REI invests in founders of color
REI Co-op launched on Thursday a new initiative that will invest $30 million in 300 founders of color starting and scaling their businesses in the outdoor industry.
Dubbed 'Path Ahead Ventures', the initiative aims to create a stronger and more inclusive outdoor industry by supporting Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian American Pacific Islander entrepreneurs as they build their businesses.
Path Ahead Ventures will focus on four specific areas of support including Community networking, Capability and infrastructure, Customer connection, as well as Capital investment.
In particular, the initiative includes two programs to support founders at varying stages in their journey; The Embark program and The Navigate program. Embark will support founders looking to turn their early-stage ideas into viable business models with an equity-free grant and a three-month virtual course, starting next month. All the while, Navigate will support existing founders in growing and scaling their businesses, and is expected to launch in 2022.
"Path Ahead Ventures is an opportunity to collaborate with founders of color to create an outdoor industry where economic opportunity, success and influence reflect the true diversity of people who love, protect and share life outside," said Susan Viscon, REI senior vice president of corporate development and investment.
"Partnering with founders to grow their businesses faster will also provide the opportunity for their innovations, perspectives and ideas to influence the broader industry.”
The initiative is in line with REI’s commitment to add at least 200 new brands that are owned or led by people of color to its assortment by 2030. The assortment will generate $1 billion in cumulative sales and will represent more than 15 percent of brands sold at REI. Currently, the outdoor industry is a $459.8-billion-dollar sector, yet only about 1 percent of retail brands are owned or led by people of color.
Over the last five years, REI has seen more than 27 percent growth in membership and 25 percent growth in revenue, much of which continues to come from brick-and-mortar retail. It currently has 171 locations in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
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