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REI Co-op launches initiative to bring people of color into outdoor market

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REI Co-op has launched Path Ahead Ventures, including $30 million in 300 founders of color to start and scale their outdoor industry businesses, reports Afro Tech via PR Newswire.“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,” said Susan Viscon, REI senior vice president of corporate development and investment.

“Partnering with founders to grow their businesses faster will also provide the opportunity for their innovations, perspectives and ideas to influence the broader industry.”After months of discussion with hundreds of founders, investors and industry and community leaders to better understand their current challenges, Path Ahead Ventures was born.“Through Path Ahead Ventures, we are taking a founder first approach,” continued Dan Kihanya, REI director of corporate development, in the statement. “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.”

The outdoor industry is a $459.8 billion sector, yet people of color own only about one percent of retail brands.Not only is REI launching this new program to help change this, but they’re also committed to adding a minimum of 200 new brands that are owned or operated by people of color to its roster by 2030. The goal is to generate $1 billion in cumulative sales, representing more than 15 percent of brands sold at REI.To reach this goal, REI will create pathways for both new and small brands to access and navigate the co-op’s buying process while simultaneously growing the representation of diverse entrepreneurs in the industry.