This article is sponsored by Amazon.
Years ago, Lauren Williams decided that the house deposit that she had saved with her partner was better spent on starting a business.
“Our family thought we were crazy at first, and it was definitely a risk, but it was a risk we totally believed would pay off,” Lauren said. Today, Will & Bear is a successful hat brand produced with 100% natural materials, proving the decision well and truly did pay off.
Lauren (Will) and her partner Alexander (Bear) managed to self-fund Will & Bear by saving while they worked as a mortgage broker and designer, respectively. The pair even continued to work their full-time jobs for the first couple years while running their business on the side. More than just hard work, taking Will & Bear from idea to reality also “required a lot of coffee and some very long days,” Lauren quipped.
It was actually during a road trip around Tasmania that the idea for Will & Bear was born. While travelling, the search for a good, quality hat proved more difficult than initially thought which sparked the idea for Lauren and Alex to create their own. “We found hats but none from a brand that resonated with us or filled us with a sense of adventure,” Lauren explained. “No Australian hat labels were really exploring sustainable production methods, or operating any kind of environmental conservation initiative. Each day we passed the most incredible landscape and it became a necessity to give back to the playground we loved to explore every day – the great outdoors.”
Once the two settled on the idea, they began sourcing sustainable, ethical manufacturers and cultivating a strong online community. Half a year before launching, Lauren and Alex used an old Instagram account to test brand concepts and engage adventurers with similar mindsets. Lauren explained that this forward-thinking was an important part of the process, “a lot of our good friends and brand ambassadors came from and it put us in good stead when we finally had product to sell.”
Beyond their day jobs, Lauren and her partner are also photographers and leveraged that in the marketing of their business. Using personal content from their travels gave the pair a way to tell their story visually. “We think our imagery is what our audience resonates with the most, and we’ve been fortunate to build a tight-knit community through our very personal approach to sharing on social media,” Lauren continued.
Though, at the crux of what Will & Bear stand for is a care for the environment. The company practices sustainable production using biodegradable and renewable materials like 100% Australian wool, up-cycled salvaged wool and recycled paper for straw hats. “The whole concept behind starting Will & Bear was to give back to the natural world that we love so much, so it’s always been important for us to minimise our impact on the earth,” Lauren explained. These practices in combination with personally visiting each factory and employing production managers in each location, Lauren is able to ensure that every factory is reach, fair-trade and SGS approved.
Further aligning with their company stance, Lauren and Alex even partnered with trees.org, so far planting over 100 hectares of trees to date. The partnership works so that for every Will & Bear hat sold, 10 trees are planted to help combat the effects of deforestation while supporting the communities facing poverty. “Entering the fashion industry, we wanted to do everything in our power to minimise our impact,” Lauren explained. “Turning up-cycled waste materials into new products helps us leave the lightest footprint possible by reducing our reliance on new fibres.”
Now currently travelling through Australia and heading up North to Uluru, Lauren has ensured that the business is fit to run while out of the office. As a result of technological advancements and a forward-planning business restructure, Lauren and Alex can return to the outdoors while keeping their business alive and well – anywhere and anytime. Lauren shared that while being stuck somewhere with no wifi can be frustrating, they’ve learned to “map out our journeys and schedule in calls when we know we’ll have access to reception.”
For Lauren, deciding to start a brand was all about taking risks. “We really had to back ourselves, but we also sought advice every step of the way. We had a business coach and mentors helping us make the right decisions from the beginning… or at least helping us make informed risks!,” Lauren said. But often with big risk comes a bigger reward, and for Lauren and Alex that reward was success. “Success to me means to learn and grow while doing something I love,” Lauren explained. “We feel successful every day that we get to work on Will & Bear while being on the road seeing our beautiful country.”
Will & Bear is one of many local Australian brands now making their products available to customers on Amazon.com.au and making the most of the services that Amazon provides, so that they can focus on what matters to them, designing beautiful products. Amazon.com.au now has millions of products across clothing, shoes and accessories for our customers to choose from, across more than 1000 brands and sellers and these numbers grow nearly every day.