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REI Co-op to Host a ‘Founders Market’ With Brands Founded by People of Color to Celebrate Path Ahead Ventures

REI Co-op launched Path Ahead Ventures last October, its initiative highlighted by a $30 million investment in 300 business founders of color as they navigate the outdoor industry. This month, the retail powerhouse will celebrate the effort’s year anniversary with an event in Seattle.

The event, dubbed “Founders Market,” will take place at the REI flagship store in Seattle on Oct. 29 from 12 p.m. PT to 3 p.m. PT. The six companies featured at the event that are owned and led by founders of color are Allmansright, Alpine Parrot, Kobeesco, Outdoor Element, Oya Femtech Apparel and Pynrs.

According to REI, this event — which is in partnership with Mastercard — is an opportunity for the community to celebrate an inclusive future for the outdoor industry, while shopping and supporting these brands.

The event is free and open to all ages, according to REI, and will feature remarks by Outdoor Afro founder and CEO Rue Mapp at 2 p.m. PT.

Path Ahead Ventures is an effort that REI explained in October 2021 will help founders of color who are starting and scaling their businesses. For this initiative, the company said at the time that it will partner with Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian American Pacific Islander entrepreneurs with a goal of helping them build their businesses faster. Path Ahead Ventures, according to REI, is focused on four areas of support, which includes community network, capability and infrastructure, customer connection and capital investment.

The effort, REI said, includes two programs to support the founders at the varying stages of their businesses. First is Embark, which supports aspiring founders who want to turn their ideas into viable business models. The second is Navigate, which supports existing founders in growing and scaling their businesses, and in addition to funding, offers access to resources for production, distribution, publicity and networking.

REI Co-op has been the subject of several headlines recently. For instance, the outdoor retailer announced yesterday that it has hired 30-year retail industry veteran Mary-Farrell Tarbox to fill its VP of physical stores and retail operations role, which she will assume as of Oct. 24. REI said in a statement that Tarbox will provide strategic leadership in the role for its nearly 180 physical stores and retail operations team, which accounts for more than three-quarters of its 16,000-plus employee base. Also, Tarbox will be tasked with delivering on its goals that include advancing the employee experience, customer service and culture of continuous improvement.

And on Oct. 10 — which is Indigenous Peoples’ Day —  REI announced it teamed up with nonprofits Nia Tero and Upstander Project, collectively known as Reciprocity Project, for the series of original short films made by Indigenous directors on their homelands. The new series of films can be watched now via the retailer’s YouTube and Reciprocity.org.

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