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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

REI to Invest $30M in Businesses Founded by People of Color

REI Co-op has created an initiative aimed at helping founders of color with their outdoor-focused businesses.

The retail giant said its Path Ahead Ventures will help founders of color who are starting and scaling their businesses. For the initiative, REI will partner with Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian-American Pacific Islander entrepreneurs to help build their businesses faster.

The effort includes an investment of $30 million in 300 founders.

“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,” REI Co-op SVP of corporate development and investment Susan Viscon said in a statement. “Partnering with founders to grow their businesses faster will also provide the opportunity for their innovations, perspectives and ideas to influence the broader industry.”

Path Ahead Ventures will focus on four areas of support:

  • Community network
  • Capability and infrastructure
  • Customer connection
  • Capital investment

“Through Path Ahead Ventures, we are taking a founders first approach. Our goal is to utilize the full extent of REI’s network and resources to build connections and create opportunities that benefit founders long-term in the most meaningful way,” REI Co-op Director of Corporate Development Dan Kihanya said.

REI also is committed to adding at least 200 new brands that are owned or led by people of color by 2030, which would generate $1 billion in cumulative sales and represent more than 15 percent of brands sold at the co-op.

Path Ahead Ventures will include two programs to support the varying stages of business. First is Embark, which the retailer said will support aspiring founders who want to turn their ideas into viable business models.

The accepted founders will receive an equity-free grant and complete a three-month virtual course that was developed alongside Founded Outdoors. Applications are being accepted through Nov. 28.

The second is Navigate, which will launch in 2022. Navigate will support existing founders in growing and scaling their businesses. In addition to funding, the program will offer access to resources for production, distribution, publicity and networking.

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