Monsta Surf founder Cam Greenwood tells the story of his brand and how, through some effective use of social media and community support, he’s been able to take a tribe of loyal customers along for the journey.
Photography by Jim Wilde.
It all started with a drawing, according to Cam Greenwood of the surf brand that began in a backyard of Melbourne’s outer eastern suburb of Mooroolbark.
“My friends thought I was a bit crazy to pursue this little dream,” Greenwood says.
But word started getting around and the Monsta Surf brand found success on Facebook and Instagram, spreading photos of his surf boards around the world.
That momentum, as well as a life-changing trip to Kenya in 2012, led Greenwood to decide to expand his offering into apparel as well.
In October 2013, the Monsta Surf website went live to the world. “We planned to do a little pre-order but weren’t sure what to expect. We ended up realising I had a tribe of followers behind me that liked what I was doing and felt a part of the journey.”
Orders flooded in and the brand now sends merchandise to 35 countries around the world.
“I get stories of people telling me they saw our brand in a tiny town in South America or in Iceland. Crazy,” he says.
The power of social media has been instrumental to the success of this brand. It’s enabled Greenwood to tell his story and, through it, connect with and grow his tribe of loyal followers.
“I’ve really put my heart out there to the world on social media, sharing what I’m doing and what I want to do. I’ve been really transparent and it’s really made people feel a part of the journey.
“I was posting behind the scenes content of clothing samples and meetings, which gave everyone an inside look into the whole process and the journey behind the brand. Followers have been able to take ownership of the vision and spread it into their own communities.”
Social media gave Monsta the power to grow before it even began producing big returns. “By the time we actually launched the clothing line, we had that backing behind us,” says Greenwood. “We had already created relationships, trust, and had a strong loyal following who were waiting for this product.” As his primary market is Millennials, this modern mode of brand communication, combined with an agile and ambitious business model and focus on making the world a better place, has enabled Monsta to go up against big surf brands with big budgets.
“We’re a social enterprise. A for-purpose company. The tribe that we’ve created has become something that’s much greater than ourselves, and it’s really driven the movement.”
This has meant focusing on trying to think differently and creatively in all that the company produces. “We believe we have a unique view of the world and it’s helped us come up with some incredibly innovative ideas, creative strategies and campaigns that have given us a voice in the Australian market.
“Being driven and run by a group of Millennials, we understand our consumers. We’re pretty proud that we’ve been able to disrupt established brands.”
As many in business know, successfully tapping into the Millennial market is the focus of much discussion and budget spend. Greenwood is often questioned at industry events about how the business, with limited budget and experience, has achieved success selling to Millennials.
“Constraints have made us who we are. Being naïve enough to go after our crazy dreams with no fear of failure has enabled us to think differently,” he says.
Along with starting a business, Greenwood also started the Monsta Foundation “as a way we could give back and offer practical support to projects locally and overseas”.
Community support work is a topic close to Greenwood’s heart. After three weeks working at the Huruma Children’s Home in Kenya, he walked away with a new take on life.
Now, after a few trips to the Home, Greenwood and his team have been able to resource some life-changing initiatives. Current projects include setting up a self-sustainable fish farm – which not only provides the kids with a fresh source of protein but also gives the Home a source of income – relief work and a water filtration project in the Philippines.
“We’re trying to disrupt the industry with our view on how business should be done,” he declares. Greenwood encourages businesses to think of their customers as “social investors” in their brand. “Be transparent with them, take them along the journey. It’ll go a long way in creating a passionate and loyal supporter base who become advocates of your brand.”
He’s all about empowering people. “It’s a great business strategy to have a tribe of followers, who are really passionate brand advocates. If you can empower them to take ownership of your vision, it goes a long way to getting the support that brands just can’t manufacture through traditional channels.”
It all started in his backyard in Mooroolbark, making surf boards. Once his business expanded, he was “selling the clothes out of a spare room at home”.
One year into the journey, they were expecting a huge shipment… “It probably wasn’t the best idea having it land on our front lawn,” he recalls, of the experience that prompted a move into office space in Ringwood.
“It’s a little bit odd, a surf brand in the eastern suburbs. No waves. Everyone thought, ‘What are you doing?’ We’ve really been able to engage the surf scene in Melbourne,” he says, and adds that his brand caters to more than just surfers. “Our customers aren’t all surfers. We don’t think of ourselves as a surf brand – even though that’s where it’s come from. It’s more the lifestyle behind it that we’ve created.”
“People really connect with that lifestyle. That’s how we’ve become one of the fastest growing brands in Melbourne.”
It wasn’t long after the brand left home that it took off throughout Australia and started spreading further. Greenwood can recall jumping around in his kitchen when the first international order came through.
Ringwood may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of surf brands, but Greenwood says Melbourne is the perfect place for companies like Monsta to make a start.
“Melbourne has a pretty creative and innovative culture. It’s welcoming to new ideas and people trying to have a crack,” he says.
His relationship with the Bank of Melbourne began at a business lunch in late 2014, and since then has been “massive” for his business’ development. “They’ve supported me with a lot of networking events that’s given me experience beyond my years. I’m 23; I’m kind of wired to blaze my own trail, but I’ve learned to listen to people that have gone before me to get a fresh perspective.”
Follow the adventure: @camgreenwood @monstasurf.
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