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Hidden Gems: Meet Christie Covarrubias of Sun50

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christie Covarrubias.

Hi Christie, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I grew up in Danville, California, which is east of the San Francisco bay. My father, who is a Mexican immigrant, instilled a very strong work ethic in me from a young age. He would say the following three things to me on repeat:

1. “America is the land of opportunity and YOU are lucky to be here. You can do or be anything you want to be.”

2. “Go to college and get your education because nobody can ever take that away from you.”

3 “Never be dependent on a man for money.”

To be honest, these pearls of advice, which I can recall hearing from the age of six, were very abstract to me growing up. Over time, I realize they have had a profound impact on my life. These “planted seeds” have continued to bloom over the course of life and flower at times when I needed a reminder.

I attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and was the first person in my family to graduate with a college degree. With my degree in Law and Society, I thought, VERY BRIEFLY LIKE 2 SECONDS, about going to law school. The truth is, I preferred and was better at working and making money over attending classes. To pay for my tuition and living expenses while in college, I worked as a manager for The Gap in the Paseo Nuevo mall. This led to a dream job offer (entry-level) in the merchandising department for The Gap corporate office in San Francisco. Which I turned down. I chose to stay in Santa Barbara for the person I was dating at the time. This relationship ultimately led to marriage, three daughter blessings, and sadly a divorce. I do wonder what my career might of looked like had I made the decision to follow The Gap position I had worked for, but I would never change the decision I made.

Right after college, I worked for Kinko’s corporate headquarters in Ventura, California for five years. Looking back, I consider my time at Kinko’s to be my own version of earning an MBA. I loved working for Kinko’s! It was an entrepreneurial, fast-paced environment where every co-worker, also known as “Kinkoid,” was part of something very special; we felt it, we believed in it, and we lived it. The Kinko’s company culture, the camaraderie, and the “Tripod Concept,*” are alive in my own company today. Every “co-worker,” the term employee was not part of the vernacular at Kinko’s, learned the “Tripod Concept” during onboarding.

*Created by Kinko’s visionary and founder Paul Orfalea, the Tripod represents the three ingredients to a happy and balanced life: work, love, play.

After leaving Kinko’s, I held various positions in marketing and public relations for small businesses and large companies but always felt like I was just an employee, not part of something special. Ultimately, I left my career for 15 years to be a stay-at-home-mom and returned to the workforce as a single parent. During both of my career cycles, I experienced toxic work environments where fear, negativity, and unethical practices permeated the company atmosphere. I watched talented people lose their self-confidence, become silent and riddled with stress due to the attrition of leadership. Kinko’s left a lasting impression on the importance of company culture. People do not leave companies, they leave management.

Sun50 evolved from a profound determination to build a successful company with a heartfelt and purposeful mission to help others. Sun50 is inspired by the loss of my cousin Reneé to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Reneé and I grew up together in California during a time when tanning beds, tanning oils, and suntanned skin were on-trend. I remember our summers together in Lake Tahoe floating on inflatable rafts and playing outside all day. By night our skin would be sunburned, hot, tight, and uncomfortable. We would slather aloe vera gel or spray Solarcaine on our bodies to cool down our skin and soothe the pain. Then wake up the next morning and do the same thing over again. We were both 32 years old when Reneé discovered a mole on her back, which turned out to be melanoma. Although she did EVERYTHING she could to fight it, the melanoma metastasized in her brain and she lost her life within ten months of discovering her mole. I honestly believe if we had known about the importance of skin cancer prevention growing up or early skin cancer detection, it’s quite possible Reneé would be alive today. Sun50 is rooted in our mission to elevate skin cancer awareness and promote the importance of skin checks for E V E R Y O N E. No person, ethnicity, or skin tone is skin cancer exempt. Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers, affecting one in five Americans by the age of 70. We are all part of the “have your skin checked” community. Our goal is to change human behavior.

We want to save lives by elevating skin cancer awareness and the importance of daily sun protection, but we also want to prove a company can be successful without compromising ethics and morals. When you create a company culture dedicated to building each other up as a united team of individuals, with ZERO tolerance for taking each other down, you foster a safe, respectful, innovative and collaborative force which is the playbook for success and UNSTOPPABLE.

