Founder Spotlight: Livio Melo and Jennifer Jacobsson, allmansright

From one corner of a 500-square-foot apartment to the inaugural cohort of the Path Ahead Ventures Navigate program and beyond, allmansright seeks to help all people reconnect with the outdoors.

Allemansrätt, or the Right of Public Access, is a Swedish principle that grants everyone in the country the basic freedom to roam—that is, cycle, ski, camp, walk or run on any land except private gardens, near occupied housing or on cultivated land. No matter your occupation, income, experience level or identity, you are invited to enjoy and explore the outdoors as a basic human right.

Livio Melo and Jennifer Jacobsson seek to not only inspire that freedom to roam, but also to enable it by producing high-quality, ultralight backpacking gear that can take you from a subway platform to a secluded forest trail—or even just a city park—in no time. To the business and life partners, allmansright is more than the name of their brand, inspired by Jacobsson’s experience growing up in Sweden: It’s their chance to bring the freedom to roam to those who have never been able to feel that type of connection with or ease in the outdoors.

Melo was born in the countryside of the Dominican Republic, and being outside was a big part of his young life until his family emigrated to the U.S. “Moving to the States, it was the complete opposite,” he says with a chuckle. “There was no reason for me to be outside. In fact, outside was dangerous sometimes. I had no idea that it was possible. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a trail.”

Eventually, he started going on hikes. Then longer ones. Then finding himself dreaming of the next trek. For Melo, going back outdoors was more than the rediscovery of a hobby. “When I got reconnected to nature, it brought something else out of me,” Melo says. “Like, here was something about life still worth finding out about.”

While working at a coffee shop, he started designing and sewing gear in his spare time, using his industrial design background to focus on function as well as efficiency and sustainability features. After making minimalistic, featherlight packs for himself, Jacobsson and friends, a new journey to the outdoors seemed obvious: Jacobsson, who has merchandising, marketing and events experience, remembers, “I kind of stepped in and said, this could really be something. Let’s make this a legit business.”

In 2020, they converted a corner of their 500-square-foot Bronx apartment into a studio and started dreaming bigger. As part of the growth process, Melo and Jacobsson became members of REI Co-op’s Path Ahead Ventures inaugural cohort with the 16-week Navigate program, developed in collaboration with R/GA Ventures.    Navigate is an acceleration program designed to support and uplift new entrepreneurs from Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x, and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. The collaborative project provides mentorship opportunities, funding, programming and access to the production, distribution and marketing expertise held by REI Co-op. Each of the participating brands receives a $25,000 equity-free grant, along with potential access to additional funding.

“I didn’t even know there was an outdoor industry before I was 28,” Melo says. “A year later, I’m in it.”

While founders of color represent only around 1% of entrepreneurs in the outdoor industry today, innovators like Melo and Jacobsson are poised to challenge that.

“That’s all you need to make a change, I think,” Melo says. “A little bit of power and a whole lot of perspective.”

Now, the pair’s dream to lift some of the barriers to getting outside is coming to life: They’ve moved into a bigger production space and have committed to allocating 2% of their profits to initiatives that seek to protect the environment.  

The outdoors is for everyone. By creating space for founders of color to have the opportunity to learn, grow and network, REI Co-op believes that the outdoor industry can be for everyone, too.  

Want to join the next Navigate cohort?

Applications are open February 6–March 12, 2023. Learn more at rei.com/path-ahead/navigate.

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