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Mom Creates Product to Fight Skin Cancer and Raise Awareness

For Rhonda Sparks, peace of mind comes from top-notch customer feedback on her lines of sun-protective swimwear. This mom is on her way to reaching ambitious business goals, including making her company, UV Skinz, a household name and spreading awareness about the dangers of sun exposure.

Rhonda has a deeply personal connection to the cause. She lost her husband, Darren, to melanoma in 2001 after a five-year fight with the disease. He was just 32. Left to raise three young children by herself, she made skin-cancer prevention her mission, hoping to keep other families from having to go through the same ordeal. An estimated 81,000 cases are expected to be diagnosed this year.

"I completely had a newfound passion for wanting to bring sun awareness," she says.

Creative solutions

Rhonda focuses on protecting people from the ultraviolet rays that trigger skin cancer. She developed UV Skinz based on "rash guards," popular surfing shirts made from a thick material that blocks the sun's harmful rays. UV Skinz's introductory swim shirt line quickly became a bestseller and remains its most popular product.

She soon expanded the designs, stressing quality, fashion sense and lower prices than competing products. Her firm now offers affordable outdoor clothing for the entire family in a range of stylish colors and patterns. UV Skinz shirts, bottoms, ponchos and hats supply all-day coverage from the sun.

Like many parents, Rhonda grew weary of having to constantly reapply sunscreen to protect her children. "I get so frustrated having to lather on sunscreen every few hours, hoping I got every spot," she says. So she developed UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) 50+ swim and sun wear as an alternative.

Rhonda's attention to detail is reflected in innovative touches in UV Skinz products that go beyond standard clothing features. Child-size bucket hats include a UV bead that changes color when in the sun, and beach ponchos include secret pockets for treasures and goodies only accessible by the kids wearing them.

While Rhonda started her company to prevent skin cancer, UV Skinz creations benefit a variety of medical conditions. The sun-safe items can also shelter infants suffering from eczema, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, burn victims and people with sun sensitivity.

Balancing career and family

As her business grows, Rhonda relies on routine and support from family and friends to keep her office and home running smoothly. Now remarried and a mother of five, she sticks to a precise day-to-day routine with time carved out for work, family bonding and early-morning personal time.

In the beginning stages of UV Skinz, the mompreneur balanced developing swim shirt prototypes while taking care of her three young boys as a newly single mom. "I worked around their schedules with a lot of late night hours. I worked around school and naps," she says. She even brought her kids in on the fun parts of creating a new business, employing them as models for her designs and introducing logo development as creative art projects.

Fueled by her personal passion—and experience with underestimating the seriousness of skin cancer—Rhonda also finds help from her keen business sense.

"I am entrepreneurial by spirit," she says. "I was that kid selling lemonade at 8 years old. I always had an affinity for business."