Imagine walking up the Costa Brava, Spain with a heavy backpack on your back, a skateboard in your arm, and the love of your life by you side. You’ve just walked 15 miles, up and back down mountains, and are ready to call it a day.
You find the perfect spot to set up your tent, have a snack (most likely something to do with peanut butter), and start bouncing ideas off one another. Just as the sun is about to set you come up with an idea that will transform you from wanderer to entrepreneur.
Candace Kellough and Tom Lane were backpacking from Barcelona to Monaco when they came up with El Camino Bracelets, a unisex bracelet for travelers. With the idea fresh in their minds and the knowledge that there wasn’t a product out there like the one they wanted to launch, they hopped on a train back to Barcelona and flew to England. There, they lived, worked, and saved for the start-up of their business.
El Camino bracelets represent your story and your journey around the world, according to the website. One bracelet easily replaces all of those knickknacks and dust collectors that many travelers accumulate while traveling. You can see every place you’ve travelled just by looking at your wrist.
“It takes about 20 minutes to make a single and about 30 minutes for a double,” said Kellough. “And of course, lots and lots of love goes into each El Camino. We’ve become quite attached to them and are always very curious where in the world they are going to end up.”
So far, El Camino bracelets have traveled to Canada, USA, Mexico, Ireland, all of the UK,
France, and Spain, she says.
Kellough and Lane make each bracelet by hand, and say they are proud of it. They keep everything local, says Kellough, and like knowing where all of their products are coming from. This is the basis of their business and something they want to hold onto as their company grows.
“We just want to keep doing what we’re doing and stay true to our roots. We want to expand organically by word of mouth and people spreading their love for everything we make,” Kellough said.
The bracelets can be double or single and are made from four high-strength woven cords available in black, turquoise, chestnut brown, red, steel blue, forest green or purple.
Each bracelet comes with a first ‘step’, which is stainless steel and engraved with El Camino. In order to start saving memories, you need to purchase what they call ‘steps’. They are engraved with the names of countries on them, with over 240 to choose from.
There are also ‘small steps’ which cover popular places that aren’t countries, like New York or Hawaii. Next are the colourful ‘regional steps,’ which add a little excitement to your wrist and your travel story. Each ‘region’ is handmade in England and then sandblasted with the El Camino logo.
Finally, you can space out your steps and regions by adding wooden spacers, which are laser cut and made from mahogany or oak.
It’s a souvenir for travelers, by travelers.
A native of Caledon, Ontario, Kellough says she became obsessed with traveling in her last year of university. She studied abroad in Alicante, Spain and says that teachers are so laid back when studying abroad. They understand that the students are there to travel, learn, and experience new things. Being able to hop on a plane or train for a few hours and be engulfed by a different language and culture was exciting.
“I met so many people and experienced so much,” she said. “I realized that there is so much to see and do. After living in Alicante, I knew that there was no way I was ever going to be able to settle in one place for a long time.”
After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier’s business program, she worked two jobs and saved enough money to head to Europe. She spent some time backpacking, and eventually settled in Barcelona for a year and a half.
But Kellough’s Canadian blood missed the snow. Her next move found her in a tiny ski town in the French Alps, where she worked and snowboarded. It was there that she met Tom Lane, future business partner and beau, and fellow gypsy soul.
It was his messy hair that first caught her eye, says Kellough. They hit it off and soon were inseparable. The pair woke early to ski or snowboard, went to work, and met up after. Their days were long, and sleep was nonexistent, but it was worth it in the end.
When Kellough and Lane met, Lane was already in his fifth season in Meribel. Born in England, he spent his summers in Ibiza and his winters in France. He has been traveling for ten years, and both Kellough and Lane say it’s in his blood. His travels were originally limited to England, but that changed in when he decided to move to Spain.
Part of what drives their shared passion for travel is a thirst for new experiences. Both of the young entrepreneurs admit that they get bored easily. They like to meet new people and try new things, and say travel is the best way to do that.
Since the start up of El Camino, though, Kellough says her lifestyle has done a complete 360. There isn’t much time to bounce from country to country these days. The pair went from traveling ‘gypsies’ to working twelve-hour-days, every single day, she says.
They don’t mind though – they’re doing something they love, and are seeing the results of their hard work. They’re overwhelmed with such positive feedback and repeat orders. And with the job market the way it is in Canada, Kellough says she would still have gone the entrepreneurial route if she remained here.
“I’ve always wanted to do my own thing. It’s been in the back of my mind since I was young, I just never knew what that thing was going to go be or where it was going to happen” she says.
Working out of ‘The Treehouse,’ Kellough and Lane say they are learning something new every day, and firmly believe that passion dictates the success of any business. Their door is always open to the fresh air, something that helps calm their restless hearts. They love travel and everything that goes with it: long work days, bandaged fingers, and all.
** This article was originally posted on CANCULTURE.COM in April of 2013. It was edited by the talented Natalie Berchem. It got lost in the shuffle when the website was redesigned so I decided to share it here, on My Pen, My Voice.
** After this article was published, the owners of El Camino sent me my very on bracelet as a thank-you. I love it.