A Startup Springs from a Sunburn

Westchester-based Sun Shield aims to bring free sunscreen dispensers to a beach near you

By Christina Campodonico

A Sun Shield dispenser helps protect swimmers from harmful UV rays at the Annenberg Community Beach House Pool in Santa Monica

A Sun Shield dispenser helps protect swimmers from harmful UV rays at the Annenberg Community Beach House Pool in Santa Monica

Forgetting to bring sunscreen can be a big problem, especially if you live near the beach.

Tyler Church Haggstrom found that out firsthand when he went out on a bike ride from his home in Playa del Rey to Manhattan Beach.  Wearing board shorts and a t-shirt, he didn’t have anywhere to stash a bottle of sunscreen let alone his wallet, which became a problem when his skin started to burn.

That’s when the “lightning bolt struck,” he says. Haggstrom had seen automatic hand sanitizer dispensers around town, but what about automatic sunscreen dispensers at the beach?

The idea for Sun Shield was born — free sunscreen from a hands-free dispenser at any location. The Westchester-based business launches a Kickstarter campaign Thursday to raise $50,000 in funds for manufacturing, but dispensers have already started appearing throughout Southern California.

Soon after his epiphany, Haggstrom, who studied at Otis College of Art and Design, teamed up with high school buddy Allen Starnes to develop the idea. Modeled after those touch-free hand sanitizer dispensers, Sun Shields can be mounted to a wall or a freestanding poll. The heat- and water-resistant dispensers are suitable for just about any location — wherever “the sun is peaking through,” says Starnes.

Over the past three years, the pair has taken their dispensers to beaches and outdoor events all over Los Angeles, from 5K run/walks in Playa del Rey to CicLAvia events and AIDS Walk LA. This past summer they partnered with Healthy Athletes to bring 15 Sun Shields to the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.

So how do Haggstrom and Starnes plan to make money by giving away free sunscreen? They expect to generate revenue from the sale of dispensers and their refill packages, as well as from advertising on signage that can be attached to the device.

But for Haggstrom and Starnes, bringing free sunscreen to the world is more than just a business opportunity, it’s a passion for providing protection against one of the most common and preventable cancers — skin cancer. About 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year, according to the American Cancer Society, and more than 73,000 cases of melanoma, a more serious form of skin cancer, are expected this year alone.

Yet slapping on sunscreen is a proven way of thwarting off the disease. It’s a precaution that many young people out and about in the sun don’t often think about, says Haggstrom, who remembers his own mother struggling to get him to wear sunscreen as a kid.

“We feel like we can be the frontline protection,” says Haggstrom, who thinks that the Sun Shield’s ability to buzz and light up when it dispenses sunscreen will encourage kids to reapply. “We are in a unique position of sharing this awareness, while driving research and interest to solve the problem.”

Starnes is similarly motivated by company’s mission, having dealt with the loss of a close family friend to melanoma.

“We are the tool and we want everyone to use the tool for awareness and sun safety,” he says.

If Haggstrom and Starnes get their way, you won’t ever have to worry about leaving your sunscreen at home again.

Click here to learn more.




Mighty Pilates celebrated its grand opening on Dec. 3 at 625 Montana Ave. in Santa Monica. The 2,000-square-foot location offers a twist on traditional Pilates that incorporates weights and heart-pumping cardio exercises. (310) 458-2896; mightypilates.com

Healthy fast food restaurant Fala Bar opened its second L.A. location at 1146 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice on Nov. 21. Fala Bar’s alternative comfort food is vegan, organic and locally sourced as much as possible. (310) 399-0809; falabar.com

Local Kitchen & Wine Bar is now open
at 1736 Ocean Park Blvd. in Santa Monica. Launched by Thyme Café & Market owner Maire Byrne, the new restaurant pairs seasonal plates and Neapolitan-style pizza with wine and cocktails. (310) 396-9007; localkitchenandwinebar.com

ArcLight Cinemas opened a new 12-screen theater at the Santa Monica Place mall on Nov. 20. The location features food and cocktail service as well as blockbuster, arthouse and special screenings. (310) 566-2810; arclightcinemas.com

South Bay native Laura Levi celebrated the grand opening of her new Open Channel Gallery at 421 Main St. in El Segundo on Nov. 18.


