Monday Motivation from Apryl DeLancey, Founder & CEO of El Porto Shark

Mondays can be rough and, sometimes, we can all use some motivation. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from industry leaders and some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there.

We sat down with Apryl DeLancey, Founder & CEO of El Porto Shark, to discuss making sharks lovable, balancing environmental concerns with profitability, and using the power of digital media to spread conservation awareness.

What inspired you to start your business?
One year my local surf spot seemed to have a greater number of juvenile great white shark sightings than in past years. Local news showed up there weekly, hyping up fear and trying to scare beachgoers because of the sightings. Having been a lifelong coastal dweller and surfer I knew the chance of a tragic incident was minimal and I decided I needed to do something about the spread of misinformation. The El Porto Shark project began as an awareness campaign to halt the falsehoods and advocate shark conservation through social and digital media. Once I got into it I realized what a huge problem shark conservation is and how it affects fisheries and climate. This directed me to do what I could to make smarter fisheries that were more environmentally conscious while remaining profitable and educating the public along the way. I have a degree in marine science and did my master’s thesis on an environmental project but got “sucked in” to marketing since leaving grad school. It was time to use my knowledge and experience in a way that the 10 year old me would be proud of.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The biggest challenge that I’ve faced is that most people hate sharks and will even get mad at me for saying they need protection. When you talk to the average person they have a lot of unfounded fears and misinformation about sharks and marine life in general. These are usually long-held fears that many think are based in fact and they can be difficult to change. At times it can feel like trying to convince someone that the sun rises in the west. There is also the challenge of information and opinion overload through digital and social media. Science is politicized and thought to be a power or money grab by some groups.

What’s been the greatest reward?
The greatest reward has been having high-profile professionals come forward and offer to be advisors, really wanting to help me succeed with no real return for them other than “doing good.” I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had industry leaders contact me through LinkedIn and offer up their knowledge. For me, this has given me the feeling of validation and fuels my passion. Really, once I convince people that what I am doing is important, it is a reward.

What is the biggest thing you’d like to see changed in your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?
Science is held hostage in many ways by one group and I want to empower citizen scientists to make more contributions. There is some progress to entrusting individuals to contribute their observations to primary scientific research. If we can grow that exponentially, we’ll be closer to a world where science is rightfully accepted as fact and not thought of as a special interest group looking to make money. Where this plays in to the fisheries piece is that there are many people observing the ocean every day and their knowledge isn’t being used. By reaching these “everyday people” we can expand the knowledge base that informs fisheries and conservation.

Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
I know that I am uniquely qualified to make this project happen since I not only have the science background, but business experience. I also know I have to make this happen. It is my mission to get more people to understand the need for shark and ocean conservation.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?
For an entrepreneur just starting out I would say to grow some extra skin. There will be obstacles and people that tell you what you are doing cannot be done. Listen to everyone’s advice but with a critical ear. What is their motivation? Are they in a position to give you advice? Do they understand your industry? If you can get good, constructive criticism use it and then keep going. If someone is just trying to discourage you, move on.

What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?
Mondays excite me, it’s the start of another week that I get to work on my passion. I have a look at my calendar for what meetings or events I have for the week and prioritize what I’m going to tackle first. I really think about each day and envision what I want to accomplish and then do it.

For more #MondayMotivation, check out our interview with Minda Harts, Founder & CEO of The Memo. We discuss bootstrapping, the privilege of generosity, and fostering the careers of women of color.