Women know that it takes a village. From our first ambassadors that shared our story to female surf shop buyers that bought our first products, Seea owes everything to the community of water women who have supported us.
In honor of #Women-Led Wednesday and #SmallBusinessSaturday—two initiatives to encourage buyers to shop women-owned businesses and small businesses, respectively—we called a board meeting with a few of our best boss lady friends to talk about running passion-driven and female-centric businesses.
Read on to hear why women lead differently from Amanda Chinchelli, founder of Seea; Jackie George, managing partner of Surf With Amigas all-inclusive women’s surf and yoga retreats; and Rel Lavizzo-Mourey & Julie Cox, co-owners of Traveler Surf Club & Coastal Outpost, an innovative, community-driven retail and gathering space.
Jackie George catches at party wave during a Surf With Amigas retreat.
Tell us about your community of water women! How have these relationships shaped your business?
Amanda Chinchelli (founder of Seea): Seea is created by women for women. This season’s collection is called “Rhythm of One” to celebrate how we are all connected and need each other to make things happen. I feel extremely privileged and proud of the women who work at Seea and the way our products connect us with surfer ladies from around the world.
Our ambassadors are an extension of our headquarters—their unlimited love for the ocean, the planet and their passion to be driving forces in women's empowerment—are beacons in their own communities. This is what keeps me motivated and pushes me to stay in business even though at times, it is really hard.
Amanda waxes up with longtime friend and stylist, Elisabetta Dal Bello, who's styled many Seea photo shoots. Photo by Lucrecia O'Keefe.
Jackie George (managing partner of Surf With Amigas): Over the years our network of guests and instructors (all known as “amigas”) has grown so much. Hundreds of brilliant women have connected during our camps and bonded over surf, ocean, adventure, and the transformative change that can happen when you step outside your comfort zone. Each relationship has helped surf with amigas grow into what it is now.
We care about people’s opinions and advice and are constantly chatting openly about the experience of our retreats and how we can improve. From the first lawyer that recommended that our guests sign waivers and different instructors that have added to our coaching program to comforting conversations in difficult times, Surf With Amigas is the collective creation of this worldwide network of ladies.
Rel Lavizzo-Mourey & Julie Cox (Co-owners of Traveler Surf Club & Coastal Outpost): There have been so many rad women that have helped us grow that we could probably start a whole “wall of fame” with their names on it! Our amazing managers and team in Pacifica and Malibu are brilliant creative women. We have amazing lady Club Members and customers who have supported us and brought their own tribes into our spaces.
Ashley Lloyd makes beautiful, handcrafted boards with thoughtfulness, love and detail. Carla Zamora has been doing intermediate and advanced level longboard style and surf clinics with us in Malibu. Kassia Meador has brought in her sustainably sourced products. There has been a brilliant group of lady artists, writers and designers who helped bring our recently published surf guide to life… and iconic water women like Keala Kennelly, Rochelle Ballard and Sachi Cunningham have come to our spaces to share and document their personal stories of perseverance. Truly, there are too many to recount, but we just feel blessed to be able to have this celebration of rad women under our roofs.
Traveler Surf Club in Malibu offers surfboard storage and post-surf warm showers. Photo by Ian Zamora.
In your experience, how have you seen women lead differently in a way that’s informed your business approach?
Amanda: Before Seea I had mostly worked with men so I can’t say that I've had women mentors that guided me in running my business. But I grew up with strong feminist women and men in my family that believed that we are capable of doing anything and that women have an extra push for getting stuff done, quickly and efficiently. As primary caregivers, working moms have no time to waste.
They taught me to listen to my feminine intuition and always showed me by example that working hard at whatever job you are doing is a sense of pride and enrichment. If you can’t find something that you need, you make it yourself and don’t give up. This pretty much sums my philosophy behind Seea.
To me, the one key difference that I see in how women lead differently is the way we highlight the importance of collaboration. We know in our bones that "it takes a village” therefore we are not afraid to ask for help, being humble and collaborate for the goal of a greater purpose.
"Badassery in the wilderness translates to business as well." Jackie George at work.
Jackie: In general, I’ve found that women-led businesses are more organized! I definitely have learned from many boss ladies over the years, but I’ve learned from a lot of men, too. The main difference I’ve noticed is communication. The way women communicate with each other can be more thorough, which keeps all team members in the loop and on the same page.
Rel & Julie: We think that women can be quite good listeners. For us, as a young company, leadership is as much about problem-solving and coming up with solutions as it is visualizing and implementing future goals. In both cases, however, listening and gaining feedback from those around us is always key.
Who knows how to multitask better than moms? Seea founder, Amanda Chinchelli with her daughter Annabel. Photo by Lucrecia O'Keefe.
Fact: "There are more CEOS named James of Fortune 500 companies (as of 2018) than women of any name.” The small number of female executives makes it tougher for others to follow. What female mentors have impacted your life and business?
