Australia and New Zealand, have dwelt beneath a gaping hole in the ozone layer for decades, compelling the government and schools to educate children about the importance of wearing sunscreen, just in order to avoid a health crisis. Skin cancer is the leading type of cancer mortality in this region of the south-eastern hemisphere, largely because of the hole in the ozone layer of the atmosphere above. The ozone ordinarily filters and deflects a great deal of UV radiation directed from the sun, but in the Down Under, it does not. Sunscreens adhere to strict guidelines in these countries and the government promotes its proper use among citizens.
In the United States, the ozone layer is thankfully far more intact than it is above Australia and New Zealand and skin cancer rates are, historically, correspondingly lower. The public does not receive any form of education about sunscreen and its protective capabilities.
However, as sunscreen manufacturers gained market traction in the late 50s and 60s, their presence in American culture has proliferated, abetted by recommendations from doctors and dermatologists for their positive impact in reducing skin damage caused by sun exposure. A few decades after sunscreen became a widespread personal care product, something alarming began to occur in national statistics monitoring melanoma rates. They were increasing, significantly. Approximately 900% in the past 30 years.
A variety of studies ascribed the rise in melanoma rates in the United States to the misleading nature of the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating given to sunscreen, inadequate sunscreen formulas, and oxidative properties of some sunscreen ingredients that can damage DNA in the skin and further increase the chances of cancer.
Enter Personal Best Products LLC; a three-man company founded in Berkeley, NorCal, in 2013. Personal Best is run by co-founders Austin Britts and Kevin Fuller, along with new salesman and jack-of-all-trades, Will Havard. The company began when Britts and Fuller, who both spent years in the business of trading chemical commodities, encountered a sunscreen formula that one of Britts clients had designed. The sunscreens ingredients would achieve the widest breadth of ultra violet wavelength protection on the market – both UVA and UVB rays and everything between. Specifically, the sunscreen was designed to protect well beyond the UVB-caused sunburn that the SPF rating only applies to, and is able to disperse and absorb UVA rays that are often neglected and are able to penetrate more deeply, causing lasting damage, and in some cases, skin cancer. Additionally, the sunscreens composition allows it to be extremely water resistant and non-greasy, and importantly, absent of common toxic sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone and avobenzone. But there was more. Ron Hink, who had designed the sunscreen formula, had also created a special chamois cream formula. It was completely free of petroleum and petroleum by-products, free of paraben, it could feasibly be concocted using all natural (including some organic) ingredients, and without animal by-products or testing.
Hink was excited about both formulas, but with his own 70 year old family business, California Soda, which manufactures cleaners primarily used in the California wine industry, and 3 children in college, he would be unable to turn the product combination into a reality. Britts, who grew up in Nevada City, and was intimately familiar with the raucous spectacle surrounding Nevada City Bicycle Classic, and had mountain biked frequently while growing up, was compelled by Hinks formulas right away. He called upon his close friend Kevin Fuller to move out to California and build a company around the two unique, and superior, formulas. Fuller and Britts, who had played rugby together at University of Washington and gone on to play in USA Super League for a stint before trading chemical commodities, spoke with good humor about the mountain bike rides they started doing in order to get back into the sport of cycling:
Two chubby has-been rugby players in spandex was a pretty funny sight the first time .
After poring through research, they decided to go looking for starting capital. Britts was in contact with a client from his chemical commodity trading rolodex named Paul Burke. Burke owns Integra Chemical Company, based in Seattle, and is a melanoma survivor. During a phone call conversation, Britts talked about the plan to take a new sunscreen to market. The next day, Burke called Britts back, wondering out loud, Maybe I can be that investor?
Burke and his wife flew down from Seattle to meet with the two entrepreneurs. Burke received some samples of sunscreen from them beforehand. It was the first sunscreen he could actually use – his skin is too sensitive to even tolerate many kinds of soap. Shortly after, the company that became Personal Best, received its venture funding to begin.
A chance meeting at one of the recent iterations of Nevada City Bicycle Classic between Britts and local rider, Susannah Breen, who currently rides for Folsom Bike p/b Cervelo, lead to an introduction to Mark Deterline of Fremont Bank Cycling Team who runs a cycling branding company called Leadout Marketing.
Deterline worked with Fuller and Britts extensively until they had branded both products. They had thought about the athletic zeal they had all admired among the most popular athletes in sporting culture and then decided to combine that quality with the Greek god of the sun, Helios – the sunscreen would be called Zealios. For the chamois cream, they opted against the jovial vulgarity of the other brands currently on the market and chose a more subtle, almost Shakespearian descriptor: Betwixt.
Personal Bests list of accounts is growing quickly after years of handing out samples and working hard to secure their first distributors. Their biggest marketing coup so far? Possibly Kevin Fullers uncanny resemblance to Duane Allman while handing out Zealios and Betwixt samples at Sea Otter on a scorching spring day. Throughout good luck and bad, Personal Bests ethos of healthy, whole living, and their commitment to deliver the most optimal product to cyclists, is likely to steer them to a popular spot among the NorCal peloton.
As Britts concluded, Its nice to be able to stand behind something 100%, its kind of cool being able to say, This is the best thing you can have, go try it, I guarantee youll agree with me.
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