…You know, I don’t really like to compete or say there are challenges from my male counterparts. You can do anything you want as long as you put your all into it. What I can say is if you are a male and see a female asking to be seen with her business venture, don’t ignore her, uplift her. If you can’t assist her monetarily, put her in front of people who can. That’s causing disruption in a good way because once you inspire her, she will always remember how you helped her. That to me can cause a disruptive effect that can only be a good disruption.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle Hodge.
Alma Ocean Founder and Creative Director, Danielle Hodge, is a serial entrepreneur with her first startup, Indigenous Coconut Oil, a swim enthusiast since childhood, and a former event producer and talent booker for high-profile athletes and musicians for major production companies.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I come from a career in marketing and also working in the entertainment industry as a talent booker. While sitting in the back seat and watching brands flourish after putting my blood, sweat and tears into someone else’s products or vision, that fueled me to know I can do something for myself and even make an impact in my own community. I grew up in a house where we had a pool in the backyard, which wasn’t common for families like mine. A single black Mother with 5 kids. Going for a swim became second nature to me. My routine was school, sports and spending the entire weekend swimming in the pool with my siblings and close friends from the neighborhood.
What led me to creating Alma Ocean was a mixture of things.
First not being able to find work due to COVID put a halt to the marketing tour I was previously on. This left me having to move back into my Moms house. The frustration set in of not finding work and I usually go pretty hard when there’s something I want. I would spend hours after hours on my laptop searching for jobs and even started looking into a career change.
My previous job required me to be at large events handling logistics and managing a large team. I traveled 8 months out of the year for almost 3 years, so sitting still in one place didn’t exist, till Covid. My body and mind needed a break so I decided to go for a swim.
I was tired though so I decided to quickly hop online and look for a pool float. That way I could unwind but also relax and take a few dips in the water. While I was searching online all the advertising was focused on one demographic. It blew my mind so much that I started specifically typing in “Black girl on pool inflatable”. When I didn’t see more of myself, I knew it was time to get to work.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
What’s so disruptive about Alma Ocean is the mere fact that it didn’t exist already. I mean think about it. The only floats and pools that are in the current marketplace are the typical Swan, Flamingo and Donut emojis. We don’t ever see any inflatables that are designed to appeal to different audiences and ethnic communities.
Alma Ocean is a Black-owned, female company in the pool inflatable industry that brings a new look, plans for upcycling, provides swimming resources and now includes the demographic that was lacking in the water accessories industry. It is the very first to ever create culturally-designed pools, floats and water accessories and will impact the inflatables industry for ALL communities to enjoy water activities.
Alma Ocean has three layers: patent-pending culturally-designed product offerings for ALL communities. Sustainability through transformation used inflatables into one-of-a-kind waterproof accessories and building a community around swim resources, lessons and water activities for everyone to enjoy the water.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I haven’t really made any funny mistakes while starting, more so just taking a gamble that I have not one doubt in my body about. I’m betting on my belief that I can make the water accessory industry more inclusive and not ignore my community. What I’m learning is people will support you fiercely on your journey when they know you have a mission behind your product or brand. Don’t just be “another” product, bring something to offer that will be better for the world.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Is it ok to say the influence of successful artists and public figures have mentored me along the way from afar? Words matter and I thoroughly listen. I’m constantly studying, listening, watching moves and gaining inspiration from people like Charlamagne tha God, who embodies black culture and constantly uplifting the black community. I watch Issa Rae who’s the same age as me and how she launched her career with The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, paving the way for black girls like me ME. She’s now launching her line of hair care products and has done all that while being her authentic self. Tracee Ellis Ross for being so vibrant, funny, talented and a positive individual. Lenny S, as I watch him tell his story of how he believed Jay-Z would rise to the top and how his loyalty and persistence helped build the Roc Nation empire. The way they all worked hard to get to where they are, their stories stuck with me. They inspired me to know I can make an impact too if I just put in the work and remain my authentic self. Most importantly, know you belong and don’t give up.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Disrupting the industry can be positive and can be good if you’re bringing something new and creative to the table that can bring others up with you. Whatever it is you’re doing should at least give people the inspiration or tools to do something good for the world, or else why do it?
An example of bad disruption would be how the last 4 years have been ok with normalizing hate and ignoring cries for help when people are at their lowest point. Without getting too political, I have never seen anything like this in my life and nor do I ever want to see it again.
An example of a positive disruption is what Alma Ocean is doing. Speaking to all communities and the BIPOC communities with floats, pools and water accessories that appeal to their personal taste and cultures.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Don’t change and be yourself.
- Everything will fall into place if you stay consistent.
- Make sure whatever you do has an impact on your community.
All 3 words of advice I gave myself. I didn’t really have anyone giving me advice while working on Alma Ocean. Naturally I always worked that way because of those positive influences I previously mentioned. I more so just had support from my family and friends along the way. They all know me and know once I believe in something, I’m going to give my all. They all gave me the room I needed to fuel my passion and have been there during the whole process as my support system.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
You know me too well. Alma Ocean is a very scalable brand. The plan is to keep creating new designs and collaborating with other like minded brands to elevate diversity in the water community. You’ll have to stay tuned!
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
You know, I don’t really like to compete or say there are challenges from my male counterparts. You can do anything you want as long as you put your all into it. What I can say is if you are a male and see a female asking to be seen with her business venture, don't ignore her, uplift her. If you can’t assist her monetarily, put her in front of people who can. That’s causing disruption in a good way because once you inspire her, she will always remember how you helped her. That to me can cause a disruptive effect that can only be a good disruption.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
Any interview with Jay- Z. His thought process and the way he sees things has always stuck with me. He’s a great example of moving silence and letting success be his noise. And even then with his success, there’s not much cheering. It’s just doing what you’ve been put on this Earth to do, no applause needed. My most recent read was “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight, the creator behind Nike. The story telling, ups and downs and constant rejection really stuck with me. He was building Nike and always aiming high and never gave up. That really stuck with me because It’s really not easy building what you know and believe to be an empire. Embracing all the “no’s” and moving through a pack of lions holding a bag of meat and making it out alive is almost how I envision entrepreneurship. Lastly I listen to Charlamagene & Andrew Shultz “Brilliant Idiots” from time to time. Mainly because they are entertaining and hilarious. It’s a cool mental get away and I do pick up some inspiration and gems while I’m listening too.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
A movement I would inspire is culturepunership. Capitalizing on the idea of culturepreneureship and turning it into the movement we’ve earned. We’re here, we’re smart, we have disposable income, we have role models, we are acknowledging our history, and we’re ready. The market is ripe for both pressing forward and pushing back, to quietly inculcate ourselves into the marketplace and become a force to 132 million minority people in the United States alone. What culturepunership looks like is big corporations including more black owed products on their shelves. When advertising products make sure you’re diversifying and embracing our beauty so that we can stop feeling lesser and more equal. That is culturepunership.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Aim to inspire others on your way to the top.
I’ve just always been that way. People are so competitive when really you should be the opposite and inspire one another. It’s really as simple as hearing a friend out on their idea and giving them some positive and real feedback. Maybe even sharing their new song or product they launched. I’m a huge believer in that playing a crucial part in how we grow and It’s simply what makes the world go round. I know that may sound corny, but take an insecure or unsure person and encourage them to be their best. You’ll have created a monster — In a good disruptive way.
How can our readers follow you online?
Readers can follow on Instagram and Facebook @_AlmaOcean or visit our website www.AlmaOcean.co. We’ll be crowdfunding from November 2nd — December 6th and if people want to pre order they can go to ifundwomen.com/projects/alma-ocean.