Outerwear retailer Rei Co-op has launched its Path Ahead Ventures initiative, with plans to invest 30 million dollars in 300 founders of colour to assist in the start and growth of their businesses within the outdoor industry.
The initiative will see the brand partner with Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian American Pacific Islander entrepreneurs to build their businesses faster, in a bid to make the industry more inclusive and welcoming to all.
Over months of discussions with founders, investors and industry leaders, Rei established current challenges and opportunities in the industry that it can bring to the table with the participating founders. Ultimately, the programme will focus on four key areas of support: community network, capability and infrastructure, customer connection and capital investment.
“Path Ahead Ventures is an opportunity to collaborate with founders of colour to create an outdoor industry where economic opportunity, success and influence reflect the true diversity of people who love, protect and share life outside,” explained Susan Viscon, Rei’s senior vice president of corporate development and investment, in a statement.
She added: “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 label further stated that, by 2030, it plans to add at least 200 new brands to its assortment, with the overlying goal of generating one billion dollars in cumulative revenue and representing more than 15 percent of brands sold at Rei.
Two programmes make up the scheme, each supporting founders at different stages of their journey. ‘Embark’ will assist early-stage ideas in the process of turning them into viable business models, while ‘Navigate’ centres around existing founders in the scaling of their businesses.
According to the brand’s announcement, founders of colour are often overlooked within the outdoor industry, only representing one percent of the 459.8 billion dollar sector. The development of the Path Ahead Ventures comes as part of the brand’s effort to “advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion and become a fully inclusive, anti-racist multicultural organisation”.