Earl’s Mar Vista served its last meal on Nov. 25 after a roughly seven-year run at 2226 Venice Blvd. The restaurant will hold a community going-away party from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 5, with free food, music and a yard sale of restaurant goods. Visit earls.la for more information.

Universal Jewelers, located for years in the Waterside at Marina del Rey shopping center, remains closed following the late September death of owner Arnold Smith. Plans are forming to open a new jewelry store at the location.

On the fence

The Venice Love Shack (2121 Lincoln Blvd.) may have hung a “Going out of Business Sale” banner, but all is not over yet for the unique arts, events and retail space. Owner Udi Levy says the Love Shack’s monthly rent has doubled and he’s throwing the sale in hopes of generating enough cash over the next two months to open up a café on site and stay in business. Meanwhile, all items are priced at 80% off. If the sale is successful, Levy plans to reopen the Love Shack in the spring with a different name and fresher business model. “We’re going through the regular Venice real estate avalanche,” says Levy. (310) 306-6742; theveniceloveshack.com

Coming Soon

Erewhon Natural Foods, a pioneer of the organic and local grocery movement, will soon open a third Greater Los Angeles area location at 585 Venice Blvd. in Venice. The 11,000-square-foot store will feature fresh non-GMO foods, an organic deli and a wood-burning smoker for organic meats. erewhonmarket.com


The Townhouse & Del Monte Speakeasy (52 Windward Ave., Venice) celebrates 100 years in Venice from 5 p.m. to close on Saturday, Dec. 5. The bar is offering live music, drink specials that include Prohibition-priced drinks and a talk by writer Charles Perry about the history of Prohibition. (310) 392-4040; townhouse-venice.com

The California Hotel & Lodging Association has recognized Rebecca Hill of The Inn at Playa del Rey (435 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey) as a “Star of the Industry” for her outstanding customer service. Hill recruited the inn’s team for the Jet to Jetty Race, organizes the staff’s Christmas family adoptions through Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and worked on Rep. Ted Lieu’s high-school art competition earlier this year. (310) 574- 1920; innatplayadelrey.com

Chamber Events

Wednesday, Dec. 9: The LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals and Melody Bar & Grill host a toy crawl and professional networking mix-and-mingle from 4 to 7 p.m. Donate a toy valued at $15 or more to receive a slice of pizza at Melody Pizza (9146 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Westchester) and a drink ticket to redeem at Melody Bar & Grill (9132 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Westchester). (310) 645-5151; laxcoastal.com

Wednesday, Dec. 9: The Venice Chamber of Commerce hosts a “Lunch ‘n’ Learn” session from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Chaya Venice (110 Navy St., Venice), with a presentation by Blue Print Consulting Services’ Michael Callahan to help participants use customer analytics. Tickets are $35 or $25 for members. (310) 822-5425; venicechamber.net

Friday, Dec. 11: The LAX Coastal Chamber hosts a “Lunch n’ Learn” networking session with a presentation by Mack Richardson and Joe Randazzo of payroll company ADP. Lunch and networking begins at 11:30 a.m., followed by the presentation at noon. Bring your own brown bag lunch or buy a sandwich, chips and drink for $10. Free for first-timers or $5 for returning participants. LAX Coworking, 9100 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Ste. 208, Westchester. (424) 290-8745; laxcoastal.com

Monday, Dec. 14: The Venice Beach Young Professionals host a holiday mixer from 7 to 9 p.m. at Scopa Italian Roots (2905 Washington Blvd., Venice). Free entry, drinks and appetizers for purchase. (310) 822-5425; venicechamber.net

Wednesday, Dec. 16: The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce hosts a Biz @ Sunset holiday party from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Jonathan Beach Club (850 Palisades Beach Road, Santa Monica). Tickets are $30 or $20 for members. (310) 393-9825; smchamber.com