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Meet Zilly Founder, Tamzin!

Updated: Mar 5

We love highlighting people doing awesome things, and today we're excited to introduce you to Tamzin! She's an amazing entrepreneur, avid surfer, supportive friend, founder of Zilly, a hair-care brand inspired by her own surfing journey, and yes, who we want to be when we grow up!

Q: What did you do before you started Zilly?

I’m originally from a beachside town in southern England called Bournemouth and lived there until I was about 20. I used to ride horses and compete in Eventing, which included jumping, dressage, and cross country. Riding and training horses had been my main passion since I was 5 years old and continued to be all the way up until I left England. 

In 2011 I met my now husband on vacation in Turkey. He's American and grew up in Southern California, so that’s where we have lived for the last 12 years. While I still dabble in the horse industry, upon moving here, I fell in love with a new sport – surfing – and I never looked back. 

Q: How did you decide you wanted to create a hair care company?

I have always been obsessed with long healthy hair, and when I started surfing, that became a problem. I would get out and my hair would be extremely tangled, dry and damaged. I started to look for products to help and I saw a gap in the market – nothing out there worked well for me. Because of this, I came up with an idea for a leave-in conditioner specifically for surfers. I’ve always been entrepreneurial minded, and have been freelancing in social media and marketing for a few years now. The OG WFH you could say! I’ve also been running my own dog walk and sitting business since 2016. 

Thankfully, I have a really supportive network of people who believe in me. I think one of the best things you can have as a human is a supportive community to encourage you through life. My friends knew I wanted to start this business, so in 2019 for my birthday, a few years after I dreamed this company up, as a surprise gift they pooled their money together to encourage me to launch. I now have this novelty large check made out to “Tamzin’s Shampoo Company” framed on my wall. I couldn’t have been more grateful to them for pushing me to get started. I’m also very fortunate that Zilly’s manufacturer is also a part of said supportive community. The family owned company are very good friends of ours and have been for many years, so to have my product made locally here in LA, is a luxury. And thus, I got to work. 

A photo of friends on the beach in So Cal
This is a photo from the 2019 Birthday that pushed me to finally launch Zilly! Thanks friends!

Q: Where did the name “Zilly” come from?

It's so true what they say, just go full steam ahead with your business and the name will eventually come to you - is that what they say? I didn't realize that my lack of a company name was one of the main reasons I was so hesitant on starting. I chose a placeholder name and I had almost the entire business ready to launch and was about to begin the printing stage for the label, but still hadn't really settled on a name. A couple names I had toyed with were “sealutions” and “alohair”, but I wasn't sold. 

When I first moved to San Diego, my roommate Ofier used to call me “TamZilly”, a mashup of my first and middle names, Tamzin Lily. That name really stuck with me

through the years, I even changed my Instagram handle to @tamzilly. As we were going into the labeling stage with this name (for the lack of a better one!), my good friend Anastasia, who graciously designed our logo, revealed the first draft to me as “Zilly”. I had actually written this exact word down whilst brainstorming names months back - so right there and then I knew she was right, Zilly was born! 

Q: Zilly is an eco-friendly brand. Can you tell us why that was important to you?

Moving to San Diego and finding my passion for the ocean truly shifted my mindset on single plastic waste so I started focusing on sustainable and eco-friendly practices. Before COVID, for about six years, I was really trying to cut down my plastic consumption. I was being as eco-friendly as I possibly could, buying everything that I could in bulk, making nut milks at home, bringing a bag, my “emotional support water bottle” and bamboo utensils with me everywhere I went. 

More specifically, I would reuse these big pump shampoo + conditioner bottles for years and refill them at my local market. Even though performance wise, these bulk options were not ideal, at the time my plastic footprint outweighed the amount I cared about my hair. Since I have a lot of hair, this really cut down on my plastic waste. But when COVID hit all the stores banned bulk buying for fear of contamination. I literally had no choice but to start buying plastic again. 

When I reverted back to this, it made me realize how much single-use plastic we still use on a daily basis and how much more plastic we're using now than ever before. This also made me realize the great products my hair had been missing out on! I wanted Zilly to be part of the solution when it comes to plastic consumption, and not part of the problem. So, for me, Zilly was always going to be as eco-friendly as it could be, and will continually strive to be. I truly believe brands and companies have a moral obligation to have sustainability at the forefront of their mission. 

Q: How did you go about making Zilly an eco-friendly product?

As I thought about the product I wanted to make, I knew it had to have all the benefits of a nourishing, plant-derived, salon-quality product while being as sustainable as I could make it. 

My manufacturer was fully on board with that. We ended up choosing aluminum bottles. The spray lid is plastic but is made from post-consumer plastic, so it’s not virgin plastic or single-use, which is the majority of the plastic pollution problem we see today. 

Although there is still a small amount of plastic present, we have a “refill” option at Zilly called Zilly Topless, that comes with a small aluminum lid. You can swap in the sprayer from your empty Conditioning Hair Spritz so that you don’t have to order another bottle with the plastic spray top, reducing the amount of plastic used. We priced the Topless bottle $1 less, to encourage our customers to choose a more sustainable option.

