REI Co-op Path Ahead Ventures is seeking founders of color for the third year of its Embark accelerator program. Embark is a virtual, 3-month program designed to fuel new entrepreneurs from Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x, and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities by offering resources and guidance as they turn early-stage ideas into viable businesses.
The program is designed in collaboration with Founded Outdoors. Applications are open now through October 8.
“Embark provides a unique opportunity for someone to get their early-stage product, service or technology off the ground,” said Keenan Corrigan, REI Path Ahead Ventures senior program manager. “In the last two years of running Embark, we know the hands-on support from experts and close cohort of peers is hugely beneficial for outdoor entrepreneurs even beyond their completion of the program.”
Each participating company will receive a $10,000 equity-free grant to kickstart their business. In addition to capital, Embark participants are immersed in an expansive curriculum designed to strengthen the foundation of their business, educate them in key areas such as finance and manufacturing, and connect them to a mentorship network of peers and industry veterans to support their continued growth. There is no fee to participate.
“Entrepreneurs need specific skill sets, industry knowledge, and professional connections to drive business growth. Historically, however, access to these resources has been limited based on demographic, geographic, or socioeconomic factors. The Embark program is designed from the ground up to support our founders’ needs as visionaries, business owners and members of a growing and diversifying outdoor community,” said Enhao Li, Founded Outdoors director of curriculum.
Interested founders can learn more and apply at REI.com/path-ahead/embark.
While a growing 30% of outdoor participants identify as a person of color, today only an estimated 1% of brands in the industry are owned or led by people of color. To help close this gap, outdoor retailer REI Co-op created Path Ahead Ventures – a $30 million investment to empower founders of color to start and scale their businesses in the outdoor industry. REI Path Ahead Ventures includes two founder programs, Embark and Navigate, as well as an investment fund.
Companies participating in the 2023 Embark cohort included a variety of innovative founders, including:
Digital, Community & Experiences
- Black Girl Country Living – Experiences to help BIPOC people find healing and connection through the wisdom of Mama Nature. (Hillarie Maddox; Whidbey Island, Washington; Instagram: @blackgirl.countryliving).
- BLK Beetles – A wellness community that helps people of color discover and create healthier relationships with like-minded people through digital and in-person experiences. (Samad Hinton; Houston, Texas; Instagram: @blkbeetles)
- Boheme Retreats – Inclusive and diverse camping spaces that feature renovated vintage campers from the 60’s and 70’s. (Keva Niver; Brooklyn, New York; Instagram: @boheme_retreats)
- Community Gearbox – An app empowering outdoorsy people and organizations to share, co-own, and mobilize resources amongst people they know and trust. (Dante Garcia; San Francisco; Instagram: @communitygearbox, Facebook: CommunityGearbox).
- Quest Trails – Equips families with downloadable, curated scavenger hunt trail maps that inspire and engage kids outdoors. (Danielle Biering; Lacey, Washington; Instagram: @questtrails, Facebook: QuestTrails).
Gear & Apparel
- Antigrav – A style-first, climber-owned apparel company that gives back to climbing organizations that help increase climbing access. (Keenan Takahashi; Berkeley, California; Instagram: @antigrav.wtf).
- Camp Crush – Fashion & function with apparel & gear designed for and by people of color on & off the trails. (Branché Foston; Los Angeles; Instagram: @thehoneyblock).
- Muvaland Beach – Culturally-inspired african-print beach and camping gear. (Amina Leila; Alexandria, Virginia; Instagram: @MuvalandBeach).
- Nature’s Keeper – Designing handmade sustainable outdoor gear for skiers and snowboarders to go further in the backcountry. (Zain Ali; South Lake Tahoe, California; Instagram: @Natures.Keeper)
- The Outdoor Journal Tour – Multipurpose tools, training, and resources for outdoor wellness experiences (Kenya & Michelle Jackson-Saulters; Atlanta; Instagram: @outdoorjournaltour).
- Outpost Adventure Systems – Building equipment to make nomadic living accessible for all. Phase I is to create the most comfortable portable chair ever designed (George Yeh; San Jose, California; Instagram: @OutpostAS).
- Sportland – Natural fiber technical apparel for athletes who want to remove plastics from their workout gear without sacrificing functionality or style (Sonal Bains, Brooklyn, New York)
- Willderness Calling – A company dedicated to enhancing the camping experience through knowledge and camp organization. (Will MacHolmes; Philadelphia; Instagram: @willdernesscalling)
Consumer Packaged Goods & Food
- Elder Hair – A curly hair product line rooted in community for adventurers who like to feel good while defining and nourishing their hair. (Natalia Ospina; Denver; Instagram: @elderhair)
- Eztia – Cold therapy wearables that deliver on-the-go icing that’s friendly for both people and planet. (Tiffany Yeh; Philadelphia; Instagram: @eztiahealth).
- Panj Rivers Provisions – Full-flavored, spicy Indian backpacking meals that celebrate the third-culture experience of South Asians. (Reena Badyal, San Francisco; Instagram: @panj.river).
- Spork Outdoors – Custom grocery lists for backpackers hoping to recreate home-cooked meals on the trail. (Alanah Anderson; San Francisco; Instagram: @sporkoutdoors).