REI Path Ahead Ventures celebrates 16 emerging companies bringing new innovations and perspectives to the outdoor industry

Founders completing Embark accelerator program continue to build their businesses

SEATTLE, April 25, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — REI Path Ahead Ventures is celebrating 16 emerging companies completing its Embark program, bringing the latest products and experiences to the outdoor industry. Embark is a three-month curriculum created in partnership with Founded Outdoors to support founders of color as they turn their early-stage ideas into viable businesses.

The Embark program is part of REI Path Ahead Ventures, the co-op’s $30 million organization and investment fund to accelerate the success of founders of color in the outdoor industry. In addition to virtual programming, founders in this year’s Embark cohort also connected in-person at REI’s recent store opening in Beaverton, Oregon, giving them the opportunity to share their innovations directly with customers.

“Path Ahead Ventures is focused on supporting founders at every stage of their entrepreneurial journey,” said Dan Kihanya, director of REI Path Ahead Ventures. “After hearing from founders that in-person connection is highly valuable, we were able to create an opportunity this year to bring the Embark cohort together with each other and with customers. Being together in-person only added to the excitement we have for the companies these founders are building and the products they are bringing to the industry.”

Path Ahead Ventures partners with Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x, Asian American and Pacific Islander founders to offer a full spectrum of support as they start and scale their businesses. Founders participating in Embark receive a $10,000 equity-free grant to kickstart their businesses. In addition, founders are connected to industry and startup experts as they learn best practices and gather valuable feedback on their businesses.

“This year, our programming used more of the ‘inside-out classroom’ model. Almost every week participating founders accessed recorded lectures, questions, and activities, leaving the live sessions with more time for group discussion,” said Enhao Li, director of programming for Founded Outdoors. “We’re excited to see this year’s cohort moving at a rapid pace to build out important operational capabilities and growth strategies, allowing them to gain early traction with key partners and early customers.”

This year’s Embark cohort includes a range of companies:

Gear & Apparel

  • ANDA – Ultralight, eco-friendly shelters to venture deeper into the unknown. (Daniel Gerken; Atlanta; Instagram: @andaultralight)
  • Leimert Mountaineering – Performance outdoor apparel focused on Black cultural perspectives and product innovations that serve the needs of the new and diverse outdoor consumer. (Ron Meade, Jabari Marshall & Haley McGinest; Los Angeles; Instagram: @leimertmountaineering)
  • Pangoo Apparel – Outdoor apparel dedicated to creating clothes that support women’s bodies in motion and centering the voices of women of color in outdoor spaces. (Sara Chen; Detroit, Michigan; Instagram: @pangooapparel)
  • The Petite Outdoors – Outdoor apparel designed for women 5’4″ and under. Perfect fit, comfort, and performance for your next adventure. (Robin Song; San Luis Obispo, California; @thepetiteoutdoors)
  • Sojourn Trekkr – Ultralight hiking gear for the female form for increased outdoor access, representation, equity and adventure. (Jennifer Villamin; Austin, Texas; Instagram: @sojourntrekkr)
  • THINK BLUE – Giving new life to expired aviation life vests by repurposing them into waterproof gear pouches for outdoors enthusiasts. (Catherine Chin and Marlene Renee Smith; Honolulu; Instagram: @daretothinkblue)
  • WARPONYBMX – Native American-made soft goods for the outdoor community. (Joeseph Arnoux; Albuquerque, NM; Instagram: @warponybmx)
  • ZeenYo – Protective childrenswear designed for worry-free outdoor adventures. (Natasha Medeiros; Arlington, Virginia; Instagram: Natasha Medeiros,@zeenyokids)

Digital, Community & Experiences

  • Dulce Base Tipi – A tipi destination on the Jicarilla Apache Nation reservation in Dulce, New Mexico, with a great view of Archuleta Mesa, also known as the Dulce UFO Underground Base. (Heather Gomez; Dulce, New Mexico; Instagram: @dulcebasetipi)
  • Hightag – Giving athletes the power to automatically capture action media of themselves that would otherwise be impossible. (Alex and Jonathan de la Fuente; Bentonville, Arkansas; Instagram: @hightag.app)
  • IslandclimberPuerto Rico’s outfitter of climbing experiences for every travel itinerary. (Carlos Salinas Linares; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Instagram: @islandclimber)
  • Intrsxtn Surf – Creating a safe space for Black women and women of color to explore the outdoors through surfing. (Jessa Williams; Los Angeles; Instagram: @intrsxtn_surf)
  • Ma’wa Collective – An adventure community rooted in faith, exploration, and self-discovery for Muslim American women. (Nadah Feteih; Denver; Instagram: @mawa.collective)
  • Outdoorithm – An all-in-one digital platform that simplifies camping trip planning for urban families. (Sally and Justin Steele; Oakland, California; Instagram: @outdoorithm)

Consumer Goods & Packaged Food

  • The Good Detour – A lifestyle brand that empowers South Asians to explore the great outdoors by providing flavorful and nourishing food on the go. (Pooja Naik and Rutwij Devashrayee; San Francisco; Instagram: @gooddetour)
  • Khám Phá – Vietnamese-inspired performance snacks to fuel trail adventurers. (Huy-Liem Nguyen; Seattle; Instagram: @khamphafoods)

Applications for Embark open in the fall each year. In addition to Embark, Path Ahead Ventures provides direct equity investment and dedicated support for founders through its investment fund. Since launching in 2021, Path Ahead Ventures has built a strong community, partnering with more than 70 founders, providing nearly $700,000 in grants and investing $4 million across 23 companies. To learn more about Path Ahead Ventures, visit REI.com/path-ahead.

About Founded Outdoors

Launched in 2021, Founded Outdoors supports emerging businesses nationwide through community, programming and connections, with the goal of increasing access in the outdoor industry as well as in outdoor places. Their community includes over 400 outdoor entrepreneurs at different stages across product categories, and is supported with ongoing knowledge-sharing, peer support, resource databases, and topical workshops and events; their strategic connections are continually built between their community and industry leaders, such as state offices of outdoor recreation, economic development agencies, legacy outdoor business founders, and early-stage investors; and their structured programming is comprised of both short-term learning events as well as long-term industry initiatives. For more information on Founded Outdoors, please visit foundedoutdoors.com.

About the REI Co-op

REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of 23 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. If you can’t visit one of our many stores, you can shop at REI.comREI Outlet or the REI shopping app. Everyone is welcome to shop REI, but members who join the co-op enjoy a range of benefits. More than a retailer, REI is a purpose-driven and values-led company dedicated to enabling life outside for all.

SOURCE REI Co-op



Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rei-path-ahead-ventures-celebrates-16-emerging-companies-bringing-new-innovations-and-perspectives-to-the-outdoor-industry-302127943.html
Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com

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