“Our goal is to inspire the world to use what has already been produced, reduce the demand for new products that are not needed, and promote conscious outdoor recreation while helping to save our home planet.”
Well, okay then. That’s a mission statement we can get behind. It comes from Sea N’ Soul, an online marketplace that started this past August. It’s like an eBay for used outdoor goods, but an eBay for good. It was started by a surfer and outdoors lover named John Kozlowski, a refugee from a big-time gig as a marketing exec for a mainstream fashion brand. Kozlowski saw the waste in the fashion biz, was horrified (30% of each season’s line tossed in a landfill or torched when it’s time for the new), and decided to spend his time working on something positive.
For so many outdoor things, new isn’t really necessary. We buy bikes, surfboards, skis, we tire of them, we move somewhere where those things aren’t useable, maybe they pick up a few scratches, who knows, but we move on from them when they have plenty of life left. Meanwhile, people are out there buying brand new things when used would be perfectly fine.
This is not news, of course. Though it would seem that the outdoor world, with lots of big ticket items and lots of people trying new sports, would have a robust system for buying and selling gear online, other than Craigslist and the like.
That’s the point of Sea N’ Soul. It isn’t the only online used gear marketplace, but it’s one with a ton of promise and a great philosophy behind it. It’s a simple app that facilitates consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer re-sale of used outdoor gear and apparel. With each transaction, they donate proceeds to orgs that work to heal the planet. Cool.
We talked to Koz about why he started the marketplace and what he hopes comes of it.
AJ: Did you have some kind of epiphany about waste when people buy new rather than used that was based on one particular experience or statistic you read/saw?
JK: Well not many people know this but the apparel and textile industry is second only to the oil industry in polluting our home planet. The textile industry in China alone discharges over 2.5 Billion tons of waste water each year and 95% of textiles that go to a landfill every year could have been recycled. This is also true for outdoor gear. We simply produce too much of everything and we live in a society that is always encouraged to buy the next new thing. However I get the sense from younger generations that this is starting to change. Not only is reusing items better for the environment, it makes doing fun things a lot more affordable. We wanted to make these recreational activities accessible to everyone and by creating a marketplace where you can purchase lightly used gear and apparel for a hefty discount we are lowering the barrier for entry. Not to mention if you try out a sport that you don’t end up loving you can put your gear up on Sea N’ Soul and recoup some of your expenses.
If more of us would start thinking a little less about the new and shiny toy and start thinking about our old and beautiful world, we’d all be a lot better off. Which is exactly why we started Sea N’ Soul.
Our Mission is to inspire the world to use what has already been produced, reduce the demand for new products that are not needed and promote conscious outdoor recreation while helping save our home planet.
We live in a society of constant consumption where single use and disposable items are the norm, and to combat that I wanted to create a fully regenerative company. I truly believe business can and should be a part of the solution to give back to the world and help solve our climate crisis.
Do you have the background to make something like this take off?
I’ve spent a whole career in the fashion and retail space, with big companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue, GQ Magazine and 18 years at Ralph Lauren where I was Senior Vice President of Global Brand Merchandising. It was in these roles that I learned about the harmful effects of the textile and apparel industry. I read many articles about how this industry through overproduction of goods that are not necessarily needed. One third of all apparel manufactured every year goes unsold, this same product ultimately is either burned or ends up in a landfill. At this same time I saw a trend happening with resale platforms like the Real Real and Poshmark but there was nothing specifically for the outdoor space. The result is Sea N’ Soul.
What’s your preferred game? Surfing, I’m guessing from the amount of boards with your name on ’em in the surfboard section of the site.
Yes I’ve been a surfer for many years, by virtue of spending so much time in the ocean and on beaches around the world it automatically gives you a sense of responsibility to the environment. You want to take care of mother earth, after all she’s providing you such an amazing place to do what you love. This passion for the environment is why we give back to earth repairing non-profit organizations within Sea N’ Soul.
Was this venture prompted by a bad experience with a mainstream online retailer? Or did you just feel like there needed to be a place for like-minded buyers and sellers to find somewhere that gave back to the environment?
You pretty much said it. We wanted to create a community of like minded passionate outdoor enthusiasts and give them a place to not only transact but to also learn about and protect the environments in which we all love to adventure in. We even go as far as providing links to write to your congressperson or senator regarding upcoming votes happening in Washington that have to do with protecting our shared spaces and water.
Does Sea N’ Soul also post to Craigslist or have an eBay storefront?
No we currently do not. We like to believe we have created a marketplace that is much safer and much easier to transact. Also we deliver to you a target audience that is much more likely to appreciate the value of what you are selling.
Any plans to work with brick and mortar retailers or anything to start up a used goods partnership?
Yes we are a great option for the thousands of mom and pop retail stores around the country that may not have their own digital space—or if they do they probably don’t have much reach outside of their general area. We are nationwide, so by listing items with us small shops in Virginia Beach could be selling products to people here in Southern California and vice versa. We also can be an option for larger companies that have overstock or other items they need to move.
We live in a society of constant consumption where single use and disposable items are the norm
What portion of the sale of something on Sea N’ Soul goes to enviro orgs, and which enviro orgs do you support?
For every transaction we give 2% of our profit to the users choice to either the Surfrider foundation or the Outdoor Alliance. We also give our users the chance to donate more on top of our contributions and if they do we will match their donations. We like the term growth giving. As our community grows and our transactions grow you can easily see how over time we will make significant contributions to nonprofit organizations that our users care about and be doing our part to help slow climate change and protect our home planet.
What are the issues with standard online marketplaces that you’re hoping to solve? First off we want to give outdoor enthusiasts their own target marketplace where they know others will appreciate what they are selling and probably be able to get more for their quality used gear and apparel. In addition we think our platform and process is much more streamlined and easier to use. We’ve removed the guesswork. You know if someone is committed to the purchase within our platform. We also let people return things if they are “not as described” and we have a rating system so our users can review each other.
Fave thing you’ve ever bought used?
Oh man. I love vintage and thrift shopping. My parents used to drag me along as a kid to antique stores and flea markets and I actually really enjoyed it and still do. I have several vintage surf T-shirts that are my favorites as well as several quilts and blankets, by woolrich and Hudson bay and of course my 1968 Ford Bronco.
Top photo: Dendy Darma Satyazi/Unsplash