INTERVIEW: Marie-Kristin Krause, CEO Zealous Surf Bikinis

Owner of Zealous surf bikinis and streetwear, Marie-Kristin Krause, is the epitome of adventure. Feeling happiest when exploring remote islands, empty waves, and far-flung kingdoms, this German powerhouse lives a life many girls (and boys for that matter) can only dream of.

An adventurous life, however, comes with certain challenges as well. How does this spirited young woman deal with insecurities, fear, and self-doubt? Dive into her story and get ready to feel inspired.

DREAM CHASER is a series of interviews with women (and occasionally men) who are working hard to turn their dreams into reality. Rebels who choose their own path, who follow their heart, run their own business, and do what they love no matter what.

Tell us about how it all started. When did you know what you wanted and when did you decide to go for it?

Hi Jess, thanks so much for having me. I always knew that I wanted to be my own boss and do whatever my heart desired. But I didn’t always know how that would look like.

Nine years ago, I started Zealous as a little brand for customized and handmade knitwear. I’ve crocheted and knitted something between 200-300 beanies and scarves. 

Before, I had experimented with handmade jewelry and printed my designs on apparel. But soon I felt creatively stuck in Germany because I didn’t have the budget and resources to create my own fabrics, patterns, and the kind of brand I wanted for Zealous.

When I came to Bali in 2014, during my studies for clothing engineering, I noticed a lack of proper surf bikinis on the market. And after having exposed my untanned behind to way too many people on the beach after a duck dive, I started developing the very first Zealous surf bikinis together with local seamstresses.

What were/are the biggest obstacles?

I think the biggest obstacle of all is the difference in work morale. On the one hand, the laid-back lifestyle and attitude make this fair production possible because they don’t have tough targets regarding how fast they have to finish sewing a specific piece.

It’s all pretty relaxed and the seamstresses and tailors work in a fun and friendly climate. 

On the other hand, I’ve got deadlines to meet and penalties to pay in case I don’t. That results in always trying to balance this fine line between not pushing too much and keeping production under control.

Since I’ve never worked in a corporate job, I had no idea how to manage production. But I found a good way to deal with this while learning how to not let it get to me too much. In the end, it’s still supposed to be a fun job!

Show us a day in the life of Marie…

I usually spend between 2 and 4 months a year in Germany, visiting friends and family. It’s always crazy busy, and I try to balance quality time with them and getting my work done. 

Because no, I’m not 2-4 months on holiday (a common question I get asked often). Usually, after waking up and having my obligatory granola with fruit, yogurt, and my coffee, I get myself into hustle mode and start work. This means answering emails, planning pop-up stores, meeting customers to speak about next year’s collection, etc. 

The evenings are usually spent meeting my family for dinner or my friends in town for drinks. I love taking my custom single speed racing bike out and cycle through the city.

And if Hamburg gifts me with sunshine and blue skies (which unfortunately doesn’t happen too often), I fall in love with this city over and over again. The Hamburg-vibe is honestly something I really do miss when I’m Bali.

When in Bali, I mostly feel a bit more chill, less in hustle mode, more in taking-it-easy-mode. That’s probably because of the weather and high humidity. If the tide is right for my home break in Berawa, I get up at 5.40 am and drive down to the beach on my vintage C70 Honda bike. 

After 2 hours of surf, I get my favorite coffee from Ruko Café and start my workday at 9 am. If I have interns helping me out, we would discuss tasks for that day and what we got to work on in the following days. After work, I either go for another surf session, to the gym or to my weekly ultimate frisbee practice.

Quite often, the days look more exciting in Bali. We have photoshoots at beautiful locations, shoot new collections in a photo studio, visit the factories, and pick up and work with new samples.

What do you do to relax?

zealous clothing
Marie on a wave

For me, that’s definitely surfing, the gym and playing frisbee. I can totally switch off my mind when I’m exercising and forget about all my worries for a while. Every now and then, I pamper myself and book a massage or manicure.

How do you define happiness?

A feeling that rushes through your whole body when you are living in the present, and enjoying all of you and what you do. When any external circumstances are not important anymore because you are at complete peace with yourself. 

I mostly get this feeling when exploring remote places that are so beautiful, that I have to pinch myself. Or when I dedicate a whole day to myself, just going with the flow and doing exactly what I feel like at that moment. 

What are your biggest fears and how do you deal with them

I have noticed that I have a lot of built-up fear lately. This is based on insecurity and low self-confidence. I’m too scared that I can’t manage this business or can’t pay for my next nasi goreng and health insurance. 

Also, I worry and think too much about the next big step. In the end, I rather don’t do it instead of taking the leap. The funny thing about this? I used to be the one who just followed her heart no matter what, who didn’t look at the numbers too closely and just did whatever she wanted. 

The mantras that I now read and say daily to myself to overcome these fears are things that I used to say to other people. But I’m working hard on becoming a stronger and more confident person, and to get out of my freaking comfort zone!

Oh, speaking of which: big waves! Haha, I’m an absolute small wave connoisseur, but I love the adrenaline of surfing bigger waves too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen too often yet that I get into beast mode and simply trust my skills. 

What are the best lessons that you’ve learned so far?

That there is nothing that can ruin you. No matter how awful a situation seems, there is always a way out and everything is going to work out in the end. If something happens that you think is the end, always remember that this will most likely open new doors for you, which often lead to much more exciting paths. 

Trusting this will make your personal and business life a lot easier. When I find myself in a situation like that, I always remember that it will get better and I just start looking for ways out. 

What keeps you motivated and believing in yourself/your business?

Emails from happy customers sending me their feedback definitely get me stoked, and that reminds me why I’m doing all of this. In general, interaction with our lovely community is so much fun and I enjoy communicating with them on Instagram and other social media networks.

And as I said above, those daily affirmations and mantras keep me believing in it all. They keep away the fear and doubts. Fear only destroys all those beautiful dreams that are waiting to be turned into reality. 

Are there any dreams left that you plan to chase in the future?

Omg, absolutely, yes!! My brain is like a factory for new ideas and I always have a hard time keeping them in order to decide which ones I will follow. I still want to turn the dream of my own surf shop into reality! 

In case you haven’t seen our new “breeze by Zealous” collection yet, go check it out. It’s a super limited edition of feminine and flattering pieces made from hand-printed fabrics, and it’s less sporty and casual than our streetwear collection. I totally want to extend this range with more fits and fabrics.

Two weeks ago, I launched a new sustainable surfwear brand, Seabishop Surfwear. Together with my friend Philipp, we are planning to establish a new style of eco-friendly men’s streetwear. 

And as if I’m not busy enough and my day has like 48hrs, I’m working on opening an online boutique for all things jewelry, homewares, and fashion, which I will import from Bali, targeted only to the German market. Let’s see if it all works out as planned!

Any advice for people out there dreaming but not yet chasing?

Start small and start with flaws. If it is a new field for you, it is impossible to get all the required information before you start. So just start! It will teach you all the lessons and you will collect all the info you need. It’s all about development and improvement. You shouldn’t wait for the perfect moment, you’ve gotta make it perfect! 

And, as I tell myself daily, believe in yourself and do it when you are convinced it is the right thing to do!

Want to know more about Marie and Zealous surf bikinis? Check out her Facebook.