Connor Gould and Leslie McNeilly: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs

Camp Brand Goods is a two-man (well, one man, one woman) team who create clothing and accessories that are ideal for Albertans. Twenty-eight-year-old Connor Gould and 29-year-old Leslie McNeilly‘s line is stylish, functional and makes it easy to look good while enjoying the elements of nature 

In anticipation of the upcoming PARKSHOW fashion event happening March 15th, Connor told us a little bit more about Camp Brand Goods, Thoreau, and why you shouldn’t be afraid of putting in long hours.  

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
Go outside; find inspiration. Translate that inspiration into wearable, comfortable, and fashionable apparel for likeminded outdoor enthusiasts.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to do my own thing. I love art and design, and I love the outdoors. I started Camp Brand Goods in 2011 as a creative outlet while I was working as a graphic designer, and as luck would have it my two passions were able to meet up and here we are now!

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Being fully self-employed is a new gig and it definitely comes with its challenges – staying on task being the biggest one. We have a 110-pound Bouvier that is always looking to play so it’s pretty easy to be distracted. The best part of the job is that our work is our passion. We get inspiration from going on adventures and being outside. We have enough trips planned to last the next 30 years so we just have to figure out a way to fit some work in between them.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
Before quitting my 9 to 5 job, I worked 50+ hours a week as a designer, and then Leslie and I would work all night on Camp. It didn’t take long for me to burn out and not enjoy either. Because we were burnt out we both wanted to ring each other’s neck’s over some pretty petty stuff. My dad sat me down at the beginning of the winter and told me that life isn’t a race, I need to enjoy it and also that I need to make smarter choices. We both left our day jobs shortly afterwards.  I have since slowed my roll and am enjoying life a whole lot more. However, without the hard work at the beginning I don’t think we would be where we are right now, so I don’t regret the long nights.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
At the helm of a super successful outdoor apparel company controlling operations from our yurt in the woods.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Being self-conscious about my dreams and ambitions. I never finished school, and I definitely felt like I wasn’t skilled enough to be doing the things I was trying to do. It’s a blessing and a curse. I feel like I have always had the mentality that I need to work harder and smarter than everyone else because I didn’t pursue the traditional school route to get to where I was.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Thoreau said it best: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Quitting our jobs and jumping into this thing headfirst. It involved a few sleepless nights at the start but it’s been the best experience of our lives.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
If you have an idea and a passion to pursue it, make it work. Stay up late, work around the clock and get it done. Be confident in your endeavour and people will respect it and you. If you are self-conscious and not willing to put yourself out there, it won’t happen.

Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
The Coup. Although we never really order anything other than the tempeh shawarma because it’s so good. I’ve tried some other items and they are all delicious. Leslie is a vegetarian and I’m slowly starting to see the light.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Outside. Not if it’s -30 though. Then I like to be inside.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
Road trips. My heart will always be in the Rocky Mountains, but I love a good road trip. Last summer we drove to Red Rocks in Colorado and then back through the national parks. This summer we are going to hit the West Coast down to Northern California. I really want to explore the Southern states as well, and I wouldn’t mind heading north one of these days. New places, new faces. The experience is a lot different when you enter somewhere from a car than from a plane. It’s all about the journey, not the destination.  

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
The Strumbellas — Home Sweet Home

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I think I’d be a carpenter or something like that. Leslie says she would try her hand at opening a vegetarian restaurant.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Right now we donate to a bunch of initiatives our friends are into, our favorite being Surf Anywhere. We have a few things we are working on and are looking forward to expanding our charitable relationships this coming year.

What to you is notable?
Since starting Camp we have had the pleasure of meeting some amazing folks. Ones to note are The Strumbellas and the boys behind Great North Collective. Meeting people who are passionate about their craft and pursuing their dreams is intoxicating and these two groups really inspire us.

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Photography by Mike Seehagel