Because aluminum is far easier to recycle, it's much friendlier for the environment. It can be continuously upcycled without the same footprint that plastic leaves. It doesn't leach chemicals or break down like plastic does, into microplastics that then infiltrates our bodies and water systems. So, for us, aluminum was the premiere choice for our product. It’s by no means perfect, I don't believe a 100% sustainable product exists, but the mission is to never stop becoming as sustainable as possible.

Q: You obviously know a lot about hair. So, for someone who wants to care for their hair when they're surfing, what should they do before, during, and after they surf?

Some people like to wet their hair before they go into the ocean. This is because your hair can only actually absorb so much water. If it’s already wet this can help eliminate saltwater damage. But I know we all love a good dry hair look in the lineup, haha. 

I’ve heard of people adding coconut oil to their hair before they surf, but depending on your hair type, coconut oil can be quite drying, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that. It doesn't work for me. 

You can add conditioner to your hair right before you go (leave-in or regular). Although typically I feel pre-surf products don’t work for me - standby for a future pre-surf Zilly product. Not every product is created reef-safe. Anything not naturally occurring in the ocean is likely not good for it. Any crazy chemicals, parabens, sulfates, etc is always a no-go. And generally anything you put in your hair pre-surf, is likely going to wash out eventually - this is why, for now, we focus on our post-surf hair product. Having said this, we have a lot of customers who like to use Zilly pre-surf. It will protect your hair from so many tangles and damage. 

As for after surfing, I always use Zilly right after I get out of the ocean. Typically, after a session, I’ll rinse (with a gallon of warm water in the car for after a winter session - is there anything better?) my hair and then spritz in Zilly. I use our wide tooth Zilly comb or wet brush to comb out the seaweed, kelp, salt, and whatever else has gotten in there. It makes my hair feel clean, hydrated, and protected – like I just showered. Truly a lazy girl hair routine! My favorite part (other than how it smells like actual summer), Zilly won't leave your hair feeling greasy or tacky like some leave-in products. It is kind of the whole package for after you surf and is even better if you have plans after getting out of the water! It’s the only hair product I use besides a shampoo, conditioner and occasional dry shampoo. Yes, stay tuned for Zilly shampoo and conditioner soon too! 

Q: As a surfer, or someone very active, how often should you wash your hair?

Honestly, that’s really up to the individual and hair type. Everyone’s hair and preferences are so different. Some people are fine with washing their hair every day, and it doesn't get damaged. This will also depend on the products you're using. If you're taking care of it and you're using quality products, you can probably get away with

washing your hair every day. Sometimes I'll go through phases where I'm surfing a lot and I honestly do wash my hair every day. But Zilly has allowed me to skip days and my hair feels great! Typically I'll do a full hair wash 3-4 days a week. It really does depend on your lifestyle. If you're very active and you're sweating a lot, your scalp may get greasy quicker, which may mean more frequent washing. Or maybe you use dry shampoo to extend the washing a couple days. There is no one-size fits all, and really everyone knows their hair best.

Q: Does Zilly work for all hair types?

Yes! Our Conditioning Hair Spritz does work for all hair types. I have a lot of customers with curly hair that use it and they love it. It helps de-frizz, so it defines the curls while providing extra hydration and shine. My friend, and local photographer Laysea, told me she’s been using the product and it’s been bringing back her natural waves – we love to hear it and her hair truly looks amazing! Is it in her DNA, is it Zilly? Maybe it’s both! From drier to oily and straight to curly, it works for all hair types. It’s particularly great for surf hair due to its ultra-hydrating and detangling qualities. 

Q: What is something that you're proud of?

This is the toughest question for me because I’m historically bad at letting myself sit in an accomplishment without looking toward the next goal. But, I am proud of myself for launching Zilly and for picking myself up during tougher times over the last 2 years. There are so many hurdles in the beginning of starting a business that I was not prepared for. No one makes it easy for you to start a business, particularly as an immigrant. It can be quite daunting. There are so many things to research and learn as a new business owner going it “alone”.

I’m proud that I stuck to my guns with launching this product, even though it took a few years to come to fruition. I had my doubts I could make it work, and I still feel like I’m riding the imposter syndrome train! Having said this, without my community, Zilly would have never gotten off the ground, so the saying “it takes a village” really rings true for me. 

Oh, and Zilly was also featured in British Vogue within our first 6 months of launching, so that was pretty epic. I had just flown back to England to visit home and the magazine feature came out the very day I landed - so of course I RAN to the nearest store to find Zilly, in Vogue!

Q: When you look ahead to Zilly’s future, what are you excited for?

You never know where it’s going to end up, right? The sky's the limit, and I don't know if haircare is going to be the end-all-be-all of Zilly, but it’s an area I feel very passionate about, alongside surfing and sustainability. I would love for Zilly to evolve into a lifestyle surf brand, with an emphasis in the hair and wellness realm. I’d love to get to a point where we’re able to sponsor more surfers, partner with more epic brands (like Surfista!!), work with more talented photographers, models and all-round epic humans, and continue to show up for this incredible community.

Living in San Diego there’s an abundance of creative talented humans, many of which I feel lucky enough to call friends. Working with them is always the most fun!

It’s still surreal seeing total strangers using, loving, posting on social media and talking about Zilly. I’m so excited for Zilly to just continue to grow as a brand and first and foremost continue to give the people premiere hair care in a more sustainable way!

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