Movember co-founder Travis Garone took to the Hive Collingwood to discuss men’s health for our latest Experience Series fireside chat, presented by Hive Life. During an evening of drinks and discourse, Travis told the story of how a conversation with a friend in a pub turned into a game-changing campaign addressing men’s health around the world.
A career in men’s health wasn’t always in the books for Travis Garone. But, having graduated from university as a graphic designer, he quickly found a lack of meaning in his work for big companies. “As a young designer with starry eyes, being thrust into the world of freelancing, selling meaningless shit to people that don’t want it, was soul-destroying,” he puts it, characteristically blunt. So, when he co-founded an agency called ‘Urchin,’ he knew it had to have a genuine purpose. “It had nothing to do with men’s health. Nothing to do with charity. It was surfing, skateboarding, music. It was about connecting with kids who really believed in what they were doing. This was real and this was what I loved,” says Travis, recalling the years before Movember. But, a chance conversation in a pub about the dying trend of moustaches was soon to become a leading force championing men’s health the world over. “When we left that bar, we honestly believed that we could get guys to not only grow moustaches but to change the way they think about their health,” Travis explained, sitting down to tell Hive Life his story.
Having chatted over a couple of beers through the lack of moustaches they were seeing on the streets, Travis and his friend Luke Slattery, inspired by a friend’s mum who was raising money for breast cancer, came up with the idea of charging mates AUD 10 to grow one in the month of November, with all proceeds going to charity. “I just wanted to connect with people, and I wanted to do that on a platform that was for men’s health, for guys to do good instead of just selling skateboards,” says Travis of how he kickstarted one of the world’s most distinctive global campaigns. That first year, 30 friends agreed to grow a ‘stache to raise funds. By 2004, the concept was formalised with 450 participants involved, and by 2005, they had officially partnered with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA), with 9,315 Mo Bros raising AUD 1.2 million for charity. Now, Movember is the leading global men’s health charity and millions have joined the movement, helping fund over 1,250 projects focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer and suicide prevention.
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Going back, Travis’s passion for men’s health had been ignited during his stint at the Australian Children’s Television Foundation. There, he met Patricia Edgar, the foundation’s chairwoman. “She pulled me aside one day and said, ‘If you want to keep doing the cartoon thing, you’re going to have to come work on my breast cancer foundation.’ It was such an eye-opener, and that was basically the nucleus of the conversation with Luke. We realised men’s health was a space that needed disrupting, and, as guys, we were like, ‘Why aren’t we doing anything?’” Movember has raised a total of over AUD 770 million since 2003, and funded over 1,250 men’s health projects. Despite the whopping numbers, however, Travis says it’s still only the beginning. “Hand on my heart, I think Movember’s just begun. We’ve come through our incubation period, through our adolescent years, we’ve been known for throwing one hell of a party as a celebration of men’s health which was absolutely right at the time, but now it’s about focusing on the significant impact it can have on the world.”
Always keeping authenticity in mind, Travis plans to continue to push boundaries and stir up conversations. “It’s not about acting or pretending that we’re like that. I want to be that disruptive men’s health movement biting at the ankles of all the big boys, disrupting governments, tradition, health sectors, and I’m not going to stop. All I’m trying to do, all Movember is trying to do, is leave the world a better place than how we found it.”
This foundation was brought to life after a conversation between friends, and to the founders of Movember, this remains the strongest catalyst for change. “It’s about being able to connect with men, being able to have that chat at the pub, or at footy or at the skatepark,” Travis says, speaking about the stigma still surrounding men’s health. “I don’t know another organisation in the men’s health sector that’s been able to do that. We’ve got a seat at the table with men now, and that’s not just because we have a moustache… maybe,” he laughs.
“Being 100% naive served me well – or served men’s health well, I should say,” explains Travis on how he got his campaign to where it is today. “There are millions of good ideas around the world. We were just stupid enough to really follow it and go for it. That’s what happened that day.” More than 15 years later, Movember has foundations across the globe, from Canada to Hong Kong, Singapore to Sweden, ranking among the top non-profit organisations in the world, and it all began with a simple chat. “The nucleus of your idea is a little flame, right,” says Travis. “And you gotta protect that thing from nature’s forces because it’s so easy to let it disappear.” And protect it they have. With another month of fundraising and worldwide events in the books for the foundation, the blunt-but-real Aussie man has no plans to slow down. “Movember’s just begun, but shit, it takes a lot of money to change the world.”
To learn more, visit Movember.com