Sun50 is dedicated to sourcing luxe eco-friendly fabrics with superior UVA and UVB sun protection naturally, without chemical treatment or enhancements. This means the sun protection in Sun50 apparel never washes out and is better for you and better for the planet. In addition, we make 100% of our apparel ethically and sustainably in the USA to reduce our carbon footprint and produce high-quality, long-lasting clothing. When it comes to consumption, we believe less is more and changing our behavior today, as it relates to personal health and planet health, is better for everyone’s future. I am very proud to add, Sun50 clothing is trusted by dermatologists and consumers worldwide and has donated to skin cancer-related non-profits since the day they were founded in 2019.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
We received our first Sun50 apparel collection in February 2020. We were instantly smitten and ready to tackle the world with our beautiful pieces! Within two weeks, Sun50 had a wholesale contract with a luxury hotel chain and a wholesale contract to be part of an e-commerce brand “pilot experience” with a large department store chain. We literally hit the ground running. Our Los Angeles production house was in full swing and we were hustling.

Then Covid hit and the world shut down.

With Covid, the obstacles and challenges have been plentiful. Nobody could have foreseen what a profound impact it would have on the world, the economy, and the way it has forever changed the way we live our lives. Thankfully, I am surrounded by an incredible team of talented people who are nimble, creative, passionate and smart. They believe in Sun50.

In the last 24 months, we have successfully produced six collections in spite of delayed supply chain hurdles, moved 90% of our apparel production to Minnesota because Los Angeles was hit so hard by Covid, changed our email and e-commerce platforms, hosted a virtual and live fashion show, successfully launched our #CheckYourself (May) skin cancer awareness campaign, crossed paths with a couple of unethical vendors and learned the hard way, continued to have photoshoots with fresh branding by using our Sun50 team as models and our creative director as our in-house photographer- true story and always given back to a skin cancer non-profit. We are a small-but-mighty-business and we have weathered the Covid storm. I have my team to thank for this. I could not of done it without them.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Sun50?
Sun50 is a woman founded and led sun protection clothing brand on a mission to elevate skin cancer awareness.

Sun50 is redefining sun protection (What is UPF https://sun50.com/pages/what-is-upf) with their ethically made-by-hand, purposeful high-fashion clothing which is 100% made in the USA. Designed in-house by Sun50, their styles are versatile and ideal for business, travel, and everyday living. Dedicated to sourcing luxe, airy, and easy-to-wear eco-friendly fabrics, Sun50 fabrics provide superior UVA and UVB sun protection naturally, without chemical treatment. This means the sun protection in Sun50 apparel never washes out. Better for you and better for the planet.

Sun50 is deeply rooted in their mission to elevate skin cancer awareness and promote the importance of skin checks for E V E R Y O N E.

“No person, ethnicity, or skin tone is skin cancer exempt. Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers, affecting one in five Americans by the age of 70. We are all part of the “have your skin checked” community. Our goal is to change human behavior,” stated Christie Covarrubias, Founder & CEO of Sun50.

Inspired by the loss of her cousin Reneé to melanoma when they were both 33 years old, Christie believes, “If we had known about the importance of skin cancer prevention growing up or early skin cancer detection, it’s quite possible Reneé would be alive today.”

Sun50 clothing is trusted by dermatologists and consumers worldwide and has donated to skin cancer-related non-profits since the day they were founded in 2019.

“Sun50 is more than just a high-quality and trusted clothing brand, we are a movement. We are on a mission to save lives, inspire thoughtful living, and respect our planet,” says Christie.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
Communicate with your ears, be a sponge, and follow your passion. When you pursue something you really love, success comes to you because you will not even realize you are working. Listen and learn without fear or embarrassment. Recognize that being collaborative and surrounding yourself with people who know more than you may know is powerful.

Empower your co-workers to make sure they feel respected, valued and are successfully expanding the resume. The trick is to create a company culture they never want to leave.

As a woman, when I was just starting my career, I wish someone would have mentored me or guided me through the delicate balance of being a mother while holding on to my career. I was under the impression it had to be one or the other, but I do not believe this anymore.

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Image Credits
All photos credit to Sun50

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