“I Am Changing the World with Seaweed”
Who am I?
My name is Shilpi Chhotray. I am a social entrepreneur and the founder of Samudra Skin & Sea. Samudra, the Sanskrit word for ocean, is an organic skincare line featuring wild-harvested seaweed sourced in a socially and eco-conscious manner. Our goal is to help empower coastal rural women through seaweed harvesting opportunities and inspire protection of our global ocean.
What exactly do I do?
I’ve worked in the sector of ocean advocacy for 9 years. My experience encompasses work in ocean plastic prevention, marine protected area legislation, ocean exploration, sustainable seafood, and marine mammal advocacy. I continue to promote ocean conservation efforts through the Samudra brand. Ultimately, we want to reach consumers that are not necessarily embedded in sustainability issues to create greater momentum towards positive global change.
Why does my advocacy matter?
A lot of people are talking about the benefits of seaweed, which was recently deemed the new superfood of 2016. Samudra is taking this a step further by utilizing seaweed in organic skincare while benefiting people and the planet. For instance, we are utilizing seaweed species harvested sustainably both locally and globally from women farmers in India.
What has been most challenging about doing this work?
Access to capital and figuring out how to make a grassroots approach work in these early stages.
Have I experienced any major transformative moments as a result of doing this work?
Yes. In 2014, I visited the southern most part of India and learned how hundreds of rural coastal women turn to seaweed harvesting through the contract farming system resulting in economic empowerment. I was amazed how this fairly low-intensive operation (most of the harvesting is conducted on land preparing for growth in the sea) was providing jobs for many poverty-stricken women for the first time in their lives. I was inspired to bring their harvest to the global market.
Where am I going with this project?
My motivation for creating Samudra is threefold:
1) Offering consumers a healthy alternative to traditional skincare products by using simple, recognizable organic ingredients
2) Helping provide economic opportunity to women seaweed farmers in rural coastal areas of the world
3) Using the power of communication to inspire protection of our global ocean.
What do I envision for the world?
Stronger interconnections between global economies, cultures, environments as well as the mind, body, and spirit. Through Samudra, I plan to elevate focus on people, planet, and prosperity.