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REI Co-op to Invest $30M in Founders of Color to Accelerate Their Outdoor Industry Businesses

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

The retail giant has revealed Path Ahead Ventures, an effort it said will help founders of color who are starting and scaling their businesses. For this initiative, REI said it will partner with Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian American Pacific Islander entrepreneurs with a goal of helping then build their businesses faster.

This 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.”

REI stated Path Ahead Ventures will focus on four areas of support, which includes community network, capability and infrastructure, customer connection and 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 developmentDan Kihanya said in a statement.

What’s more, REI said it has 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% of brands sold at REI. To accomplish this, REI said it will create pathways for brands to access and navigate its buying process.

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

For Embark, REI said the accepted founders will receive an equity-free grant and complete a three-month virtual course, which was developed alongside Founded Outdoors. Applications are being accepted now through Nov. 28.

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

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