Q&A: Surf Soap CEO Kayla Pearson Confesses
More and more women are stepping into the forefront of entrepreneurship and business leadership, and though it’s a small but mighty percentage, it’s an even smaller and mightier percentage to be a momma, surfer and a woman entrepreneur.
Kayla Pearson, founder and CEO of Surf Soap, reps this killer trifecta: woman entrepreneur and business leader, surfer and momma, and does so with poise and savvy … with the CUTEST little daughter at her side. Her passion for the ocean and the environment echo through her awesome company, Surf Soap, a company based in Hawaii that features handmade body and hair care products that are vegan, eco-friendly and convenient.
Learn more about Kayla in my Q&A below:
Can you tell me a little background about yourself?
I am a mama, surfer, entrepreneur and coffee snob hanging out on the island of O’ahu, where I live with my husband and sassy toddler, Ellie. I’ve had a range of jobs from food service, to barista, graphic design, marketing, management and most recently I have been active duty in the Army for several years. I am a trained hairdresser, and attended Paul Mitchell The School in Salt Lake City.
Beyond work life, I love being outside and always have a dog or two with me. I enjoy artisan coffee and pretending to know what I’m talking about with wine. Basically, exploring and learning about the world are my top priorities – which is why I have finally taken the leap and pursued business and entrepreneurship.
What made you want to start Surf Soap?
The idea for Surf Soap came to me from two experiences–the first being my inability to find a hair and skincare line designed for surfers. The salt and sun elements create different challenges for hair than a drier climate.
The second experience was this: as a working mom, I have to fit my hobbies into every nook and cranny of time I can extract out of the day. This means hardcore dawn patrol surfing. Well, after surfing I’d usually take a quick shower right there at the beach – so I could air dry my hair on the way home and finish getting ready in a flash. Here in Hawaii, they have signs everywhere on the beach showers that say “No Soap or Shampoo” and I wanted to know why.
Once I learned that the ingredients in our soaps and shampoos harm not only the reef but also the aquatic life – this drove me to use my knowledge of trichology (study of hair), chemistry, and business to create something that could be used anywhere. And not only that, it had to be something that actually worked, too. (Can I get a holla for all the times we’ve used shampoo bars that leave our scalps itchy and our hair weighed down?).
After about six months of research, and six more months of testing, Surf Soap was finally born and ready to send into the world.
What kind of ingredients do you use to create Surf Soap products? Why these ingredients?
Ingredient research is paramount to what we do here at Surf Soap. Not only must our ingredients be ocean safe, but they also need to be organic and sustainably produced and harvested. I went old school and researched ingredients that have been used for centuries as cleansers, moisturizers and healers when creating our Dawn Patrol Collection. We choose not to use any pre-made recipes, or any white label formulations to ensure that our products work as and how we want them to, and you just can’t get that level of customization with white label or “free” recipes on the internet.
We utilize awapuhi ginger, which can be wild harvested and used straight from the plant as a cleanser. Hibiscus not only colors our All-In-One bars, but also aids in the retention of moisture in the hair. Marshmallow in our Rehab Balm allows us to refrain from silicones (i.e., plastics) and instead use a plant that works incredibly well as a detangler and also helps repair the skin and hair barrier.
Our ingredients are so important, and we choose ingredients based on those three criteria mentioned above. We combine these with ingredients derived from coconut and sustainable plant oils to ensure we are offering something that our customers can trust. They know that we have taken the research off their shoulders, and also that our products are tested by real people, and that they actually work.
What is Surf Soap’s philosophy?
We strive to make products that keep our surf clean and our fishies happy. Everything we offer is vegan, plastic free and ocean safe.
How do you balance a busy entrepreneurial life with a daughter and surfing?
Oh my goodness – still figuring that out! To be honest, it takes so much discipline. There are days when I am SO exhausted, but the show must go on. Especially with a toddler. She’s 3, so she’s in a very interactive stage in her life and I don’t want to miss that.
