Sitting at Sharkey’s in Key Largo, Autumn Blum and John Nussbaum are constantly waved at, tapped, and hugged by passers-by on boat and by foot. People can’t get enough of the cool couple and their eco-conscious Stream2Sea sunscreens and body care products.
Jake Holzapfrel, an instructor with Rainbow Reef, hugs Blum as he runs by. “This stuff is awesome,” he tells Keys Weekly. “It’s the most effective sunscreen product I’ve seen on the market.”
Blum chimes in with a wink, “And you know what, it’s not going to kill fish.” Holzapfrel agrees. “And all their stuff is great. The sting gel is the only thing that works on Portuguese man-o-war stings.”
Blum and Nussbaum are somewhere between “local celebrities” and “hometown heroes,” having met on a dive boat of the now-defunct Scuba-Do Dive Company in Key Largo. Years later, in 2014, they would launch Stream2Sea together.
“We’re Florida grown, Florida made, Key Largo launched,” says Blum.
With her success creating environmentally safe sunscreen and body care products, Blum will be the keynote speaker at the Upper Keys Business and Professional Women’s 100th-anniversary celebration on Saturday, Oct. 26 at the Key Largo Marriott Beach Resort. Blum’s products have taken the world by storm. CNN recently featured her as a “small business success,” and Virgin Voyages partnered with Stream2Sea to make their cruises more ocean-friendly. Business has been so good, Stream2Sea’s growth has been limited only by how much product it can make.
“Last year, we had a hard time keeping up with demand, so in January 2019 we bought my old manufacturing plant,” says Blum. “We quadrupled our capacity. Our biggest batch is 500 kilos. Now I say, bring on the supply chain problems.”
What makes their product special? It’s quality ingredients and the science behind them. Blum, a cosmetic chemist by trade, had spent decades developing organic products she knew wouldn’t harm consumers. But, on a dive trip to Palau, she saw an oil slick coming off a group of snorkelers and realized, for the first time, that products going on people’s skin also affect the aquatic environment. As she watched divers shower off on the deck, another panicked realization hit her.
“There were really beautiful bubbles and good smells washing overboard and then there was Nemo swimming under, going ‘Ahhhh!’” says Blum. “I got off this dive boat and I knew I wanted to develop Stream2Sea. I left with the entire business plan.”
True both to her training as a chemist and her values as a diver and lover of the oceans, Blum created an entirely new formulation of sunscreen that is safe for humans, fish and corals – a first in the industry. Then, she contacted every eco lab asking for safety testing for fish and corals. With none up to her standards, she created her own eco-toxicity and refined her own products until they passed her stringent standards. “It’s exciting that today people are asking about eco-toxicity. That wasn’t a thing before,” she says.
Nussbaum agrees how much times have changed for the better. “An old shrimp boat captain of mine used to say, ‘The solution to pollution is dilution. You got something toxic? Throw it in the ocean. The ocean is so big, you can’t hurt it,’” he recalls. “He was wrong.”
Now, with their new manufacturing plant up and running, the couple is ready to save the oceans, one drop of sunscreen at a time.
“Life’s too short to not have friends and pursue your passion,” said Blum. “The best thing about life now — I feel like I’m making a difference every day.”
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