Earthy Interview: Zack Shoom of Obabika

Earthy Interview: Zack Shoom of Obabika

We were thrilled to chat with Zack Shoom of Obabika - a non-profit digital marketing studio for environmental efforts based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. Their mission is to provide grassroots organizations with professional services without barriers, letting these groups focus on saving the world while they focus on making sure the world knows about it. It's a unique approach with a huge impact, having their hand in efforts across the environmental spectrum. Follow along to learn more about their work as we get into what drives them to show up for our planet every day, dissecting the importance of non-profit operations and highlighting the role of digital marketing in the eco space. Zack is well-versed in all things earthy and is a light-hearted, wholesome guy to boot, making this conversation informative, buoyant and all around delightful.

Tell us a bit about yourself! Who are you and what do you do?

Hullo! I'm Zack, and I'm the founder of Obabika - a not for profit digital marketing and creative studio for environmental groups. 

We offer communication services to the folks who we believe can do the most good with it. Our goal is to work alongside organizations so they can focus on changing the world, and we can be their megaphone.

It's pronounced OH-BAH-BIH-KA :)

What led to the creation of obabika? Why choose a non profit model?

Obabika was born out of a bit of frustration, honestly. After working with and for a number of organizations for years, it was clear as day that a lot of these organizations weren't exactly set up for success to effectively communicate their work. This makes it nearly impossible to show their potential supporters what their work means, and what they need to reach their goals. As you can see it all gets very cyclical, making it hard for organizations to meet their full potential.

In a lot of cases, some communication efforts even come at a cost to the mission of the organization - putting social media management on the side of a campaign managers desk for instance. 

We operate on a non profit basis for two reasons;

a) We wanted to offer our services on a subsidized or pro bono basis, to really make our product accessible to those who need it most.

b) We want to make very clear what our intentions are - to stand with, and support grassroots environmental groups.

Of note, being a non profit allows us to have a level of understanding and empathy for a client that a for profit agency typically doesn't understand. 

What place does digital marketing have in environmental efforts and why is it important?

Honestly, it's truly game changing. I came into environmental work when social media was still really for personal use only, and seeing the impact that these platforms have had on change work is so inspiring.

Basically - environmental groups for the most part would never be able to do stuff like buy TV commercials, or bus stop ads. However, we now can get the information that matters, directly to the people that care - en mass. This creates a larger community of those that want change, and makes it more viable for organizations to do their work. It also provides an important backbone for activists to do their thing.

This all being said, creating an IG page for your org isn't going to really do the trick. Storytelling, and being able to really instruate your cause / the impact of your work is where the power is in all of this.

What has been your biggest learning since starting obabika?

I feel like everything is forever a work in progress, and I'm really learning something new every day - truly. Something I learned early on, and want to really preach is the concept of community and togetherness. There are a lot of amazing people, doing amazing things, all for the same goal. We should be bringing each other up more - orgs encouraging other orgs. You're doing a really great job of that :)

I also feel like this is a sign of our times, but there are A LOT of brands / people / businesses supporting 'environmental work' without really understanding the fundamentals of the issues. I'm hoping that our work shows folks that it's vital that we really dig into the causes we care about if we want to make a real difference.

What has been your biggest success?

On a day to day scale - seeing our projects come to life and help create a successful campaign is a feeling that I will probably forever chase - getting to be involved in something that helps rebuild fish habitat, stops a logging tenure, etc... that's the biggest success I can imagine. 

One campaign in particular we worked on saw the eviction of 19 fish farms along a major migration route of wild salmon. Reading the headlines that day sent me to the moon!

How does activism play a role in your work with obabika? 

Interestingly enough - one of our 'core values’ is to create work that makes 'activism' 'active'. However, I wouldn't consider what we really do activism in the true sense of the word. 

I've found my role in environmental work to be behind the scenes, not so much on the ‘frontlines’. I don’t think we’d have one without the other, just where I see myself and my strengths.

What drives you to show up every day for the planet?

I just fundamentally believe that the planet deserves to be healthy and treated well, and it’s our job as the people who live here. The planet has an intrinsic value. We ought to honour that. Simple.

What does living earthy mean to you?