Our founder’s story by Billy
Hey. My name’s Billy. My real name is Mark. But in my early 20s, I was re-branded as Billy by my greatest friend, Jono. Nowadays, most people know me as Billy. My family still call me Mark. And when I hear it, it can sound odd (or like I’m in trouble). So, please, feel free to call me Billy.
Health, fitness and nutrition have always been my passions. The human body and the idea of helping people fascinated me as a boy. I wanted to be a doctor but couldn’t knuckle down at school during my late teens. That’s what I tell myself at least. In reality, I almost definitely wasn’t smart enough.
Compressing about 25 years into one sentence, I studied French at University, tried to set-up a business afterwards (which failed epically), then worked in corporate finance for a bank and, finally, joined an alcoholic drinks company where I had various different roles across the business.
Crudely, I worked in banking for most of my 20s and the corporate world for most of my 30s. It was at some point in my mid to late 30s where I realised I wasn’t especially passionate about either.
This realisation struck me at precisely the same time as some close people around me were being diagnosed with cancer.
The great friend I referred to previously was one of three, young, fit and strong guys I know well to have been through cancer in their 20s or 30s. All three of them had been hit by an uncontrollable force. They were all healthy. To the best of our knowledge, no amount of fitness or fantastic nutrition could have helped them.
Fortunately, today, they are all well and hopefully cured for life.
This was the point at which I started to learn about skin cancer, specifically, and the human skin. As I said before, I’m not medically trained but I became interested in skin cancer data and men’s behaviour when it comes to skin care, in particular, sun protection.
I was amazed by the historical (and forecast) growth rate of skin cancer across Europe and the rest of the world. It felt like a silent force. I didn’t realise it was one of the world’s most common cancers. In the UK, incidence rates have doubled over the past 20 years, and they’re forecast to double again over the next 20 years. At the same time, scientists and charities universally agree that melanoma (a form of skin cancer) is 90% preventable, unlike the cancers some of my friends experienced.
Given my friends’ experiences, I was particularly struck by the fact that, statistically, men are almost twice as likely to die of skin cancer in North America, Australasia and many European countries.
What I now believe is that skin cancer is (relatively) controllable versus many other cancers. There are things that can be done to try and avoid it. It’s just that people don’t.
So I left my corporate job and decided to commit myself to something that linked my passion of helping people with health and wellbeing.
And so this is where the LifeJacket story begins.
LifeJacket was born to address a problem and to scratch an itch.
Our vision is to make skin protection a priority for more people and halt the increase in skin cancer by making great products and giving people the knowledge and tools they need to achieve this.
We hope to educate people on the necessity of protecting and looking after their skin, not just because of skin cancer but also because it can make us look better. The dream would be for LifeJacket products to become part of daily regimes all year-round.
That great friend I referred to previously, Jono, together with his brother, Rob, joined me on this LifeJacket mission. I can honestly say that this just adds more magic to the whole experience.
The three of us have one eye on the male ‘problem’ I described before. It’s a problem we’re trying to attack because we’re three guys and personal cancer experience is what started all of this. But – of course – our message and products don’t discriminate between men and women.
Like I say, the ultimate vision is to halt the increase of skin cancer. Think big, right?
To support our vision, we’ll give away enormous quantities of product just to get it in the hands of people. And whether our mission happens thanks to this journal or the LifeJacket brand, through the LifeJacket product range or through other companies’ product ranges, we don’t mind.
That’s my personal story so far. I hope it can be updated with positive news on our progress within the next ten years. For now, thanks for reading – it’s great to know you’re there and we’ll really try to do all we can for you and your family.
Stay in touch and take care.