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EntrePROneurs: Business Savvy Professional Triathletes

  • By Holly Bennett
  • Published Mar 7, 2014
Photo: John David Becker

Alicia Kaye and Jarrod Shoemaker

Tri claim to fame: Kaye—2013 Life Time Tri Series champion; Shoemaker—2008 Olympian
Entrepreneurial acclaim: Endurance Shield (Enduranceshield.com), athlete-inspired skincare products including sunscreen, lip protectant, chamois crème and muscle-relief cream

“We weren’t looking to start a company. We were just looking to buy sunscreen,” Kaye says. But after frustrating trial and error with numerous products already on the market, Kaye and her husband, fellow pro Jarrod Shoemaker, were referred to Cherie Dobbs, a veteran spa-quality skincare product developer. Call it kismet—Dobbs had recently created a sunscreen for athletes, yet lacked an inroad to the industry.

The Florida-based couple worked with Dobbs to fine-tune the formula, addressing various barriers to use and even adding a moisturizing element to combat the constant drying of swimmers’ skin. “Pros have so many excuses for not wearing sunscreen on race day. Nobody wants to inhibit their sweat. They say, ‘I don’t want it to run into my eyes. I don’t want it to fog up my goggles.’ There’s a whole laundry list of reasons why we personally were never using sunscreen on race day,” Kaye says, “and we were not alone.” Yet she and Shoemaker slathered themselves in the stuff during training, causing skin-irritating rashes and clogged pores. Their quest for quality, comfortable, athlete-friendly sun protection ultimately led to the launch of Endurance Shield in March 2012.

Along with becoming experts in SPF, Kaye and Shoemaker have learned invaluable lessons in business ownership. “One of the biggest things that we realized quickly was that Jarrod and I have weaknesses,” Kaye says. “Our priority is triathlon. We were trying to do too much, and we realized we needed to bring on people to help.” Shoemaker serves as the company’s CEO, steering the big-picture decisions, while Kaye is a self-described “worker bee,” building relationships with vendors and digging into many of the daily business details. They contract a director of operations who runs the business when they are immersed in racing, as well as a social media manager.

The couple’s athletic success does provide a beneficial marketing platform for Endurance Shield, and likewise small-business ownership has dramatically influenced their appreciation of their own sponsors. “We enjoy going with the smaller, up-and-coming companies where we can really help them build their brand,” Kaye says. “Even multimillion-dollar companies at one point were just a small company trying to get their product out there.”

The future for Endurance Shield includes exploring more SPF applications, as well as developing easy-to-use methods for athletes to reapply sunscreen on the go. “I think Leanda Cave having skin cancer last year was a big eye opener for our sport,” Kaye says. “Everyone calls skin cancer triathlon’s dirty secret. It’s this thing that everybody is dealing with but nobody wants to talk about. We’re just trying to bring awareness to this, to make sunscreen cool.”

RELATED: 6 Things Triathletes Should Know About Sun Protection

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