Amanda: My mentor in life, consciously and unconsciously has always been my mom. She raised 3 kids by herself working as a teacher. She always puts us kids at the forefront of everything but also always expressed her true passion for her job and how good she was at it.
Work is very much part of her and my identity. She taught me how important it is for women to work, do great work, and become good examples for other women and men. She taught me that you don’t have to choose in between family and work but she also didn’t hide that having both would come with lots of sacrifices and exhaustion.
She taught me how important it is to always learn and that you are capable of learning anything you want. I wasn’t afraid of teaching myself how to design, sew and become a business owner. She taught me self-confidence through self-love and generosity by example.
Julie Cox rinses her feet in Traveler's shower grotto, one of the many amenities that the Surf Club provides for members. Photo by Ian Zamora.
Rel & Julie: We’ve both had great mentors and role models in our past. For Julie, Bev Sanders who founded the Las Olas Surf Camp, where she worked for over eight years, was a big entrepreneurial role model. In addition to pioneering the trend of all women’s surf camps, she’s always emphasized creating a warm, positive, and fun workplace. Our longtime friend Alana Nathe opened Paradise Surf Shop in Santa Cruz with three other women, which Julie first set foot in during college. That was the beginning of an awareness that there was an alternate model for surf retail.
Rel’s mother has long been a leader as the former CEO of a large healthcare foundation and is on the Board of Directors for several Fortune 500 companies. She’s had the experience of having a bird’s eye view on many large-scale industries and policy organizations so simply being able to chat informally with her about what she’s experienced from those vantage points has been terrific guidance in making both short and long-term decisions for our businesses.
Photo by Ian Zamora.
Women, put simply, shop for products and services differently than men. In what ways does your business reflects the values and emotions that are important to women?
Amanda: We carefully design and craft swimsuits to empower women, to make women feel comfortable and confident. Surfing is just the platform we chose to represent this journey to become our best self so we can inspire others to connect, support and celebrate women, our diversities and our expressions.
Jackie: Our retreats are an all-encompassing experience. From the hotel and food, to the activities, to the instruction in the water, we care deeply about the feelings the ladies have during their weeks with us. As women, we’re in tune with those feelings and can tell if something isn’t right. We want every single person to come away from the experience saying they had an epic week. Sure, it’s great when the numbers look good at the end of a quarter, but week by week, priorities lie in having the most fun, getting the sickest waves, and stoking out our guests as much as possible.
"But creating a space is not always about making something that is purely functional. As women, we see a lot of importance in the details of the design." The hangout lounge at Traveler Surf Club. Photo by Ian Zamora.
Rel & Julie: In addition to selling gear, we operate two, (and hopefully more) Surf Clubs along the California Coast. The Surf Clubs offer board storage, lockers, changing rooms, hot showers, a sauna, heated furniture, towels as well as perks like coffee, tea, and WiFi. This idea really started out of a need to get warm after surfing cold water in Northern California and a place to store longboards when we lived in a space with limited storage. But creating a space is not always about making something that is purely functional. As women, we see a lot of importance in the details of the design.
A space should also convey a certain energy, and for us, that is warmth, relaxation, and convenience. As a result, the community that has evolved around these spaces has grown and blossomed beyond our imagination. Women really love the fact that we’ve addressed many of their common problems: changing into gear in public parking lots, (which can be a personal safety and privacy issue) and having a place to relax and meet other surf sisters out of the water. As we grow older and don’t always have the time to hang on the beach all day, the ability to connect with an ocean-loving community is increasingly valuable.
Wild woman Jackie George.
Over your years running a business, how have you seen the landscape of your field change in positive ways for women?
Rel & Julie: We think that all access points to the surf community have opened more for women. At the professional surfing level, equity pay is moving in the right direction, but there are constant battles. We hope to see outcomes that reach toward more equality and respect. There is progress in the fact that more young girls are out in the water trying to learn how to surf and that they are not being told it’s only for boys. At Traveler, we try to do our part by telling stories from folks who may have less visibility in the surf community and by trying to create an environment of inclusivity. The world of surfing, as well as in general, would be a better place with more women entrepreneurs.
What are your hopes for the next generation of girls and women?
Amanda: That women around the world become leaders in all fields with the collaboration of men who believe in us. I hope for a new women-led era for a flourishing future for our planet and society. Young girls need to see that it’s normal for women to be business owners and for both parents to be primary caregivers. We’ve seen the results of the past and current politics and business leaders. I strongly believe that there is a bright future in a women-led era. So let’s get to work.
Jackie: I feel grateful that I genuinely enjoy my work and have found a way to live the lifestyle I want. I’ve always followed paths that prioritize fun and passion over money, security and societal pressure and it has always worked out. Meeting people from all over the planet has shown me that there are so many ways to live this human experience. You only get one life, so you have to make it your own, and you may as well enjoy it. My hope is that the next generations of girls explore the many options available and follow their passions!
Rel & Julie: Our hope is that girls of the next generation will not hesitate to make the change they want to see and that they will be even more confident and fearless than we are today!