As someone who left corporate life to go freelance, I’m always interested to read about others who’re doing their own thing. James Marshall quit his 9 to 5 to launch surf rash company Sett Surf – an all-natural cream to soothe surf rash, as well as the other ailments of warm water surfing like sun burn and parched skin.
How did you take the leap from corporate life to launching Sett Surf?
Short answer – With a huge sense of ‘What on earth am I doing?! Haha.
The longer answer is I had always wanted to try starting my own business, or even just get out of the corporate world and into an industry that I felt more passionate about. I had some money saved up, and had a ‘its now or never’ type feeling so decided to go for it.
I didn’t know where to begin, so I joined a startup business course which was for people leaving their corporate jobs and wanting to start a more fulfilling and meaningful career. Having that community and support was immense, and is something I would recommend to anyone else considering a move.
How does working for yourself compare to life in the city. What’s your average day/routine like now you’ve left the 9 to 5 – do you get to surf more?
Good question; lets just say I have an aspiration of what my normal day will look like now I am working for myself, but I don’t expect to achieve that for a couple more years.
The truth is, it can be just as stressful as a city job, but in different ways…and it is A LOT of work, constantly. However I find the work far more interesting, rewarding and enjoyable which is a plus, as well as the people I deal with (lots of surfers) tend to be more fun to be around and do business with, too. I have more flexibility to go surfing more which is great, and I have structured my business so that as long as I have my laptop I can work from anywhere (i.e. the beach!) but its just me at the moment, so if I’m not working, nothing gets done.
Are you location independent now, and if so, how have you found that works with running a business?
Yes I am, and again it has its ups and downs. Clearly it is amazing to be able to say I’m going to Bali for a month because I can work there, and being able to spend a couple of months with family in New Zealand at Christmas. But there is definitely something to be said for stability and having a place where you go to get work done; I have found that moving around all the time can be very disruptive (for me, anyway), but I know people who make it work, so perhaps I just need to learn better ways of managing it. Also, when you go somewhere amazing like Bali, you are still working lots, so its not all fun & games, but Bali is a much cooler place to do work than the City of London, in my opinion!
It’s great to see that Sett Surf is an all natural cream – what functions do the different ingredients play?
There are lots of things going on, but the ones I will highlight are the papaya helps remove dead skin cells, then the manuka honey has antiseptic, anti fungal and antibacterial properties to clean it up, aloe vera soothes the skin, and the seaweed provides a jam-packed shot of vitamins, minerals, trace elements and amino acids to boost your skin to keep it in great condition. In addition to this, rosehip oil helps with any sun damage, coconut oil is a great moisturiser, and candelilla wax adds a bit of water resistance.
Apart from Sett Surf, what else do you always pack for a warm water surf trip?
Suncream! In or out of the water, it is vital to protect your skin from the sun’s harsh rays; some people think having a tan is cool, but skin cancer definitely isn’t cool!
On that note, where’s your favourite place to surf in the world?
It would have to be my hometown in New Zealand; I know the breaks so well which makes it fun, and when it gets good, it’s absolutely world class.
What are your future plans for Sett Surf?
To help surfers however I can, there are a few ideas I have which I would like to test out, but ultimately it comes down to what other surfers are interested in and will find helpful – all suggestions welcome! As far as specific products go, I would like to have an effective suncream for surfing that doesn’t wash off and sting my eyes, so thats a good starting point.
What advice do you have for others looking to set up their own surf-related business?
Go for it, and get started ASAP; the sooner you start, the sooner you will have success. Starting doesn’t always mean quitting your job and diving in head first. Rather, it could be as simple as having an idea and talking to some people about it see what they think or making some contacts in the industry. But once you start building momentum, the next step becomes clearer and you can start to enjoy the journey.