We had the good fortune of connecting with Clarissa Kusel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Clarissa, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Community. When I started The Ocean is Female with Tiare three years ago, I wanted to deepen my surf community. I craved a community of women who supported each other in the water regardless of surf experience, ethnic background, age, size, and geographic location. I was initially planning to do this by collecting stories by interviewing female surfers in parking lots. I honestly was planning on just approaching as many female surfers as I could find. But armed with the power of the Instagram DM, in three years we had interviewed over 1,000 women from over 35 different countries and amassed over 16,000 followers on Instagram. It wasn’t until a major surf brand contacted us did we realize we were on to something. We were literally, pun intended, making waves. Not only did we create a safe space for women to share their truths but we connected with hundreds of incredible women around the world who are breaking down barriers, spearheading the most creative projects, and building spaces for not just themselves but for all of us. When faced with the decision of whether or not to transform The Ocean is Female from a passion project into a ‘real’ business, I knew one thing for sure: the only way I would ever feel comfortable profiting off this space was to bring the whole community along with us. With the launch of SeaBlue Collective, our ocean-friendly marketplace, our community is our lifeblood. That network built from storytelling is stock full of creatives, entrepreneurs, and self-starters. These people have literally and inadvertently joined us on our entrepreneurial journey by becoming our marketplace vendors and being the inspiration behind the business itself. We are absolutely nothing without this network of amazing individuals.
What should our readers know about your business?
On May 18th, 2020, we officially launched SeaBlue Collective. We launched during an acutely difficult time, economically, politically, and socially. We decided to press forward in the midst of both the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter Movement for four reasons: 1. Now is an important time to support budding businesses within our community 2. Now is a catalytic time to help dismantle exclusive structures that grant profit avenues for some while dismissing others 3. Now is a dynamic time when our consumer base is eager for products that blatantly support community, small business, and the environment 4. With store-fronts closed, now is the ideal time to open up an e-commerce shop. I am proud to say SeaBlue was borne from our collective joys as founders and as a solution to our collective frustrations. We are surfers, we are promoters of ocean-access, and we are devastated by the sheer volume of plastic we pick up from in the ocean and on our beaches. Our collective brings together small businesses who’s origin stories come from amplifying both love and anger. We sell products made by these talented entrepreneurs constructed to counterbalance an unbalanced system and reverberate passion. SeaBlue connects these small businesses with scientists doing the research behind impacts of microplastics in our oceans, the leaching of microfibers from our clothes, and the chemicals that run off our hair, bodies and skin. Together, we will build better businesses that offer simple solutions to this state of overconsumption, and by sharing our stories, we’ll inspire others to do the same. https://seablue.co/
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is obviously cliche, but I would most definitely take someone visiting LA surfing. I’m a hustler and I teach surf lessons as one of my many side-gigs, so I’d likely drag them out on a soft top (if they didn’t surf) or take them out on my one-too-many boards if they could surf. One of my go-to spots is Topanga, with all the Topangries (as a friend likes to call the salty angry crew that sometimes surfs there) or Malibu. If we have the whole weekend, we’d go explore hidden beaches up the coast. Some of my favorite beaches have a good wave and are dog friendly, which means a full beach day can be planned with my dog in attendance. In fall and early winter, we might get these beaches to ourselves, which is almost unheard of in LA (and freaking spectacular). After sunset, because I’m telling you all-day beach days are the best (and you can’t miss a Californian sunset) we’d pick up some food. My go-to restaurant is most definitely Ramenya, if I’m feeling fancy, or a giant burrito. I’m not picky, and Mexican food is most definitely my favorite thing about living in California.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh gosh, where do I start? I have a running list I keep on my phone simply to remind me how indebted I am to this amazing group of humans. My co-founders; Tiare Hoegerman & Lauren Sander, you believed this could happen so you made it happen. It’s not rocket science, it’s just teamwork and grit. Everyone who helped get this project off the ground. You might feel like it wasn’t much, but it was. Take the credit, and seriously- THANK YOU: Felicia Luong, Kaisha Borgaro, Mo Karimi, Melanie Barnes, Shannon Woodward, Carina Engelberg & Nathan, Myra Hassaram, Gaby Mengqiong Li, Melissa Ha, Kim Moran, Sharon Popper, Lilly Woodbury, Robin Hoegerman, Katherine Teshima, MSSE Fam The Ocean is Female Community and of course my family, my extended family and everyone who supports the growth of this social enterprise.