REI Path Ahead Ventures is launching its Navigate accelerator program, with an inaugural cohort of six companies. Path Ahead Ventures partners with founders of color as they further their growth in the outdoor industry. The 16-week Navigate program will bring founders together in-person and online to provide funding, mentorship, curated programming and access to REI’s production, distribution, and marketing expertise.
“Our Navigate program uses the substantial internal resources of REI and our external industry networks to support and mentor this unique group of founders,” says Dan Kihanya, director of REI Path Ahead Ventures. “We’re excited about the products and perspectives they are bringing to the industry and look forward to partnering with them for their continued success throughout the program and beyond.”
Path Ahead Ventures’ Navigate program was developed in partnership with R/GA Ventures and will offer a customized learning experience tailored to founders and their companies’ individual needs. Each participating company will receive a $25,000 equity-free grant and have access to additional equity funding opportunities from both Path Ahead Ventures and R/GA. Companies may also be eligible to be featured in REI stores and online. The first-ever Navigate cohort includes:
- Allmansright – Livio Melo (he/him) and Jennifer Jacobson (she/her), Co-founders
Allmansright specializes in designing and making environmentally-conscious ultralight gear.
- Alpine Parrot – Raquel Vélez (she/her), Founder & CEO
Alpine Parrot is a public benefit corporation committed to encouraging participation of underrepresented people in the outdoors—specifically people of size and people of color—through the production of technical outdoor apparel in sizes 14 to 24. The company plans to expand its range to size 30 by the end of the year.
- Kobee’s – Kobe Harris (he/him), Founder & CEO
Kobee’s is an all-organic lip balm that allows people to start their sustainability journey one balm at a time. Kobee’s packages their lip balm in cardboard tubes that are biodegradable and compostable, and aluminum tins that are recyclable and reusable.
- Outdoor Element – Mike Mojica (he/him/Child of God/Dreamer), Founder & Partner
Outdoor Element is sparking confident outdoor adventure through innovative gear. OE makes outdoor adventure accessible for everyone by providing quality, multifunctional gear for novice and experienced outdoor enthusiasts alike.
- OYA – Mitch Gilbert (they/them), Founder & CEO
OYA Femtech Apparel is an athleisure brand that helps athletes fight feminine health issues. Their apparel absorbs moisture, reduces bacteria, and increases natural ventilation.
- PYNRS – Sidney Baptista (he/him), Founder & CEO
PYNRS Performance Streetwear makes high-performance running apparel using streetwear design concepts and recycled fabrics with a focus on serving diverse body types.
In addition to investment and programming, Navigate will connect founders to a network of peers, mentors and industry experts to support their continued growth. The program also includes unique features such as:
- Leadership and life coaching to support mental and emotional well-being.
- Connection to experts within REI and the outdoor industry who will teach courses, lead workshops, and provide mentorship in sustainability, production, wholesale, marketing and more.
- R/GA’s award-winning services in branding, messaging, and presenting.
- Access to Path Ahead Ventures and R/GA entrepreneurs in residence, who will provide office hours and guidance throughout the program.
Navigate is part of Path Ahead Ventures, a $30 million commitment launched in October 2021 to partner with Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x, Asian American and Pacific Islander founders as they start and scale their businesses in the outdoor industry. Earlier this year, 27 founders graduated from Path Ahead Ventures’ Embark program, which is focused on supporting early-stage founders as they launch their businesses. In June, REI Path Ahead Ventures made its first direct, equity investment in alder apparel. Path Ahead Ventures is part of REI’s broader commitment to build a more inclusive, affirming, and welcoming co-op, industry and society.
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