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Entrepreneur mom pushes sun protection in swim-wear designs

Port Severn businesswoman Jen Scobie will be in Barrie on May 10 for the Friday Night Social market at Waterfront Fitness and Pilates Studio

A little more than two years ago, Jen Scobie was just a mother looking for a better way to protect her kids from the sun.

Today, the 37-year-old Port Severn resident is a successful small business owner and even made the short list as one of 100 semifinalists for Canada's Total Mom Pitch presented by TD Canada. 

Scobie, founder of Sun Safe On the Lake, which provides Canadian-made UPF 50+ swim and sun products, launched the business two years ago, after she realized products on the market did not provide young children with full coverage from the sun.

The idea for the business came about after spending a lot of time outside with her young children, including her infant son, she said.

“You’re not supposed to put sunscreen on babies under six months (old). He had this big bucket hat on and a sun suit … I came in and the back of his legs were red. I’d thought with the sun suit on he’d be protected,” she said.

“I started thinking: What if these suits could be longer in the legs and arms, and roll up and then down over their hands, so if you’re stuck out in the sun with them, they’re covered?”

Scobie and her family spend a lot of time outside and on the waters of Georgian Bay, which also got her wondering: “What would the 'perfect suit' look like for older kids, especially young girls?" 

She then started sketching and coming up with ideas for a better option to fully cover young children and keep them safe from the sun.

After designing a sun suit for infants, Scobie moved her vision to older kids, such as her daughter.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of these little bikini bottoms she actually had shorts that covered down past her knees so she’d have the same coverage that boys have?” she said. “I started designing the shorts that were UPF 50+ for the kids, and it kind of snowballed from there to include shirts that were longer in the arms and meant for swimming, but which dried quickly and then they could just run around all day in it.”

Last summer, Scobie expanded the line to include items for adults and is about to launch a sundress for women.

Seeing her “small, mom-made” business be named among so many other amazing female entrepreneurs as part of Canada's Total Mom Pitch — which provides finalists with the chance for a $50,000 grant that includes funding, resources and public exposure to help them grow their business — has given her access to a variety of opportunities to help her learn and grown that she’d otherwise have never experienced. 

“It’s a great opportunity and it’s great publicity to grow small, women-owned businesses,” Scobie said, adding being considered as one of them is a big accomplishment. “It’s such a good support system that is needed and that you can’t really find on your own.

"Everybody is going through the same stuff. Everyone has kids screaming in the background on the Zoom calls.”

Although Scobie wasn't named last week as one of the top five finalists, winning the Total Mom Pitch would have be "huge," she acknowledged.

“Right now, I am doing it pretty much all on my own … but I think the biggest thing would be (for) marketing, strategy and promotion. I don't think I knew when I started it — I just thought I wanted to protect kids from the sun — but all of the other business things that come along with that I had no idea," she added. 

"To get help with all the stuff I am not so strong in … would be amazing. This would just help propel (the business) forward faster than I ever could on my own.”

The mom of two also works with the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation to raise awareness for sun protection to prevent skin cancer and giving back to the community is important to her.

For the last year, Scobie has been donating two per cent of all sales to the neonatal intensive care unit at Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital, where her son spent time after being born prematurely. 

Scobie is scheduled to be in Barrie on May 10 for the Friday Night Social market at Waterfront Fitness and Pilates Studio in downtown Barrie, scheduled to take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

“That is through another group of local women. They do this market every few months (and) it’s just fun,” she said, adding it also helps raise money for a local cause. “Instead of charging vendors and small businesses coming to sell their products a fee they collect non-perishable food for the Barrie Food Bank and sell raffle tickets to customers."

All proceeds go to the local food bank.

"It’s such a great cause and a fun night with other women-owned businesses," said Scobie.