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Meet Jessica Walmsley of Pacific Beach Organics Co. in Pacific Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Walmsley.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Delving into the world of chemistry and business was all new territory for me and completely out of my area of expertise. I was a preschool teacher by trade who wound up on this crazy entrepreneurial journey making organic sunscreen and educating people about the dire state of the world’s oceans. It started innocently enough when I realized how detrimental common sunscreen ingredients were to not only my daughter Rohan (a surfer) but to the world’s coral reef systems. We spent most of our free time at Windansea Beach and I could no longer in good consciousness continue to use a sunscreen that was contributing to worldwide coral bleaching and negatively impacting human and animal health. When searching for a high-quality organic sunscreen I found that most of the top brands boasted a natural product but still contained harmful ingredients like oxybenzone. Other brands that were true to their label were extremely overpriced and I realized rather quickly that I could source my own ingredients and handcraft a sunscreen lotion where I had complete control over what went into the product.
The process in and of itself seems complex but at the end of the day anyone can craft their own sunscreen lotion with the right ingredients, materials, and know how. After researching minerals like non-nano zinc oxide and plant oils with natural sun protecting properties, I began to formulate my own recipe. After a few botched attempts and trials on friends and family, the recipe evolved and I wound up with this magic high endurance lotion that worked in the harshest of climates. Gone were the days of red faces and questionable ingredients as the lotion was always still on our skin after a full day of surfing. We later coined the product Riptide Sunscreen and it became the go-to lotion among of our tight knit group of friends.
It really wasn’t long before many people in my circle started asking when I was going to take the product to local farmers markets. Initially I was unsure about taking on any markets but ultimately decided that it was a great way to gain local exposure. In the blink of an eye it seemed, I took the business to the Pacific Beach Market and then shortly thereafter the Little Italy Mercato where the product was well received. I began producing other popular non-toxic personal care products like diaper cream and deodorant then started acquiring wholesale accounts. Our successes on this small scale were enough to propel my little sunscreen company to the next level and in November of 2015 I sent a sample of Riptide off for formal FDA testing procedures in New York City. When our results arrived I spoke with the Director of the laboratory who said, “I have a lot of big time sunscreen companies sending product in here and sometimes they have to test two or three times before hitting the numbers they want. Well you guys hit your target numbers on the first try so whoever you hired to formulate your stuff must have really known what they were doing.” Grinning from ear to ear I couldn’t wait to respond with, “Sir, you’re talking to the formulator!” Riptide came in at an SPF 32, received the max water resistance rating of 80 minutes, and passed on broad spectrum protection.
With proper labeling of our sunscreen and the certificate of authenticity behind us backing the effectiveness of the product we went hard at area farmers markets, street fairs, and other popular local events. In November of 2017 we left farmers markets completely to grow a larger web presence and to pursue trade shows but I’ll never forget our roots as a company and how it all started with a little weekday market in Pacific Beach.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
You’d be amazed just how many successful business owners I know who say, “If I had known then what I know now, I absolutely would have never went into business!” I started Pacific Beach Organics knowing very little about the sunscreen industry and the challenges were endless. Sifting through hundreds of pages of grueling FDA regulations and guidelines, phoning testing facilities, and meeting with biochemists left me scratching my head and asking myself, “Why didn’t I just start a coffee company?” It helped having a vision and strong passion for making a positive impact on the environment because that was truly the driving force behind my efforts when things were looking bleak. In business I have learned to accept the struggles as being apart of the larger process because any road block or challenges have ultimately helped my company grow.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Pacific Beach Organics Co. – what should we know?
At Pacific Beach Organics we are the master purveyors of natural sunscreen and organic skincare products. As a company we strive to reduce the damage done to delicate and endangered ecosystems through the use of organic and natural sunscreen ingredients while simultaneously providing non-toxic products that protect and nourish the skin. We are proud of our efforts in educating the public about safer sunscreen alternatives, the negative impacts of coral bleaching, partnering with local rescues/non-profits, and donating to organizations that promote environmental conservation.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I’ve been told several times that a business is like a baby and like any real child it truly takes a village. Pacific Beach Organics never would have left the mason jar had it not been for my good friend Susan McClure who was my very first investor and friend who believed in me when I was still unsure of myself. Without her influence I can almost gaurantee I would not be sharing this story with others. Despite working a full-time schedule my husband Jon carried the tremendous burden of designing and maintaining our website and product labels while still managing to find time to help schlepp our booth set-up from market to market. Jon’s mom, uncle, and relatives helped with booth set-up during times when I was still teaching making it possible for Pacific Beach Organics to take on markets in the first place for which I’ll always be eternally grateful. My immediate family is in Massachusetts where I’m originally from but they have always had my back and would spend chunks of their San Diego vacation helping me at markets or labeling hundreds of containers late into the evening. Then there are all the small business owners I met at the farmers market who inspired me daily and motivated me to dream bigger and go further. They were a shoulder to cry on, a friend to confide in, and some have become like extended family. The really close friends I made through the farmers market had my back during some very challenging personal times when running a business seemed too great a burden to carry. Those people know who they are, thank you for seeing me through.

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