Location: Exmouth, WA
With a love for marine conservation, reducing climate change and plastic pollution, Ashleigh Crichton was able to use her knack for creativity to build her hobby of creating beach inspired jewellery into Mermaid Beach co., now a full time business, in just over two years.
Growing up in an Adelaide suburb, Ashleigh always had a love for the beach, "we used to spend summers down south with my grandma collecting shells, and cowries were my favourite", Ashleigh says.
This love turned into a career with Ashleigh completing a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. Adding to this Ashleigh devoted more than four summers of volunteer work with the Ningaloo Turtle Program, West Pilbara Turtle Program and DPAW (Department of Parks and Wildlife) on Dirk Hartog Island in WA, collecting data about marine turtles.
After years of a 9to5 job working for other people’s small businesses, Ashleigh decided to take the experience gained from these businesses and embark on her own journey to make her passion and creativity into a thriving business!
"I’ve always been creative and inherited a love for all things ocean from my Grandma, who was an avid crafter, shell collector and educator,” said Ashleigh.
“The idea of combining my passions for the ocean and marine conservation and running a small creative business was an idea my sister suggested initially”, said Ashleigh, adding “I had no idea that it would become what it has, it was really just a hobby I did while working other jobs, but thanks to all the support I have received I have been able to quit my other jobs and now work full time."
Since launching Mermaid Beach co. in 2017, Ashleigh has had a number of successes: from becoming a member of 1% for the Planet; to seeing her jewellery first stocked in an independent retail shop (The Social Society in Exmouth, WA); to taking the plunge to work full time on Mermaid Beach co., quitting her other two jobs.
Ashleigh doesn't just talk the talk when it comes to marine conservation – she donates 1% of Mermaid Beach co’s. revenue to environmental conservation organisations such as Sea Shepherd, Ningaloo Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, NSW Wires and countless others. Ashleigh has also been on the forefront of many beach clean-ups along the North WA coast and has recently become a stockist for One Straw, which helps raise money for Aussie beach clean-ups through the sale of reusable straws.
"I hope to educate and spark passion in other people to help conserve our oceans and all of the amazing marine animals that live there. That is why I have partnered with 1% for the planet so 1% from every sale goes towards marine conservation organisations.", Ashleigh says.
Ashleigh picked Exmouth in WA to launch Mermaid Beach co. for a specific reason, "Being located within such an epic natural environment – red sand, warm crystal clear waters, sea turtles, whale sharks and humpback whales – is so inspiring and helps remind me why I do what I do!"
As with many small businesses across Australia, Covid-19 has had a dramatic impact on Ashleigh's operations and forced her to adapt to the situation. "Covid-19 definitely threw a spanner in the works earlier this year.
Within a week all our markets shut down and many of the shops that I stock had to close. In order for us to survive I had to rely solely on online sales, which I had never had to do before. I was lucky to already be in the process of getting help to optimise my website, updating all my products and learning how to do online marketing. I feel really grateful that we’ve managed to make it through, having learned a lot over the past few months!"
If you haven't shopped at Mermaid Beach co. before, you can't go past the Island Cowrie earrings, or if you are looking for a statement piece, the Ningaloo Whale Shark Ring is a personal favourite of Ashleigh's and is a perfect representation of the majestic creatures of Ningaloo Reef in Exmouth, WA.
The future is an exciting prospect for Ashleigh and Mermaid Beach co. as she continues to grow its online presence whilst partnering with those who also share a passion for marine conservation.
While waiting for Covid-19 restrictions to ease and local markets and businesses to re-open, I encourage you to have a look at Mermaid Beach co’s. website, and know that when you purchase one of their beautiful pieces of jewellery, you’re not just supporting a great small business but also helping to improve and conserve the environment and marine life of Australia.