We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Laurel Irvine. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Laurel below.
Alright, Laurel thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. What did your parents do right and how has that impacted you in your life and career?
My father’s favorite line, aside from his rolodex of dad-jokes, is, “follow your passion and you will succeed.” I typically brushed off this statement, until the time that I saw tears welling up in his eyes as he struggled to get the words out. That time was about five years ago, when I was terrified to tell him that I was no longer passionate about the film business, an industry he saw much success in as a 1st Assistant Director, and that I was ready jump ship to make my hobby in ocean conservation a career. With a film and communications degree, I knew I was in over my head as the right-hand of the organization Shark Allies, but making my dad’s sentiment a mantra in times of uncertainty gave me the confidence to share the podium with legislators, scientists and bad-ass shark divers. Despite my skillset landing on the opposite end of the spectrum from your typical conservationists and policy-makers, all that matters was that our purpose were aligned, and together we made an unstoppable coalition. Following my passion, while ignoring the status-quo, has allowed me to create my own voice in the environmental movement and bring new advocates to the arena.
Laurel, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
My background is in film production, cinematography, public relations and communications. At my core, also, I am a lover of the natural world with an undeniable pull to protect it. My professional career started as an actor’s assistant and on film sets but took a sharp turn into ocean conservation. I attribute it to growing up in Los Angeles, in the thick of the entertainment industry while using the ocean as an escape. The way that I joined Shark Allies, an organization dedicated to ending the overfishing of sharks on a global scale, was actually by volunteering out of unhappiness in my day-to-day. I felt my truest self in the waves, and I felt as if I had found my people at Shark Allies. Eventually I was offered to join the Founder full-time after proving myself as a dedicated member.
So how does a non-scientist, law-degree-less individual conserve sharks? I apply what I learned on set, in PR and everything in between to making an impact. Whether it’s strategically planting positive shark stories in the mainstream media, drumming up support from influencers to get the attention of law makers, or creating a sustainable fashion brand (Shark Cafe) for ocean lovers to fund our campaigns, the opportunities to make a difference truly are endless.
Shark Cafe was born out of the pandemic to provide a space to go beyond the heavy-hitting issues shark populations face, and celebrate their charisma and importance to the ocean ecosystems (as well as the people working behind the scenes to protect them!). Like the inception of most ideas, we saw a hole in the market: where were the stores catering to ocean fanatics, with high-quality and planet-centric goods? It was slim pickings. There are so many incredible stories that need to be told, and so much creativity that has been untapped in the ocean world, that is why we partner with mission-driven small businesses and collaborate with all types of artists to create meaningful and climate-responsible pieces.
As you can see in the mission of Shark Cafe, if you boil me down to my simplest form, I am a believer that we all can and should positively contribute to protecting our planet and its inhabitants. It starts at every level.
Do you have any insights you can share related to maintaining high team morale?
Although our team is lean, I have found that creating an environment for all to feel inspired and excited to share ideas is one of the most beneficial things you can do as a leader. I want my team to be so excited about what they are immersed in that they are bursting to share it. Shark Cafe is a collaboration at every level, welcoming ideas and criticism only makes us stronger. Also, I think that today, when it feels as if the world if burning around us, it is easy to overlook the benefits of praise and spreading positivity amongst the team. Simply pointing out that they sent an unstoppable pitch or crafted a beautiful article is no sweat off of my back, and makes their day, fueling motivation and growth for projects to come. I learned that the hard way, feeling de-valued, and it leads to nothing but burnout. Spreading positivity and expressing gratitude is what keeps us afloat when the constant subject matter of the climate crisis seems too impossible to tackle.
How did you build your audience on social media?
In all honesty, we were lucky that we had an already established presence on social media through our non-profit, Shark Allies. But that’s not to say starting a new account was a walk in the park! The first thing I would say is, know your audience, your mission and nail down a brand kit. Who is your ideal customer and what would they want to see? For us this was fairy simple: sharks. But what about sharks? Everything we post about needs to either link back to a sustainable product or our mission, otherwise you will lose your audience and credibility. As the owner of a couple social accounts, one of the best starting points is to use Canva. Establish a brand kit based on your brand deck, and everything will look professional and cohesive out the gate. Another tip would be to create giveaways and partnerships with like-brands and influencers. It boosts both of your audiences and credibility!
- Website: www.thesharkcafe.com
- Instagram: @thesharkcafe
- Other: please include Shark Allies as well! www.sharkallies.org @sharkallies
Laurel Irvine, Chris House and Jami Leslie Feldman.