My Universe: Tom Batrouney
In this month’s instalment of My Universe, we meet the inspiring Tom Batrouney, the founder of BLAEK Store and PROJECT: RUN FOREVER, to talk about his passion for health and wellbeing, and why nurturing the environment all goes back to caring and loving each other.
You don’t think of ‘work’ as a career, but more anything you work at on a daily basis. What do you work at each day?
I do value the concept of a career, value mine and am really excited to see more careers available in the environmental/responsible spaces. I have just never seemed to fit into the standard workplace or more to the point it has never been an option for me for a number of reasons. I have never been the type of person satisfied by forgoing a certain amount of my honesty, integrity and power to fit into a line of work so have always made my own!
I wear three ‘career’ hats which are all so intertwined (no accident) that it just feels like one, beautiful, big sombrero. I work full time for environmental group Seabin cleaning up the ocean, gathering all important data about our waterways and promoting awareness and education around the issue of water pollution and litter. Outside of that I run a responsible retail concept with my business partner Nikki called BLAEK Store which is leading the way in good business and I run ultra-trail marathons, do big bike-packing missions, surf and spend every spare moment in nature promoting the benefits for myself and for all people.
Tell me about founding BLAEK Store – what was your vision and what have been some defining moments since you launched?
We have been in operation for around 3 years and it was born out of frustration. The retail offering was very one dimensional and finding anything good for the planet meant shopping obscure websites from all over the world. Our goal was to provide a one stop shop for both him and her to buy clothing, homewares and everyday essentials with comfort that our offering has gone through stringent critique for not only its enviro impact but also its style.
We have proven that to shop mindfully you don’t have to wear an itchy hemp sack and you also don’t have to spend $300 on a plain t-shirt. Good, responsible shopping should not impact negatively on the planet or the customer.
In terms of defining moment, any small business owner will relate to good customer feedback and interactions... and sales! We work incredibly hard and our reward is having a positive impact on people and when we hear about it, it really means everything.
How can brands work to be more sustainable – what are some initial steps they can take?
It seems like a huge undertaking but it doesn’t have to be. There is a saying that ‘it’s only one coffee cup said 8 billion people’ and it could not be closer to the truth - it’s applicable to business too.
It all starts with caring, caring deep down and thinking about why you care. It may be your newborn child’s future or your partner or friends and family or that beach that makes you feel alive on the weekends. Caring is an honest feeling and from there you can make tiny changes and tell your community all about them.
People are always scared to call themselves ‘sustainable’ or announce they are making changes for good due to being called out for the parts that are not there yet but doing something is better than doing nothing and caring is so much better than not caring. Every single business should be 1% For The Planet and then they should start telling everyone that they are and build on that.
What are your favourite Ora products and why?
In no particular order…
Organic Greens Superpowder+ - Ok this is my favourite. I use it to make my green smoothie every morning and after huge runs when I need to get some good stuff in very quickly. Practically it works well as I used to use spinach which has a very simple offering compared to this and also did not last long in the fridge. This is my insurance policy because I know no matter what happens after my smoothie I have a big serve of 25 nutritionally dense greens plus plenty of other goodies.
Mag3 Mood - Muscle function baby! Very important for what I put my body through. It also tastes so delicious and has Lemon Balm and Ashwagandha known for smoothing thoughts as I put it.
Adaptogen Tonic+ - Everyone suffers from stress and anxiety and they are both healthy responses but this daily helps to stop them from being destructive.
Immune Tonic+ - Very relevant right now but I used to take a regular product for everyday immune support and this one dominates it in every single ingredient. I have a little boy who goes to daycare so this is my daily defence against baby colds and keeps me firing.
You’re an avid runner – what does a daily run look like for you? And to people wanting to get into running but not knowing where to start, what’s your advice?
I have always loved running, but finding trail running (getting lost way out in nature) made me fall head over heels. It becomes a form of exploration or play, and with the distances I run, it’s also incredibly challenging even though I’m used to it.
A daily run for me is first of all just that, daily. Making the commitment and sticking to it is half the battle and also half the fun - where the self-satisfaction and improvement comes from. Secondly, it is as remote as possible. If I don’t have much time, then it will be a local trail or if I have a whole day, it might be somewhere I can (almost) totally get lost for the day.
For anyone looking to start, the first thing I'd say is that running is so accessible. You don’t need anything more than a pair of running shoes and some willpower.
My best piece of advice is to make it fun, don’t smash yourself, just take it very slow and take satisfaction from running instead of sprinting until you're totally wrecked. Slow running is the absolute key for building and maintaining fitness.
Tell me about your project PROJECT: RUN FOREVER. What inspired you to launch this and what change do you hope to see?
PRF is a fundraising initiative (that Ora is kindly supporting) that combines my love for running, environmentalism and showing my love for all people. I’m going to start running at 7am on April 8th and run 10km loops around Manly Dam (a local trail) fundraising as I run.
If the money keeps flowing in through my fundraising page then I will run another loop, if I start the next one and someone donates I’ll go again etc. I’m literally going to keep running as long as the donations keep coming. I have been preparing my body to go longer than I ever have before and I want to find my absolute physical/ mental limit to raise much needed funds for two environmental groups, For Wild Places and Seabin Foundation.
At the very least if I can inspire one person to make small changes in their life to create a healthier planet, I'd be so happy. If I can inspire a million, then amazing. If we can collectively raise half a million dollars, inspire countless people and make this a yearly fundraising concept to work on with my team then SIGN ME UP.
What are some ways we can all protect the environment more each day?
Ditching single use coffee cups is the best way to start and an easy entry point for everyone. From there I would start in one room of your house, such as the laundry for example. Swap out your plastic bottle detergents for better ones that are refillable and made well. From there, you will probably start to make more and more small changes.
Paul Kelly said "From little things big things grow". I started with the coffee cups almost 10 years ago and now I have built an incredible life all about protecting the environment!
How do you start your day? What are your non-negotiable rituals?
Firstly I wake at 4am. Yep 4am. I have worked out over time that I am a morning person and that I really need some time, in the quiet of the morning, to feel totally safe, calm and along with my thoughts. 4am is that weird time between morning and night where the vast majority of the population are asleep so it makes me feel very clear and pure in my thoughts and feels which is a great way to start the day.
I also find if I run from, say 5am-7am, and then go to work, I have this surge of confidence in every situation knowing that I have dominated the morning. Every situation I walk into from then seems easy and I’m brimming with a feeling of power!
4am wake up, 600ml of water, espresso shot, run, surf, swim or bike, green smoothie and then out the door to work. That’s an ideal morning.
And how do you wind down at the end of each day?
Sometimes I’ll get active again or sometimes I will do the run, swim, surf or ride I didn’t have time for in the morning. If not, then a mellow dog walk on the beach or some relaxed, creative work with some essential oils burning most afternoons. I’m naturally winding down in the afternoon and am usually quite cooked from the day so I make sure I go with my natural feeling and don’t move too fast physically or mentally.