LADIES IN SURF: INTRODUCING STIEN
We caught up with the gorgeous Stien from Seafoam to find out a little more about what she's upto and her fab brand! If you haven't checked out her amazing swimwear ranges at www.seafoamsurf.com that are designed for the surf then you are missing out! Read on to find out a little more:
Hey Stien it’s great to chat to you, so firstly tell us a little bit about yourself & where you are from?
Hi there! I grew up in Flanders, Belgium and spent most of my weekends and holidays at the beach as my dad is a passionate catamaran sailor.
My name, Stien, is pronounced like the end of Chri’stine’, I am 33 and been living by the Welsh coast since 2012.
I’m intrigued….how did you get into surfing?
Spending so much time on the beach as a child, I always found ways to entertain myself.
Luckily my dad’s boat was kept by a sailing club that had a ‘garage’ full of all kinds of boards and boats.
While my dad took my brother and I sailing from a young age, the real ‘board sport’ bug hit when I learnt windsurfing and snowboarding at 14. This was also around the time kite surfing kicked off in Europe, so my dad convinced me to get into that.
As both of these needed quite a big kit and a car, once I was a student, surfing waves seemed to be the easier option. Just a board and a wetsuit required, and relatively easy to take travelling. After uni, I worked and lived in beautiful surf spots around the world before settling by the Welsh Coast 8 years ago, which meant I could go surfing whenever the waves were good.
So tell us more about Seafoam and how it came about?
A couple of years ago I got frustrated with the painful halter neck bikinis that would fly off a soon as you hit the water. I went on the hunt for bikinis that would stay on, but they were nearly impossible to find here in Europe.
There were a few up and coming labels across the globe, so in 2015 I decided it was time to make these more accessible to the European water women. I invested my personal savings and worked hard to bring these awesome women-owned surf wear brands to closer shores, saving others from expensive shipping and import taxes.
It’s been my side project ever since, combining it with a job as supply teacher up until last December and now with being a full time mama to my 6 month old rainbow baby.
You have some totally gorgeous pieces online – I have my eye on lots of them – how do you choose which designers to work with and which pieces to stock?
Seafoam has been in the making long before it was actually launched in September 2015.
From trying to find Surfwear for myself, I had come across some awesome labels.
While business planning the numbers, the actual collections developed slowly from a Surf Essentials Pinterest board to actually testing out different pieces while working in French Polynesia.
At the time of Seafoam's launch there weren’t actually that many surf bikini labels around, so choosing was easy and we launched with only 3 labels.
Over the years as Seafoam ‘matured’, some labels disappeared (it’s a very tough market) and many new ones were born.
I also developed a clearer idea of what values I wanted to support in labels, what really worked in the water, customer feedback on quality and what fellow ocean women really wanted.
Choosing can be really hard, it’s trying to find a balance between personal taste and offering something for everyone, trying to cover all shapes/sizes/colour preferences etc.
Because Seafoam is totally self funded, budgets are limited so every season it’s so hard to choose from a wide collection.
I wish I could stock whole collections of each label, but I try to ‘curate’ what I believe will work best in the water.
So I have to ask – do you have a favourite brand/designer and why?
One of the perks of running your own business is being able to choose your personal favourites. Honestly, I love all labels on Seafoam. I couldn’t pick just one, I’d say if a label is stocked on Seafoam, it’s because it’s my favourite. :)
Every water woman is unique and so are Seafoam’s brands. However, all of them are small surf businesses, run by ocean loving women and made in small factories by skilled workers.
There is a small list of labels that I would love to add in the near future, as soon as funds allow.
As we are celebrating our 5th birthday in September, there will be a new label added in the next few days, one that I have been eyeing up since the launch!
Running a business can be challenging at times for sure – what’s your favourite part about running Sea Foam?
As I said, choosing new collections, it’s like being a child in a candy shop.
I also get great satisfaction when customers find what they’ve been looking for for a long time. Helping them find the right style and size, hearing they’ve been rocking them in tropical places.
When customers tell me their new swimwear has given them new confidence in the water, it’s such a treat. I know quite a few women who still wear their Seafoam bikinis and leggings from when Seafoam launched 5 years ago and still going strong. That’s what it’s all about!
On the flip side what are there any downsides to running your own business?
Having to be realistic when it comes to budgets. Seafoam still is a side project, up until December I still had to teach as a day job to pay the bills.
It’s a pretty niche market and the margins are very small. While Seafoam is slowly growing from its turnover, I still wouldn’t be able to make it into a paid job for myself. It’s more a passion project, even after 5 years. Luckily I have great support from my husband.
You are an awesome female entrepreneur, but now you also have a new addition to the family too! How do you find running a business and being a mum? Has anything changed in how you do things? What are your main challenges?
Thank you! ;) Since January I am combining running Seafoam with being a full-time mama to our rainbow baby Noa, who’s now 6 months.
The combination has been pretty full on, trying to find any hours in the day to run Seafoam has been a challenge. But at the same time, I am not some one that can just sit down and do nothing. I have to keep busy all the time.
Our firstborn daughter was stillborn back in 2017, so raising a rainbow baby is extremely precious. Both of them have changed how I do things immensely.
I will never take any moment with them for granted, even after 0 hours sleep and not enough hours in a day. I am just having to learn to accept that nowadays my to do list will be longer and everything will take a little longer. :)
You are now based in Pembrokeshire, which is a totally gorgeous part of the world! Do you have any recommendations of good surf spots or cute coves that we should check out?
Oooh tricky without upsetting the locals. Haha I have been living in Pembrokeshire for over 4 years now and only recently discovered a new beach again.
I believe the beauty is in the search and the surprise. Driving and walking along the coast from one bay to the next is super exciting. The main and best known surf spots are nicely spread out along the south and north coast, with places such as Manorbier, Freshwater West (probably the most popular and well known from movie scenes in Robin Hood and Harry Potter), Newgale and Whitesands.
Of course, depending on swell and wind direction there are many sheltered bays along both south and north coast and endless breathtaking views from the cliffs.
Well worth a trip along the coast!
So finally do you have any big plans for the future or any exciting surf trips planned once all of this madness is over?
When it comes to surf trips, I’ve got to be honest. I really do love Welsh waves, they might not be world class, but after growing up in flat Belgium they are pretty special to me.
The fact that the spots are nearly empty most of the year, makes them even more attractive. I hate crowds.
Although, I am hoping to head back to the Algarve next spring for some me-time, heading to Chicks on Waves to spend time with the ocean loving women there.
Surfing time with a women-only crew is special and empowering. Something I try to make time for every year.
CHECK OUT the totally fab range of swimwear here: www.seafoamsurf.com