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40 Under 40

Jack Cameron named SA's top young business leader

40 Under 40

The Pirate Life founder and head of marketing was awarded First Among Equals in the 2021 40 Under 40 Awards for his role in ensuring the craft brewer didn’t sail off course and continued to support the community.

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When Pirate Life was sold to one of the largest beer companies in the world in 2017, it would have been easy for the business to have fallen victim to the sweet allure of commercialisation and become just another beer brand.

Instead, co-founders Jack Cameron, Michael ‘MC’ Cameron and Jared ‘Red’ Proudfoot have taken Pirate Life to a new level, building South Australia’s most successful craft beer company.

As Head of Marketing and an original founder, Jack has been integral to ensuring the business hasn’t lost its band of loyal followers.

He’s built collaborations across the country and has a strong vision for where he sees Pirate Life in the future.

Jack says his plan for the business has been with him since even before the venture was born.

Pirate Life’s origin story has been well documented by CityMag over the years. Jack and Red first became friends when they were working as brewers in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, for the internationally renowned company BrewDog.

The native West Australians reunited after returning home. Jack was working for Little Creatures and Red had started a beer and cider venture called Cheeky Money at the time.

With a passion for craft beer and backing from Jack’s dad (and now Pirate Life CEO) Michael Cameron, the trio launched their brewery, choosing Adelaide as the ideal spot to kick the project off.

The brewery started its life in an air-conditioning part factory on a 1000 square metre plot in Hindmarsh. In 2015 the brand’s first batch of beer – an 8.8 per cent imperial IPA – rolled off the line and into the Gilbert Street Hotel.

That first year alone, Jack facilitated more than 250 beer events and launched collaborations with the likes of Australian hip-hop group Hilltop Hoods.

He says his focus has always been to get in front of people, put a beer in their hand and share Pirate Life’s story.

It’s an ethos that’s built the brand a cult following, partnerships with Burton Snowboards, Dilmah tea and Adelaide Fringe Festival, and even spread into a Pirate Life merchandise range.

The brewery has since moved from its home on South Road into a five-vessel, 5000-litre, fully automated brewery in Port Adelaide. They’ve further expanded with a venue and brewery in SkyCity Adelaide’s $330 million casino redevelopment, and a third venture in Perth is on its way.

Among the business’ varied and impressive list of achievements, attracting the attention of Belgian-headquartered AB InBev within three years of development is near the top of the pile.

This enabled Pirate Life to move into the bigger Port Adelaide brewery and opened the doors to a global distribution network.

With the deal’s benefits came drawbacks. Back when the sale went through, Jack told CityMag the company lost about 30 per cent of its customer base pretty much overnight.

But it’s also given Pirate Life the freedom to pursue the kinds of projects that are only possible with financial security, including expanding the beer range and backing community projects.

In 2019, when street art festival Wonderwalls looked like it was going to fall over, Jack stepped in and not only ensured the event would happen but moved their beer, food and music festival, A Day on the Cans, to coincide with the celebration.

His involvement in the street art community has not ended there. Jack has overseen a partnership with Blank Walls and the Artists Series can releases, which prints art on about 10,000 cans each year.

Jack’s goal is to create a lifestyle brand around the beer and he’s not afraid to get experimental.

The Solstice Media First Among Equals Award is selected by the judging panel as the finalist who best embodies the 40 Under 40.

The profiles of each of the InDaily 40 Under 40 winners will be featured over the coming weeks and can be found in the Winter Edition of CityMag.

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