A sweet taste of its do-good mission has Kansas City-based SharkOff eyeing new ideas, explained Shea Geist, recounting the tale of 5-year-old Violet Jalil’s journey back into the ocean.
“Several months ago we got a big order from [Violet’s mom,] Jessica [Veatch], and she commented when she put in her order, talking about her daughter being bitten by a shark,” explained Geist, CEO and “boss mama” of the family-run SharkOff.
“I sent her a little email saying, ‘Well, I’m sorry to hear that.’ Kind of a, “What happened?” thing. She responded with pictures and as a mom, that just got me right away,” Geist said.
Jalil was bitten by a bull shark — lured to the shoreline by fishermen — in August 2017.
Designed to reduce fear of sharks and empower beachgoers to love the ocean, SharkOff — which will officially launch its wholesale operation in August — cancelled Veatch’s order and sent her eight of their shark repellent bracelets for free, Geist said.
“She talked about her other two children, who are older than Violet, and after effectively spending their lives at the beach — are now terrified to go in the water,” she explained. “Watching their younger sister getting pulled out of the water, bleeding really impacted them.”
After two years of sun and sand, sans surf, Jalil was ready to dive back into the water Wednesday with the support of her family and a new source of comfort around her wrist — SharkOff, Geist said with excitement.
“They got to enjoy the afternoon in the water and it was incredible. I was of course, weeping [when I heard],” Geist recalled. “It’s just everything that we want this company to be. This is the core of it.”
Mission-driven, Geist doesn’t find value in being a shark in business, she said of her attraction to building a social enterprise.
“Sales are good and they’re important. Eating, paying the mortgage, all those things are important. But this is exponentially more fulfilling than any check or any order that comes in over the internet,” she said passionate.
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Beyond tugging at its founders’ heartstrings, Jalil’s story has accelerated exploration of a new SharkOff program, Geist added, eager to see the component realized.
“When we find out that people have been bitten by a shark, we can just send them a SharkOff for free, without any promotion, without having to think about it. We just send them one and wish them the best in getting back into the water and getting back to loving the ocean and not being afraid anymore,” she said.
The program is in the early stages of development, Geist explained, noting the company’s long-term goal is to build a network of shark attack survivors who can share the stories of their journeys back to the ocean.
“Those people are seriously impacted. Even people who aren’t physically, horribly damaged, there’s still a lot of psychological damage that comes with that,” she said of the way SharkOff could deliver even more coastal impact from Kansas City.