Growing up in New York, I headed to The Big Easy to study marketing at Tulane University, ultimately falling in love with the entrepreneurial hustle during my first post-grad job launching a gourmet foods company. While it wasn’t glamorous, I was drawn to the start-up culture and being a part of something new (albeit working from an NYC basement alongside a trash compactor). While I ultimately made a move to the magazine industry to help launch Time Out New York, my experience at the start-up, which later evolved into KIND, shaped my love for not-only-for-profit businesses with a purpose.
While I was working my way up in the magazine industry, my eyes were opened by the dreaded C-word: CANCER. At the time of my malignant melanoma diagnosis at age 26, I was shocked to learn that lightweight clothing wasn't as protective as I thought. Like most people, I didn’t know that a lightweight tee is the equivalent of SPF 5! I started looking for stylish sun protective options and quickly realized they didn't exist.
Left to right: Cabana Life Founder & Skin Cancer Survivor Melissa Papock and Co-founder Alyssa Adams
For years I continued to research sun protective fabrics, finally taking the leap to start Cabana Life. While working in marketing at Vanity Fair and simultaneously hatching plans for Cabana Life, I met my co-founder Alyssa, who shared my passion for sun protection after watching two family members suffer and eventually lose their battle with skin cancer.
We weren't friends before we started Cabana Life, but through this journey, we've established the best possible relationship in the world: best friends & best business partners! Despite being in different states, our constant personal & professional phone calls keep us connected. We couldn't imagine doing this (Cabana) life with anyone else.
I knew I wanted the brand name to be chic yet evoke protection. I played with parasols, umbrellas & palm trees until I decided on cabanas. It’s protective, yet you want to luxuriate in a Cabana. But I couldn’t just have “cabana.” I added “life” to create a lifestyle that goes beyond clothing. Cabana Life perfectly illustrates our mission to escape the sun in style.
We didn’t want people to have to choose between fashion & function, so we set out to create a new trend: sun protection people actually WANT to wear. While you may know Cabana Life for our women’s dresses, we started out designing kids’ playwear, recognizing parents will do anything to protect their children. We didn't start out in the fashion industry, but have learned so much about the industry by making this dream come to life.
While we were not parents at that time, we started the conversation of sun safety with parents, and the awareness of UV protective fabrics grew from there. From reality TV appearances, retailer partnerships and the ever-changing landscape of e-commerce, we continue to hustle hard to make this self-funded business a success. And after years of learning the fashion industry, we launched a women's collection of UPF 50+ styles & the rest is history!
Cabana Life is designed to make the whole family feel AND look their best. For over 15 years we have been inspired by our customers and their stories, creating styles that work hard and play hard with UPF 50+ fabrics.
Cabana Life’s sun protective styles can be found at more than 400 retail locations, including independent boutiques throughout the country, luxury resorts like the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons, as well as larger stores like West Marine, Dillard's and Everything But Water. Two years ago Talbots recognized Cabana Life as the leader in stylish sun protection and commissioned an exclusive collection – talk about a pinch me moment! We are so grateful for all the collaborations and opportunities we have had along the way, and can’t wait for more...
With the success of Cabana Life comes the biggest reward: giving back! As a not-only-for-profit business, Cabana Life has donated to many different non-profit organizations that share its mission of education, prevention and early detection, including the Melanoma Research Alliance, IMPACT Melanoma, AIM at Melanoma Foundation, Stand Up To Cancer and more. This May we launched the Live Bright Bag in honor of our #LiveBright campaign to bring awareness to Skin Cancer Awareness Month. We are proudly donating 100% of the proceeds to AIM at Melanoma Foundation & their fight to #endmelanoma.
Impacted by our personal experiences with skin cancer, we were driven to create something meaningful that makes life easier. Thank you for supporting our women-owned business on a mission to eradicate skin cancer. Help us celebrate our 15th anniversary all month long with amazing deals and exciting drops – stay tuned!
Where are we now:
Melissa is a mother of three (16, 14 and 8), and currently resides in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where Cabana Life is now headquartered. Balancing her responsibilities of CEO and MOM, she is driven by continuously fighting skin cancer through education and stylish solutions that make people happy.
Alyssa is a mother of two (15 and 13) and currently resides in Dallas, TX. From managing our teams at the warehouse and on the road, and lots of soccer tournaments in between, she juggles it all from a distance with constant laughs and Zoom calls with the Cabana Life crew.
Take a peek behind-the-shoot with our founders on the blog.