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REI Path Ahead Ventures launches Navigate accelerator program, announces inaugural cohort

Founders of color representing six brands to partner with REI to grow their businesses

Jul 19, 2022

SEATTLE – REI Path Ahead Ventures is launching its Navigate accelerator program, with an inaugural cohort of six companies. Path Ahead Ventures partners with founders of color as they further their growth in the outdoor industry. The 16-week Navigate program will bring founders together in-person and online to provide funding, mentorship, curated programming and access to REI’s production, distribution, and marketing expertise. 

“Our Navigate program uses the substantial internal resources of REI and our external industry networks to support and mentor this unique group of founders,” says Dan Kihanya, director of REI Path Ahead Ventures. “We’re excited about the products and perspectives they are bringing to the industry and look forward to partnering with them for their continued success throughout the program and beyond.”

Path Ahead Ventures’ Navigate program was developed in partnership with R/GA Ventures and will offer a customized learning experience tailored to founders and their companies’ individual needs. Each participating company will receive a $25,000 equity-free grant and have access to additional equity funding opportunities from both Path Ahead Ventures and R/GA. Companies may also be eligible to be featured in REI stores and online. The first-ever Navigate cohort includes:

  • Allmansright - Livio Melo (he/him) and Jennifer Jacobson (she/her), Co-founders
    Allmansright specializes in designing and making environmentally-conscious ultralight gear.
  • Alpine Parrot - Raquel Vélez (she/her), Founder & CEO
    Alpine Parrot is a public benefit corporation committed to encouraging participation of underrepresented people in the outdoors—specifically people of size and people of color—through the production of technical outdoor apparel in sizes 14 to 24. The company plans to expand its range to size 30 by the end of the year.
  • Kobee’s - Kobe Harris (he/him), Founder & CEO
    Kobee’s is an all-organic lip balm that allows people to start their sustainability journey one balm at a time. Kobee’s packages their lip balm in cardboard tubes that are biodegradable and compostable, and aluminum tins that are recyclable and reusable.
  • Outdoor Element - Mike Mojica (he/him/Child of God/Dreamer), Founder & Partner
    Outdoor Element is sparking confident outdoor adventure through innovative gear. OE makes outdoor adventure accessible for everyone by providing quality, multifunctional gear for novice and experienced outdoor enthusiasts alike.
  • OYA - Mitch Gilbert (they/them), Founder & CEO
    OYA Femtech Apparel is an athleisure brand that helps athletes fight feminine health issues. Their apparel absorbs moisture, reduces bacteria, and increases natural ventilation.
  • PYNRS - Sidney Baptista (he/him), Founder & CEO
    PYNRS Performance Streetwear makes high-performance running apparel using streetwear design concepts and recycled fabrics with a focus on serving diverse body types.

In addition to investment and programming, Navigate will connect founders to a network of peers, mentors and industry experts to support their continued growth. The program also includes unique features such as:

  • Leadership and life coaching to support mental and emotional well-being.
  • Connection to experts within REI and the outdoor industry who will teach courses, lead workshops, and provide mentorship in sustainability, production, wholesale, marketing and more.
  • R/GA’s award-winning services in branding, messaging, and presenting.
  • Access to Path Ahead Ventures and R/GA entrepreneurs in residence, who will provide office hours and guidance throughout the program.

Navigate is part of Path Ahead Ventures, a $30 million commitment launched in October 2021 to partner with Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x, Asian American and Pacific Islander founders as they start and scale their businesses in the outdoor industry. Earlier this year, 27 founders graduated from Path Ahead Ventures’ Embark program, which is focused on supporting early-stage founders as they launch their businesses. In June, REI Path Ahead Ventures made its first direct, equity investment in alder apparel. Path Ahead Ventures is part of REI’s broader commitment to build a more inclusive, affirming, and welcoming co-op, industry and society.

About R/GA Ventures
R/GA Ventures helps industry leaders embrace disruption, connecting them with emerging startups, technologies, and consumer behaviors to drive their businesses forward. Since 2013, the R/GA Ventures portfolio has grown to include more than 100 companies across a variety of verticals. R/GA Ventures and R/GA are part of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG), one of the world’s largest advertising and marketing services organizations. Learn more at ventures.rga.com and by following @rgaventures.

About the REI Co-op

REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of 21.5 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 177 locations in 41 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.com, REI Outlet or the REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. Adventurers can take the trip of a lifetime with REI’s active adventure travel company that runs more than 100 itineraries across the country. In many communities where REI has a presence, professionally trained instructors share their expertise by hosting beginner-to advanced-level classes and workshops about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.