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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Candace Kellough

Candace Kellough, 34, is a Founder of El Camino Bracelets, a business she founded ten years ago.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

I was working at a backpacking hostel in Barcelona, and my time there was intended as a stop gap after I graduated with a business degree from Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. However, after two years at the hostel, I decided to explore once again, which is when I met Tom Lane.

Tom and I came up with the El Camino Bracelets concept together – a bracelet that records your travels, adventures and experiences.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

We came up with the idea whilst hiking the coastline between Barcelona and Monaco in 2013. That idea literally stopped us in our tracks, so we returned home to the UK to launch our business, El Camino Bracelets, on 27 December a decade ago.

That small idea has clearly resonated around the globe, as El Camino Bracelets have been bought by over 78,000 customers in 89 countries, and our Cornwall-based business now has a multi-million pound turnover.

How did you achieve awareness?

Almost all our new customers are acquired through word of mouth or social media. We love checking our post-sales survey and seeing that so many of our customers found out about El Camino through word of mouth, as it’s reassuring to see that our established customers are happy enough with our products to recommend El Camino to their friends or family. Aside from this, we rely heavily on social media to direct new and repeat customers to our website. We have a very strong organic reach which is also supplemented by paid advertisements. We spend a lot of time and energy in creating new and interesting content which people are keen to interact with. We’re always learning, trying new things and consistently adapting.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

We didn’t get any funding to start our business, as we used our savings and the remainder of our travel fund, so we have funded El Camino ourselves.

What are the key successes?

One of our first key successes was when we got our first order from someone we didn’t know – that was a special moment. I can remember exactly where we were and how excited we were to see it come through! Some other key successes: Moving down to Cornwall and out of Tom’s parents’ house after the first two years of business; Moving the business out of our flat and into our first premises; Employing our first member of staff; Seeing El Camino beginning to grow again after the pandemic… And our biggest milestone yet – 10 years of El Camino, selling to over 78,000 travel lovers, in 89 countries.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

A huge challenge was the pandemic. We would never have predicted travel ever stopping. It was a tough time for us, like it was for most people, and whilst we try not to dwell on it now, it was definitely the most challenging period for El Camino. It did however teach us to adapt. For example, we introduced a new product line of Small Steps, to cater to staycations and people not travelling. We also pivoted our charitable giving to gift 20% of specific Step sales to NHS Charities in 2020, raising over £9,000.

Overall, the biggest adaptation from that period is learning to live with uncertainty -and how important preparation for all scenarios is.

Recruiting the right people is also a challenge. As El Camino grows, which is happening quickly, it’s finding the people who are the perfect fit for El Camino, with the same standards and ethos as us. It’s a lot harder than you’d think!

What are your plans now/for the future?

My plans are to continue growing El Camino into an international brand. We will continue to enter new markets and keep spreading the El Camino love, whilst always staying true to the brand’s roots. We will continue to make top quality products and keep team/suppliers/customers happy… In a nutshell, bigger scale – same model.

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

Being an entrepreneur is scary at first, and its hard work – but it’s worth it. Once you find something you’re passionate about and something you love, it stops feeling like work. You don’t mind the long hours and late nights when you’re building something of your own. The reward is tenfold.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Be resilient and persevere. Being fully committed is essential, and understanding that certain aspects of your life may require sacrifice in order to succeed.

I say ‘may’ as everyone is different, but I know Tom and I had to put all social and travel plans on hold… Before El Camino, we were always bouncing around place to place, going on adventures, and loved hanging out with our friends. It would have been impossible for us to have started El Camino while maintaining the same social and travel-orientated lifestyle we had.

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

Can I share six?… Mom and Dad – My incredible parents are definitely my biggest inspiration. They taught me to be hardworking, to never give up, and to have a positive attitude. They told me ‘you can be anything you want’.  They commit to everything they do and have an amazing work ethic.

Manon Rhéaume, the first woman NHL Player, was my idol growing up – I had a poster size photograph of her on my bedroom wall. She was breaking down barriers and paved the way for other women in ice hockey. I played boys ice hockey at a competitive level growing up and she was my inspiration to continue pursuing my passion for hockey, regardless of the gender barriers. She is the epitome of hard work, dedication and perseverance.

Robert Schad – he was the founder of the corporation where my mom worked. I knew him since I was little and when I was in university, I interviewed him for an Entrepreneurship class I was in. He came to Canada in 1950 with $25 in his pocket and a letter of reference from Albert Einstein and later on ended up creating and selling his business for $960 million. He’s the one that shared the quote with me “Find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” It really stuck with me.

Granny, Irene Kellough – lived to 99 years old, lived through the war, was in the air force, single mom raised three children, had a big sense of adventure, hitch hiked from Canada down to Hollywood when she was 18 years old, loved nature and being outdoors, never complained, was always so positive and powered through life. She inspires me everyday.  

Grandma, Teresa Attias – left her home in Spain on her own when she was 18 years old to go to the UK to learn English and create a life for herself, opened a Fish & Chips shop with my grandpa in Northern Ireland while raising two kids, then later moved to Canada. She inspires me to put myself out there and do things that seem scary – like moving to a new country, on your own, where you don’t know the language. She’s a very brave and determined woman.

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

“Entrepreneurship is living few years of life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”

My dad sent me this quote 10 years ago when we were starting El Camino, and I printed it out and stuck it on my desk (I still have the exact print out). It really pulled me through the more difficult moments (long days/nights, lack of social life, things not going to plan…)

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr Seuss. I loved Dr Seuss as a kid – it was only when I was older, I realised how inspiring his books were.

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?