were some scares in the market over Paraben being an endocrine disrupter and a potential carcinogen. We vetted that out and realized we wanted a more specific market niche, though our products are still Paraben-free.
“We first got the word out through education. Going to swim clubs and sharing our sun block. Teaching kids about sun protection and donating a portion of sales to the club worked well for our product and now we hit high profile events like triathlons,” says Britts.
Today, Zealios is a premier personal care product line which strives to serve cyclists, swimmers, runners and triathletes. They are proud of their sustainable growth and think that not rushing to market has worked in their favor.
Though they met while playing Rugby at the University of Washington, and say they still coach, Britts and Fuller are crossing over to compete together in their first triathlon, the Lava Man. When Britts first moved to Bend in 2015, he connected with the Rough Riders, Bends National Division II rugby club.
Britts says he first experienced Central Oregon in his youth for ski racing while living in Nevada City. “Moving the company up from Berkeley was strategic. We talked to Gary Bracelin at the Bend Outdoor Worx and in one weekend had more positive and encouraging meetings than we had in a year in Berkeley.
“Not being a tech startup in Berkeley, we felt like we were getting lost in the startup shuffle. In Bend, there are numerous product-based companies rather than just tech. There is a great network of intelligent folks who are willing to help here.”
The only variable Britts mentioned as a local challenge was proximity to lab space. “If we could have Zealios products produced at a local lab that would be amazing, but labs for our products have to be FDA approved. To open up a facility like that it is a huge undertaking.”
When asked where customers can purchase Zealios products, Britts explains, “Retail is not a huge focus and we haven’t been actively pursuing it. Most of our orders are direct. Our consumers are great and they request it at retailers often, which is a great help pushing Zealios onto shelves. After presenting at PubTalk, we made so many contacts. The Economic Development of Central Oregon is so supportive. We feel fortunate to be headquartered in Bend. There are many people cheering us on.”
Britt ads, much promotional support has come from, “accomplished local ambassadors. They have helped promote sales a ton. Jesse Thomas, a phenomenal triathlete and CEO of Picky Bars, Heather Jackson, who finished fifth at Kona and Matt Lieto, another local professional triathlete. Part of our journey finding the market for Zealios was great feed back from ambassadors. After all, they are who we are serving.”
When asked what breakthrough Zealios might be seeking in the future, Britts beams saying, “Our main goal is cultural. We want to become endemic to the culture of endurance sports. We are going to do this by continuing to engage with and be driven by our community.”
Ultimately Zealios says they aren’t going to sacrifice performance, “to put a couple buzzwords on a label. Sure we use natural wherever possible, but not at the risk of performance. This is where we differentiate our personal care products.”
Not sacrificing performance under any circumstances appears to be a virtue their market base can relate too.
Tag line: Personal care that goes the distance
Founders: Kevin Fuller and Austin Britts
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org, teamzealios.com, 48 SE Bridgeford Blvd., Bend, OR 97702
No. Employees: 2
Where did the company name come from? We really liked the zeal of endurance athletes, and Helios, the Greek god of sun. So, we compounded the two to make Zealios.
When did you open your doors? Officially 2013 but we consider out first real year 2015.
What is your product/market niche? We market high performance personal care products to triathletes and endurance athletes. We formulate products with performance as our guiding light.
What has been your greatest success to date? We were recently featured by Men’s Health and Runner’s World as the best sunscreen to use while working out. That was a pleasant surprise.
What is your company’s number one goal in the next year? We are striving to become endemic to the endurance culture. We want to be the go-to personal care company of every endurance athlete.
What other ways is your company involved in the community? We love to do events. Swim meets, bike races, triathlons, you name it. We typically give out a lot of sunscreen and enjoy educating people on why the product is so important. We worked with swim clubs in the past to help fundraisers. Having coached youth sports, we know how hard it is to raise money. It was fun for us to help out.
Outlook for growth: We grew 240 percent in 2015 and are on pace to double again in 2016. It’s going to be a wild year.