I make time for myself, which right now is from 0500-0700 each day. I walk, do yoga or surf, have a quiet cup of coffee and meditate. Ideally – the other thing I am learning to do is not beat myself up if I need to sleep in some days or I don’t get a full yoga session in or whatever. Being kind to yourself is integral to finding that balance and achieving the things you want to achieve in life. I am also part of a surfing moms group so in non-COVID times, we take turns watching the kids on the beach while the other surfs. Hoping to get back to that soon.
I utilize my time as wisely as possible, as well. I listen to books on my commute (I am still working a day job until Surf Soap can support us fully), I work during lunch so that I can make time to spend with Ellie in that afternoon. Just finding what works and remaining flexible about it has been the biggest revelation.
Did you grow up in Hawaii? If not, where are you from?
I wish I had! I was born in California, raised in Utah, and learned to surf on the shores of Florida. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked and searching for ways to get in the ocean – which led me to the beautiful island of O’ahu, where I hope to stay.
What draws you to the ocean and surfing?
The ocean for me has always been such a reflection of my inner being. It’s a healer, a teacher, and someone who will slap you upside the head when you need it every now and then. Surfing itself I use as a meditative practice. I like to go alone (of course, you always end up in the water with the same group of people if you go at the same times, so there’s always someone around) and I don’t typically obsess over the waves. I only have a certain amount of time, so whether it’s flat or pumping, I’m going.
But getting out there, watching the sunrise glisten on the water, and feeling this singular breath as you glide over it – there’s something there that settles my mind and reminds me of impermanence and the possibilities in this life, if we only paddle out and try.
Whether it’s running your own business or surfing or life in general, how do you like to face a challenge?
Head. F**king. On. The only way out is through, and for me, there’s no wimping out. We find solutions. Personally, if it’s something that’s made me frustrated or angry, I set myself an amount of time to feel it all out. Once that time is up, like one hour or 12 hours or whatever, I’m over it – I quit moping and get to work. (Seriously, it works. Try it!).
What makes you stoked to get out of bed every day?
Currently it’s Surf Soap. Strategizing a budding business and watching it take hold is so satisfying for me. I long to create my own schedule and days instead of having my days spoken for me, and this is the first step. It’s finally taking shape and now it just needs a whole lotta work to get to that point.
You are passionate about ocean conservation. Which causes are most important to you?
- Recycling education. Our recycling programs are actually pretty specific and where our recycling goes is not always clear. So learning to recycle things in your own home, recycling waste properly, and buying conscientiously are huge points I’d like to work to educate more people on.
- Wastewater. Please don’t drain oils, harmful soaps, or anything that goes directly to the ocean. Our wastewater plants can’t filtrate everything, so by being educated and learning about our effects on the ocean from personal care products, we can improve the quality of water for aquatic life – which translates directly to us.
What are your hopes for the future of Surf Soap and the environment?
For Surf Soap, I’d love to see our products next to the wax. My goal when we started was to make this an accessible product. So many eco-friendly products seem almost guarded and pretentious, and I wanted to offer the same high quality to anyone who sought us out. We have many more products in the works (a few are on my desk being tested right now!) and I’d just love to see us grow. For the environment, Surf Soap is planning on doing a lot of community outreach and education, because I think that is a big part that’s missing in our environmental progress. We also hope to just see less waste, and more sustainable things like packaging be brought to the mainstream.
Can you share any advice with surf mommas and women entrepreneurs?
This is hard. Really hard. But the awesome thing is that as women, we were made to do incredibly hard things. Stop comparing yourself to podcasters, bloggers and Instagram. Do what you need to do every day to move YOUR needle forward, whatever that may be. Step by step, hard things take time and you can make the time to do the hard stuff. Make goals and get after them. But also schedule in time to be kind to yourself – whether that’s working out, pursuing a hobby, or just feeling the sunshine on your face. We must create that balance, no one does it for us.
Where can people purchase and/or follow Surf Soap?
- Website: surfsoap.com
- Instagram: surf_soap
- Facebook: surfsoapcompany
- Twitter: surf_soap
And for anyone on O’ahu, we are currently sold in Down To Earth Kailua! Mahalo!
All photos provided by Kayla Pearson