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Greg McEvilly: A Love for Adventure. A Love for People.

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By Ty Clark on August 19, 2011

In my last post, Sounds Too Good To Be True?, I told an interesting inside story about KAMMOK™, an innovative adventure brand out of Dallas, TX. Kammok™ launched as a brand in July on Kickstarter.com, a powerful crowd-sourcing engine for creatives to raise money for ideas, products and technology through their networks. With a goal of $15,000, the Kammok team set out to raise money for production of their first product, Kammok ROO™ (camping hammock) and Python Straps. 

On the first day of fundraising, Kammok™ raised $5,000. On the second day they went viral, raising over $20,000. Now with 11 days remaining, Kammok™ is one of the top 20 highest-funded campaigns in Kickstarter history with over $125,000. When I say that Kammok™ went viral, they exploded not only on Kickstarter but also on their Facebook page, which now has almost 16,000 followers (in a month’s time)! 

Not only do they have a stellar and innovative product, they also have a heart. Kammok™ is following in the footsteps of fellow social-businesses like TOMS shoes, Jedidiah, Warby Parker, Veritas Fashion and others by donating 20% of profits to humanitarian aid. The goal: To provide a solution to children around the world who are affected by malaria, hunger, sex trafficking, and water deprivation, through many forms of support and aid ranging from financial help, Kammok™ product as a bedding solution, and sustainable projects built to have long lasting economic development. 

Enough from me, here is my interview with Greg McEvilly the Founder and CEO of KAMMOK™

Where did the idea or brainchild for KAMMOK™ begin?

For the past several years, my brother and I have enjoyed going on camping trips together. It’s always a very special time for us to re-connect, talk about life’s challenges and victories, and dream about the future. Last summer, my brother recommended that we try hammock camping rather than the usual tent camping. While thinking about our next trip, we began brainstorming ways to improve upon the camping hammocks currently available in the marketplace.

At the time, I was in grad school studying cross cultural communication, and researching global needs and crises. I had recently been made aware that Malaria is still the number 1 child killer in Africa alone, and the number of orphaned children is rising exponentially across the globe. While listening to my brother share some of his ideas on how to improve camping hammocks (particularly for cold nights), I had a sudden epiphany, “What if a lightweight, comfortable camping hammock could be used as an alternative bedding solution for orphaned children in struggling communities? This would get them off the ground at night, and protect them from biting insects with built in mosquito netting!” While we were discussing the possibility of helping so many people with such a simple solution, I accidentally said the word “Kammok” instead of “camping hammock.” Through a slip of the tongue, I felt a flood of ideas pouring into my mind at once:

–“Kammok” is the product – camping hammock
–“Kammoking” is the activity – hammock camping
–“KAMMOK” is the brand – a conduit for connecting people with purpose

Thus, KAMMOK™ was born.

You have two major goals with the brand, to create new and revolutionary technology and to also be a company that gives back and helps solve some of the major humanitarian crises around the world.  Where did these ideas come from and how will you tackle them?

As a gear enthusiast and someone who loves outdoor adventure, I want to position KAMMOK™ as a brand that is known for the highest quality adventure products. As a social entrepreneur, I want to create innovative products that equip and inspire the user for Life Changing Adventure. At the end of the day, my hope is that KAMMOK is more than just a brand that develops great products for adventure seekers. I want to develop a brand that connects our community, The MOB, with a mission to change people’s lives. I can’t help but see the necessity for developing revolutionary products that the user will love, but that also offer a solution to some of the major humanitarian crises around the world. I believe that helping others and giving back should be the core function of any business. I realize it is very chic right now for companies to develop “giving strategies” and that’s a great thing, as long as the motive for giving is right. Both new and established companies have decided to develop philanthropic initiatives with the motive of receiving tax benefits, leveraging emotional marketing or to develop a better image. These are all obvious “pros” of having a giving strategy in place. However, if the motive for giving is not rooted in a love for humanity, the “cons” will quickly outweigh the “pros,” and giving will leave a bitter taste in our mouth. The heartbeat of the KAMMOK brand is and always will be to help others out of love.

How has the process been as a new entrepreneur?

This is the ultimate adventure! Starting a new business has been fun, exciting, rewarding and at times draining. There have been blood, sweat and tears poured into KAMMOK™ by myself and many people that I love and appreciate so much. Albert Einstein once said, “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention that is deserves.” The journey of entrepreneurship is not a safe one. It takes passion and reckless abandon to give the project all that it deserves. I don’t think I am special. I just had a very simple idea, one in which I am driven to execute.

How did you formulate your basis for giving?

KAMMOK™ is committed to giving 20% of all profits to humanitarian and environmental initiatives. We are also exploring ways that we can use our products themselves to help people in need, i.e. the Kammok as an alternative bedding solution. Several factors were taken into consideration when formulating KAMMOK’s giving structure. I looked at many businesses that give and found that the average is between 1-5% of profits. Some companies give big at 10%, but very few give beyond that. I want to set KAMMOK up for long term success as a sustainable giving force. In giving 20% of profits, we will always be grounded in our mission to invest in humanity. This will be a tough balance, and we will have to maximize our time and talents to be successful in the long haul.

What are some of your influences, or better yet what companies influence your mindset and worldview? How has this affected the vision or mission of KAMMOK™ ?

Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, has demonstrated how to leverage a business for sustainable good. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has helped me to realize the art of cultivating community, both through a product and a purpose. Blake Mycoski, TOMS founder, has shown the power of storytelling through a product, and fueling a movement that is bigger than a brand. These men have all impacted KAMMOK™  and are the inspiration for one of our taglines: Products//People//Purpose.

You are launching KAMMOK™ via Kickstarter and only offering your first product (KAMMOK ROO) on the crowd-sourcing platform.  Why did you choose to launch your company in this fashion?

We are excited and grateful for the opportunity to launch the Kammok ROO & Python Straps through Kickstarter – a funding platform that helps bring innovative ideas into fruition. Kickstarter fosters a spirit of creativity, innovation, and diversity – a perfect partnership for the KAMMOK™ brand. It is vital to our success that we be transparent and vulnerable with our grass-roots community. We are asking people to join a movement. Therefore, they will need to see our successes as well as our inadequacies and our efforts to overcome them. Throughout our launch on Kickstarter, and as we grow in the future, I hope that the KAMMOK community, or “The MOB”, would be intimately connected in this mission and journey together.

I would like to insert a BIG THANKS to Kickstarter and the Kickstarter Staff: Thanks for believing in us and for allowing us to be among the many successful projects launched through your platform!

Oh, but there’s so much more to know…click next page to read more from Greg and Ty…

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