A Victorian couple who fell in love with their passion for the great outdoors have now turned it into a multimillion-dollar business.
When Cam Greenwood first met his wife Elise, they bonded over a shared love of nature – and their whirlwind romance saw them get engaged just five months later.
But at that point, Cam was going through one of the most “challenging” times of his life.
It was 2017 and the surf brand he founded as a hobby at age 19 had taken off in the five years since its launch.
But a California company was not happy and had entered a legal battle.
“Eventually I dropped out of college to go after the company full time and it grew into a strong brand called Monsta Surf and I had customers from 40 countries,” he told news.com.au.
“Then I got a green energy drink after us.”
The stressful period led the now 29-year-old – who didn’t even surf – to realize that the business he really wanted to run was about being outdoors, not surfing.
At the time, Elise was working as a women’s designer at Rip Curl and together they decided to create a new outdoor brand called Zorali.
It saw the couple going camping trips, having fun with friends and enjoying nature as part of their business research.
“We really experienced a lot of the other brands in the industry and we felt like it was almost performance driven, even marketing was all about getting to the top or having the athlete hanging off the side of the cliff with one arm ,” he said.
“It didn’t really match how we saw the outdoors. A lot of Australians just love to get out and about and we really wanted to be a guide in taking the first steps outdoors.
“The outdoors can be hard to get into and people don’t know the technical jargon and equipment. We wanted to create a brand that is approachable, welcoming and leads people deeper out.”
The Victorian couple launched an equity crowdfund campaign in 2019 to raise $300,000 from 550 investors to get their idea off the ground.
Working from their home on Zorali for the first 12 months, they launched just in time for the pandemic to hit Australia, selling everything from tents to camping chairs, drinks and cooking equipment, wood burning stoves, backpacks and menswear and womenswear.
“So it was a bit of a crazy time. When Covid first hit, we were running an outdoor brand at a time when people were physically encouraged not to go out with all the lockdowns,” Cam said.
“It just felt like things could have gone down a pretty challenging path for us.
But surprisingly, it worked in their favor, as people felt the brunt of the limitations sharply, Cam said.
“I think when you’re taken away from something — the freedom to just go out and explore places near or far from home — you really come to appreciate it a lot more,” he said.
“Many of our friends and many people in our community and our post-lockdown customers have just shown a much greater appreciation for the simple joys of a road tip or camping with your friends and those simple joys that we all enjoyed. for the pandemic of course.”
However, he admits the first year was slow and “very hard work” as they made $175,000 in sales. But that grew by 600 percent in the second year.
Last year, Zorali’s sales hit a whopping $2 million.
Bestsellers for the brand include their camping chairs, which range in price from $119 to $199, and four different backpacks, which retail for $169.95.
There’s also a camp for $675, which Cam says makes it less “overwhelming” to go outside — it includes a tent, sleeping pad, and camp pillow to get someone ready for a trip away.
Elise, who leads a design team of six, is focused on using recycled or organic materials, as well as creating clothing that is visually appealing.
“Traditionally, a lot of outdoor clothing can’t be super beautiful in design,” says Cam.
“A strong area of interest is making outdoor clothing that not only works really well and looks great, but that you can also wear every day on a walk or in the city.”
Currently 90 percent of their sales come from Australia, but now the couple, whose favorite outdoor destination is Otway in southern Victoria, are getting interest from the US.
In July, they are launching a collaboration with American lifestyle brand Huckberry, popular for its outdoor gear.
Cam said Zorali has also evolved with the pandemic, with the duo seeing it more as a sustainable wellness brand that connects people with nature rather than as a company in essential outdoor products.
The couple recently enjoyed some time on Mount Feathertop, the second-highest mountain in Victoria, and that’s part of their grand plan, too: taking their online presence offline, with a calendar of events to be released later this year.
“It’s something that we’re really excited about — the experiential side of Zorali — we don’t just see ourselves as an online outdoor retailer and want to create these really meaningful experiences that fit right next to the brand,” Cam said.
Originally published as The Victorian Couple’s Business, Zorali Makes $2 Million From ‘Simple Pleasure’