Life After Yachting: From Deckhand To Founder Of Orca Media
In this month’s Life After Yachting feature, we speak with Callum Johns, ex-deckhand and founder of Orca Media. With a background in Marine Interior supplies, entering the Superyacht industry was a natural move for Callum, but he quickly decided that his passion lay elsewhere and decided to set up Orca. Orca Media specialises in photography, videography, drone footage and other marketing services.
Here Callum speaks about his short but sweet stint onboard Superyachts and how he applies the yachting work ethic to his current business.
How long did you work onboard? What was your role and which yachts did you work on?
My crew journey was very short. I enjoyed it thoroughly but realised early on that I wanted to explore yachting in other areas. I assisted M/Y Savannah as a temporary Deckhand, followed by some time on a private 55m yacht onboard which I also fulfilled a deckhand role during boss trips and some shipyard periods.
When did you leave the Superyacht industry and what were your reasons for leaving?
Having been in a management position within a Marine Interiors company beforehand, transitioning to the junior deckhand position was mentally very challenging. Although it was an amazing experience, I knew my skill set and experience were better used elsewhere. I left the crew side of yachting in October 2021.
“Showing up and performing your best is enough, and it will get noticed.“
Prior to leaving, did you plan an exit strategy?
No, I didn’t plan it. It was purely heart-led when I knew the time was right.
Most important lesson you learnt as a crew member that you now apply to day-to-day life on land?
Showing up and performing your best is enough, and it will get noticed. You may have room for improvement, but as long as you show your ability to keep going and learning you will earn great respect.
What is your current job role, and where are you based?
I now own Orca Media and operate the business as Creative Director. I am based in the UK but find myself in the Mediterranean throughout the year for photo/video shoots onboard yachts.
Can you tell us more about Orca Media and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
Our days change all the time. One day we might be studio-based in the UK editing content for clients or storyboarding marketing campaigns for them, and the next we could be boarding a plane at our local airport for a yacht shoot somewhere in the world. The photo/video shoot days are often more demanding as we could spend 2-3 days filming from sunrise until sunset, but these are the ones we enjoy the most!
“The many “Nos” I got made the first “Yes” that much sweeter”
The good, the bad and the ugly parts of transitioning from yachts to shore?
The good: I can maintain a close family lifestyle in the UK, choose my hours of work, and build something of my own that I am proud of.
The bad and ugly: It’s hard adjusting to being based at home all the time after lots of travelling. Especially at the start of my business, because we weren’t achieving many international projects, I was UK-based for probably the first 9 months since our launch without a trip abroad. In such a niche industry, it’s hard to establish yourself amongst the well-known brands that were there in the early days.
But I think for myself and like many that have the Yachtie mentality, this just made me want it more and made me work harder for it. The many “Nos” I got made the first “Yes” that much sweeter. Even if it did take 9 months.
What is your hardest struggle since leaving the industry, and how did you overcome it?
Building a business and brand in a niche industry, with no start-up funds, no portfolio, and where I had extremely well-known competitors was my greatest struggle. Along with maintaining the willpower to maintain a positive mindset. As a 23-year-old (at the time), I suffered hugely from imposter syndrome. I would think: “Why would a large Superyacht company want to work with a 23-year-old from the countryside in England who has no portfolio to showcase”.
But that mindset and mentality would only hinder my ability to succeed in my ambitions. To overcome this, I had to adopt a mindset that told me: “Why not me?”. If I had to improve to be good enough for the industry to accept me, then that was what I had to do to get there.
It started with a lot of self-discipline, discovery, and investment in time to improve myself/my skillset. This included early morning exercise, utilising a life coach, and bettering my physical content creation abilities. Other than this, my process to overcoming the above challenges was a mixture of understanding my values, the brand and the image I wanted to create for my business and maintaining a high level of persistence.
Read more SYC Articles: Life After Yachting: Founding Montclair Chef, The Leading Chef Recruitment Agency
Did you have any other career options in the back of your mind when you were considering your life after yachting?
No, I knew what I wanted to do and I’ve not looked back since.
If you could return to the start of your yachting career, would you change anything?
I wouldn’t have rushed my decision to join the first yacht that offered me a permanent job. It’s important that the yacht works for you as much as you work for them. There are plenty of vessels out there and crew come and go. It may feel like a race against time but you’re better off waiting for the right fit. After all, you have to live and work with these people full-time.
What kind of positive changes would you like to see in the industry?
As we operate in an industry that isn’t short of a penny or two, it would be good to see more organisations participating in giving back to charities, the environment, and our beloved ocean. There is a fantastic organisation called “Superyacht Charities” and we are proud to have raised £1000 for them at the Palma International Boat Show 2023 by offering an auction prize. At this event, they raised an astounding £30,000 in total.
I like to see action against the promises made to help others, rather than contributing to what has been seen as “Greenwashing” in recent years, especially on social media. Orca Media will therefore be analysing what we can do to better support our world and communities despite being an SME.
What does success mean to you and what is your career vision for the next 5 years?
To me, success is defined by whether you are proud of your contributions to the world. If I achieve my goals of growing a successful multimedia company in the yachting industry, while contributing positively to others at the same time, I will feel most successful. I’d definitely like to leave my stamp on the world in one way or another.
In the next 5 years, I would like to see the same healthy growth Orca Media has seen in its first year and a half. We grew from a company of 1 in October 2021, to a team of 5 by August 2023. We started with no start-up finances and grew from each successful project. You never know, you may see an Orca Media office appear in Monaco, Fort Lauderdale, or Dubai in the future. For now, we’re comfortable in our humble English country studio.
Lastly, can you share 3 pieces of advice for crew members thinking about their life after yachting?
- Don’t be scared to try it. It’s surprising how much is out there and you can alter it to the lifestyle you want (i.e. travel or no travel etc.)
- Think about your passion and whether you can guide your next role into something you truly enjoy.
- Use your great communication, people and resilience skills that come hand-in-hand with being a yachtie to get the shoreside career that suits you!
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