Female-founded sun protection brand Solbari secures $10m from Australian Business Growth Fund

Female-founded sun protection brand Solbari secures $10m from Australian Business Growth Fund

L-R: ABGF co-head of investments Ghazaleh Lyari and Solbari founder and CEO Johanna Young (Provided)

A Melbourne-based company looking to combat the risk of skin cancer by selling ultra-protective clothing worldwide has secured $10 million in funding from Australian Business Growth Fund (ABGF).  

Established in 2014 by Johanna Young, Solbari sells a range of sun protective clothing, hats and accessories, all of which are rated Ultra Protection Factor (UPF) 50+ - the maximum sun protective rating achievable for fabrics. 

To date, the brand has sold to more than 300,000 customers across 160 countries.

The capital injection from ABGF will be used to fuel the company’s local and global expansion plans, which include building on its presence in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.

Solbari is also looking to target younger Australians and grow its wholesale market presence, which currently makes up 10 per cent of the business.

"ABGF’s support will ensure our journey as a global leader in sun protection continues, further enabling our mission to empower people to live a sun-smart life,” says Young, the CEO of Solbari.

According to Melanoma Institute Australia, Australia has one of the highest melanoma rates in the world, with one person diagnosed every 30 minutes and one person dying from the disease every six hours.

It is the most common cancer affecting Australians aged between 20 to 39.

This is an issue that is close to Young, who left her career as an investment banker to start Solbari after her husband was confronted with his own risk of skin cancer.

“Many Australians do not apply enough sunscreen, forget to reapply, or neglect to use other sun protection measures like hats and protective clothing,” says Young.

“What was alarming to me was the detection and treatment focused nature of public discourse around skin cancer – while we were talking about things like the importance of regular skin checks, I found that Australians were missing the education piece about prevention.

“I realised the critical need for accessible, well made and reliable sun-protective clothing. It became clear that there was an untapped opportunity to bridge the gap between style and safety in the realm of skin protection.”

Solbari has achieved rapid revenue growth, growing from 10 employees to 25 in the last three years.

"Investing in Solbari was particularly compelling to ABGF due to its specialisation in sun-protective offerings focused on addressing a customer cohort with health concerns– the products are not considered as discretionary spending but rather essential items,” says ABGF co-head of investments Ghazaleh Lyari.

“Moreover, the versatility of this business model positions it with a diverse potential for growth, opening the door to strategic partnerships that include retailers, corporates with stringent occupational health and safety requirements and organisations whose employees work outdoors, such as council workers, construction workers, sports clubs, and educators."

Solbari’s latest funding round brings ABGF’s total investments into Australian businesses to $153 million.

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