A 22-year-old entrepreneur from Swansea is aiming to wash away households’ unsustainable laundry habits with the launch of a microfibre beach towel business.
Artemis Santorinaiou, a third-year Swansea University student, launched SUNMAR at the start of 2023 with the help of the Welsh Government’s youth entrepreneurship service – Big Ideas Wales. The eco-conscious entrepreneur hopes that by highlighting the benefits of microfibre products, she can spark more sustainable habits in homes across Swansea and beyond.
Artemis, originally from Athens in Greece, was introduced to the concept of microfibre clothing after speaking to a French stall owner at a market in Mykonos. At the time a teenage tennis prodigy competing across Greece at a professional level, Artemis was intrigued by the material’s many long-term environmental benefits and switched to using microfibre herself.
After a serious leg injury left her unable to play tennis, Artemis was forced to explore a new career path and moved to Swansea where she began a degree in HR and Business. She later launched SUNMAR alongside her studies to kickstart her entrepreneurial career.
SUNMAR’s towels cost £25 each and are made of microfibre (80% polyester and 20% polyamide). In a bid to diversify SUNMAR from other microfibre towels on the market, Artemis works alongside Grecian artists to emblazon her towels with bespoke artwork. Once complete, the hand-drawn designs are sent to Artemis who prints them on to each towel individually before selling online.
Heavily influenced by Greecian nature and marine life, SUNMAR’s designs currently include ‘The Blue Woman’, a series of interlocking shapes representing the everchanging sea-scape, and ‘The Corydoras and the Crabs’, a visible ode to Greece’s vast, colourful marine life.
In the coming months Artemis hopes to connect with a handful of Swansea-based artists to create a collection of limited-edition towels. Eager to support local artists in gaining the recognition they deserve, Artemis is currently in negotiation with a range of independent shops in Swansea town centre, who can support promote sustainability in their businesses.
Discussing the material at the core of SUNMAR, Artemis said: “Alongside being highly compact, microfibre can absorb seven times its own weight in water and dry three times quicker than cotton. Microfibre towels are also far more durable than cotton, lasting up to 500 times longer in between washes and wear and tear.
“Switching to microfibre towels can help significantly cut down on one of our most thoughtless, unsustainable practices – laundry. Microfibre’s quick-drying advantages also minimises the need to tumble dry clothes as frequently. All of which isn’t just beneficial for the planet but to our pockets by helping us cut down our energy bills at a time when many people are struggling.”
When launching SUNMAR, Artemis had the support of Big Ideas Wales, which is part of Business Wales and funded by the Welsh Government to support entrepreneurship in Wales. The service is aimed at anyone between the age of five and 25 who wants to develop a business idea, including students and graduates, as part of its commitment to the Young Person’s Guarantee.
Artemis first heard about Big Ideas Wales after approaching Swansea University’s Enterprise Team team for business support. Artemis was referred to Big Ideas Wales’ business advisor Liz Hopkin, who guided Artemis through the business support on offer.
Discussing the support offered by Liz, Artemis said: “While I grew up within a business-minded family, I had only been living in Swansea for two years and had no true understanding of how business worked here in the UK. Liz guided me through the legalities of owning a business alongside all the necessary paperwork which can be daunting for young entrepreneurs. We built a solid business plan, registered as a legal business and we’ve just finished reaching out to businesses to stock SUNMAR’s designs.”
Liz has since introduced Artemis to funding opportunities available through Big Ideas Wales and encouraged Artemis to attend events like Big Ideas Wales’ Bootcamp to Business, which introduced the young entrepreneur to like-minded business owners and instilled in her the confidence and skills needed to build a thriving business.
Discussing Artemis’ journey, Big Ideas Wales business adviser, Liz Hopkin said: “Artemis is an incredibly creative entrepreneur who has developed a product that isn’t just eye-catching but can really help people introduce more sustainable practices at home. I have learnt a lot from Artemis’ business and applaud her drive to build a business based on educating her peers.”
Swansea University Enterprise Officer, Angus Phillips said: “I continue to be amazed and inspired by the pro-active, thoughtful businesses launched by our very own students here at Swansea University. We can all learn a lot from the perspectives of emerging entrepreneurs like Artemis who, alongside wanting to make their business dream a reality, also want to help our communities be more sustainable and support our planet. The whole team at Swansea University wish Artemis the best of luck in her business endeavours.”
In the coming months Artemis hopes to stock her designs in many more businesses around Swansea before targeting local hotels and Airbnb hosts. However, Artemis’ ultimate business goal is to break into global markets – making luxury, fashionable microfibre products a staple as the world strives for more sustainable practices.
For more information go to: sunmartowels.com
Has this inspired you to kick start your business idea? Visit businesswales.gov.wales/bigideas to get started