Meet Natalie Gilson - Founder of Tortuga Creative Studio
Updated: Mar 30
For those of you I've not yet had the pleasure of speaking to directly, it's time for an introduction!
I'm Natalie - the world's first ocean-focused brand consultant, artist, and mother of two.
As a life-long standup paddler, scuba diver, swimmer, ocean-side camper, tide-pool explorer, and surfer, the oceans mean a lot to me.
Once upon a time, I wanted to be a marine biologist, but in high school, when I found myself fascinated with the history of piracy, I chose to pursue a career in underwater archaeology instead.
With a BFA in History in Art and a Minor in Anthropology, I headed out to excavate Roman shipwrecks off the coast of Spain in an underwater archaeology field school.
From there, I spent a few seasons unearthing mummies along Peru's desert coast. Not ocean related, but still insanely cool.
Later, as the circumstances of my life shifted, so did the focus of my career.
Returning to my artistic roots, I founded Tortuga Creative Studio in 2015 as a design studio named for my interest in pirates (remember Tortuga, the pirate haunt from Pirates of the Caribbean? 🏴☠️)
Within year one, I scaled Tortuga to a 6-figure business and brought my business partner Brandyn Hansen on board.
Over the next six years, we gained countless experiences in graphic design, creative strategy, brand strategy and creative direction.
During these years, I've also held the position of Creative Director for three companies and worked on projects ranging from branding for startups to communications design for Parks Canada to award-winning waste management campaigns (in collaboration with the Armstrong Strategy Group).
Although the first six years of Tortuga were not solely ocean focused, I always connected with the ocean-forward clients we worked with most.
At the end of last year, thanks to some impactful mindset and audience work done through Tobias Dahlberg's Certified Brand Consultant and BETA programs, I decided to commit Tortuga 100% to ocean-focused clients.
Through some research, I noticed no brand consultants explicitly focused on helping ocean-forward businesses grow, thrive and do more for our oceans.
As the hugely important fields of ocean innovation, tech and conservation grow through support from the UN Ocean Decade and SDG 14, many ocean-forward businesses would benefit from a consultant who knows the ins and outs of brand strategy and creative work but also understands that a core piece of their work is about shaping a better future for the oceans.
So here I am, nearly seven years after starting Tortuga, with all my experience, passion and creativity in hand - leading the world's first team of ocean-focused brand consultants in service of a better future - one where business growth and ocean impact go hand-in-hand.
And even though the name Tortuga now refers to the sea turtles we adopt for our clients, I'm still a pirate at heart.
🏴☠️ 💙 🐢