Cam is the definition of a modern day gentleman. He's smart (he's a geologist), well-spoken, has the George Clooney silver fox hair and recently launched a conscious mens clothing business, Fare Well Co. Yup, he ticks all the boxes, but unlike Mr Clooney, he's a taken man.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with him over a coffee to have a chat about his new venture, his previous life as a graphic designer and a couple of chickens.
Firstly, congrats on Fare Well Co. I love the style, message and approach of what you're doing.
Thanks man. It's been in the works for a while but I'm now really happy that it's out there for people to check out.
Before we get into Fare Well Co., I usually like to ask how things have lead up to the point they are at now. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
Sure. I'm not sure how far you want me to go back, but I'm a born and bred Northern Beaches guy, went to school here and have always worked around Sydney. I've travelled a fair bit, but this is my home.
I studied to become a graphic designer, and once I began to work in the industry I soon came to realise it's not as fulfilling and creative as I had hoped and it really started to get to me. Everything was about cost and when you've got guys over in India competing against you at literally 5% of what you'd charge, it just isn't sustainable. I still do a bit of it, but I do it now for the love, not as a career.
So you went and became a geologist, is that right?
Yup. I went to uni to be qualified for a job where I wasn't stuck at a desk and would be dealing with facts and science, not creative opinion. Like, you can either build on this piece of land because there's rock here or you can't. It is as it is.
I was quite lucky to get the job I do now. It was originally offered to a friend of mine who couldn't take it so he referred it to me and I've now been with them for about four years.
I enjoy it but It has also exposed to me to some hard truths. We sometimes get enquiries for coal seam gas work and mining jobs and I'm really lucky that my boss has the same sort of ideals as me, where he doesn't want anything to do with that. We have done some environmental remediation work though where there have been mine sites, gas plants etc. and the places are just fucked.
So what do you think is the solution?
I know that in some ways it is a bit of a contradiction starting a company producing consumer goods while trying to solve the mass consumerism problem. But I think you've got to first replace the bad with the better and then change again to less. The big companies aren't going to go away and they certainly aren't going to change anything unless it means making more money for themselves. Their existence depends on profit, nothing else. So the change is going to come form the smaller, local companies chipping away at the big guns and my hope is that Fare Well Co. is part of that transition.
Couldn't agree more. Can you explain more about what Fare Well Co. is?
It's a men's conscious clothing company with a focus a high quality, timeless pieces that you can wear season in, season out. I don't like having to change my style every time the wind changes, so I wanted to make pieces that wouldn't go out of fashion.
What's really important to me though is all the behind-the-scenes business practices. I promised myself that when I started Fare Well Co I would adopt the best possible practices at every stage of the business cycle, including looking after everyone involved in that process too. From the farmer who grows the organic cotton, to what happens to the shirt once it's primary use has been completed. Making sure each step is as environmentally friendly and ethical as possible.
All profits go towards two causes that I'm really passionate about, Room to Read and Saving the Tasmanian Devil. I wanted to associate the brand with a people cause and an environmental cause.
I love Room to Read, as education is a proven and transferrable cause to help people out of poverty. If you can educate one person in one family, it will often help the entire family. I think I first witnessed how simple education can make such a big difference through my parents, who were involved in the project called Can Help Letters, where they're pen pals with kids in third world countries, writing letters to help them learn English, and how to write and communicate.
With the Tasmania Devil cause, I wanted to support a cause that was close to home, and by supporting an Australian iconic animal you're also indirectly saving the ecosystem required for the animal to survive so it's a win-win.
100% of profits go towards these causes. That's very generous.
My uncle's a businessman and thinks I'm crazy (laughs).
As long as I'm covering my costs I'm happy with that and hopefully that resinates with other people and they support what I'm doing, want to talk about it and buy Fare Well Co.'s products.
Have you thought about making some money from the business?
I've been reading a book called 'Money Manifesto' about an Irish guy who's gone without money for two years. He lives in a caravan on a farm he volunteers at, and grows all the food that he eats. He talks about how money is a meaningless exchange that has diminished the connection we have with other people and the environment.
Now, I accept the fact that this is an extreme example and that we do need money for the moment for society to keep operating. But if we begin to create businesses that don't revolve around money and instead revolve around relationships and helping each other out, I find that extremely exciting and a realistic concept.
Speaking of relationships, I've heard you and your girlfriend have chickens in your backyard?
Yeah, they're so funny. They've all got their own personalities. You would never think of a chicken having a personality, but they do.
We first got two from a friend of mine whose parents have a farm up the coast and they gave us two roosters by accident, as it's hard to tell their sex when they're young. They started doing their cock-a-doodle-do thing in the morning and the neighbours got the shits with us so we had to take them to a nursery and swap them for two hens. They are now both laying, which is pretty cool.
I know you live in quite a suburban area, how were you able to get the go ahead to keep them?
We live in a block of four units, which has a shared backyard that no one really uses. I went to the other units and asked whether they were cool if we built a little coup out the back, and they were all for it. It's also quite relaxing, them being there. Some of our neighbours have even said that after a stressful day at work, just going down and hanging out with them helps them relax.
Coming back to Fare Well Co, what are some of the key lessons learnt so far?
I think it's all about the golden rule of treating people the way you want to be treated. I had to do this job in Mongolia, which I went and did, and the client decided not to pay. We hadn't done anything wrong. He just simply didn't want to pay and I had a hard time trying to understand his logic as to why. I finally just accepted the fact that that's the type of person he was, how shit he made me feel and how I vowed to try my hardest to make people feel valued. Because I now know what it's like to be treated the complete opposite.
Another one is not telling people what's better but simply presenting the options and showing one compared to the other, then let them make up their own minds.
Where do get your inspiration from?
I find it inspiring when people can break out of their comfort zone. The further they're in it, as in the more money you have and higher career position, the harder it is to do. To be able to throw themselves into the deep end and start something that they know isn't going to be easy.
Take Room to Read for example, it was started by a guy named John Wood. He used to be a high profile executive at Microsoft making a hell of a lot of money. Through his business travels he could see how he could make a difference, but kept putting it off until one day he just said —
"Fuck it. I'm using all of my money to start something that really makes a difference in other people's lives and that's going to be my life from now on."
What are your plans for Fare Well Co?
I've got some winter staples coming out soon (the Journeyman socks are available now online), which is exciting, and building a community around Fare Well Co. is something I've been working on too. Everybody that buys an item I send a little card to saying, let's keep in touch and come to our next party. I hope to throw one every six months to celebrate the amount of money we've been able to provide to Room to Read and Saving the Tasmanian Devil. The idea of bringing Fare Well Co.'s customers together and chatting with them all in a social setting is a great opportunity to gain feedback and share ideas on where things should go next.