A Victorian couple who fell in love with their passion for the outdoors have now turned it into a business generating millions.
When Cam Greenwood met his wife Elise, they bonded over a shared love of nature, and their whirlwind romance saw them engaged just five months later.
However, at the time, Cam was going through one of the most “challenging” times of his life.
It was 2017, and the surf brand he had created at age 19 as a hobby had taken off in the five years since its launch.
But a Californian company was not happy and had filed a legal fight.
“I ended up dropping out of university to pursue the business full time and it grew into a strong brand called Monsta Surf and had customers from 40 countries,” he told news.com.au.
“Then I had a green energy drink come after us.”
The stressful period led the 29-year-old, who didn’t even surf, to realize that the company he really wanted to run was all about being outdoors, rather than surfing.
Elise was working as a women’s designer at Rip Curl at the time and together they decided to create a new outdoor brand called Zorali.
He saw the couple go on camping trips, have fun with friends, and enjoy nature as part of their business research.
“We really experienced a lot of the other brands in the industry and felt like it was almost performance-oriented, even in the marketing it was about getting to the top or it featured the athlete hanging off the edge of the cliff with one arm,” he said. saying.
“It didn’t really resonate with the way we viewed the outdoors. Many Aussies just love to get outdoors and we really wanted to be a guide to taking your first steps outdoors.
“It can be difficult to get into the great outdoors and people don’t know the technical jargon or the gear. We wanted to create a brand that was accessible and welcoming and guide people deeper into the great outdoors.”
The Victorian couple launched an equity crowdfunding campaign in 2019 raising $300,000 from 550 investors to get their idea off the ground.
For the first 12 months, Zorali worked from home and launched just in time for the pandemic to hit Australia, selling everything from tents to camp chairs, drinks and cookware, wood stoves, backpacks. and clothing for men and women.
“So it was a bit of a crazy moment. When Covid first hit, we were running an outdoor brand at a time when people were being physically encouraged not to venture out with all the lockdowns,” said Cam.
“I felt like things could have gone down a pretty challenging path for us.
But surprisingly, it worked in their favor, as people felt the burden of the restrictions deeply, Cam said.
“I think when something is taken away from you, the freedom to go outside and explore places near or far from home, it really makes you appreciate it that much more,” she said.
“A lot of our friends and a lot of people in our community and our post-lockdown customers have just shown a much stronger appreciation for the simple joys of traveling or camping with your friends and those simple pleasures that we all enjoy. for granted before the pandemic.”
He admits, however, that it was slow and “really hard” work for the first year, as they made $175,000 in sales. But that grew 600 percent in the second year.
Last year, Zorali’s revenue topped a whopping $2 million.
The brand’s best sellers include its camping chairs, which range in price from $119 to $199, and four different backpacks, which retail for $169.95.
There’s also a campground for $675, which Cam says makes getting outdoors less “overwhelming”: It includes a tent, a sleeping mat, and a camping pillow to prepare someone for a trip.
Elise, who leads a six-person design team, focuses on using recycled or organic materials, but also making clothes that are visually appealing.
“Traditionally, a lot of outerwear may not be very nice in terms of design,” Cam said.
“An area of great interest is making outerwear that not only works great and looks great, but can also be worn on a hike or around town on a day-to-day basis.”
Currently 90 per cent of their income comes from Australia, but now the couple, whose favorite outdoor destination is Otway in southern Victoria, are gaining interest in the US.
In July, they will launch a collaboration with US lifestyle brand Huckberry, popular for its outdoor clothing.
Cam said Zorali has also evolved with the pandemic, with the duo seeing it more as a sustainable wellness brand that connects people to nature rather than an outdoor essentials company.
The couple recently enjoyed some time on Mount Feathertop, Victoria’s second-highest mountain, and that’s also part of their big plan: to take their online presence offline, with a calendar of events due to launch later this year.
“It’s something that we’re very excited to grow, the experience side of Zorali, we don’t see ourselves as just an online retailer for outdoor activities and we want to create these really meaningful experiences that sit alongside the brand,” he said. Cam.