Stream2Sea

Autumn Blum, the founder of Stream2Sea, is shown with the hand sanitizer her company has started manufacturing in Hardee County.

WAUCHULA — The tourism industry has taken a big hit from the coronavirus. The pandemic has severely impacted businesses — both large and small — that are tied to tourism. One of those is in Hardee County.

Stream2Sea, which opened in 2015, had been producing eco-friendly sunscreen and body care items including shampoo. Autumn Blum, the founder of the company, said she was gearing up for a busy season this year and then “everything stopped.”

In early March, Blum said she was looking “at a ton of canceled orders” that totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It was pretty scary watching our projections go right out the window and wondering how I was going to cover payroll and overhead,” she said. “We were in big trouble!”

But the Food and Drug Administration released a temporary guidance to relax certain restrictions on the manufacture of hand sanitizers in order to expedite getting to market. That made it possible for Stream2Sea to fast track hand sanitizer, allowing the company to re-purpose their idle facility to assist with the health crisis.

Blum said sunscreen is registered by the FDA as a drug and so is hand sanitizer. She said the agency was “very helpful” in the application process.

Along with the recommended 60-plus percent alcohol, it includes camphor, a natural antiviral component, and eucalyptus essential oil, commonly used to support the respiratory tract. Just as importantly, it doesn’t include the usual chemical sanitizer lineup seen on the market. This means no synthetic colors, denaturants, quaternary ammonium compounds or synthetic fragrances. Most sanitizer gels contain carbomer, which can be classified as a micro-plastic, or triclosan, which kills marine microorganisms in small concentrations.

Blum said adjusting to the production process in switching from tubes for suncreen to bottles for the sanitizer as well as getting materials have been the challenges.

“Supply is tough,” she said, noting that it has been a struggle to secure a steady supply of ethanol and packaging. Blum added that costs for some things have tripled.

Blum said her 14 full-time employees, who are wearing face masks and having their temperature taken every day, are amazing. She added that they are “so passionate” and “jumped in head-first” when the switch to sanitizer was made.

“It’s an amazing feeling being able to put out a great product that people need and perhaps save my company’s future at the same time,” she said.

Blum said the business was growing “at a nice clip.” She has been planning to expand her 6,500-square-foot facility even before the pandemic started.

The Stream2Sea Hand Sanitizer is being sold locally at Wauchula Curb Market and Ace Hardware stores. The company’s products are available on Amazon.

Its warehouse, which is located in the Hardee County Commerce Park, is not open to the public.

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