Black woman in a purple pink jacket and pom beanie hiking outdoors
(Photo/REI Co-op)

REI Launches ‘Navigate’ to Fund Small Business Owners of Color: Apply Now!

Applications for REI’s Navigate program are now open to people of color that lead small but proven companies in the outdoor and adventure segments.

Successful applicants will receive a $25,000 equity-free grant plus 16 weeks of dedicated strategic guidance. They’ll also receive resources to scale their small business in the outdoor industry.

In addition to funding, the diversity-, equity-, and inclusion-geared program provides leaders with bespoke mentorship, educational programming, and access to REI’s operations, marketing, and talent.

Why?

“It is crucial for entrepreneurs to belong to programs and communities that support them in every aspect of their lives and businesses,” said Dr. Shakenna Williams. Williams advises Path Ahead Ventures, REI’s DEI program that oversees initiatives like Navigate.

REI Navigate Program Criteria

REI Navigate Program aids businesses owned by people of color
(Photo/REI Co-op)

To be eligible for the Navigate program, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Run a U.S.-based company that provides a product, service, or experience that aligns with REI values, inspires people, and equips them in their outdoor lives
  • That company must fall within the activity or outside categories – apparel, footwear, gear, experiences, tech, services, or consumer packaged goods
  • Record business revenues of up to $2 million
  • Have at least one founder who is Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x, or Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), holds an active leadership position in the company, and who received at least 20% founder’s equity at initial incorporation
  • Be 18 or older and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

From there, applicants are asked to communicate their experience, vision, and why they’re passionate about what they do.

REI says that the application process takes just 20-25 minutes.

The application deadline is May 9, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. PT. The Path Ahead Ventures panel will select five to seven founders of color from the applicant pool, and the chosen applications will be notified on June 24.

REI notes that the 16-week mentorship and strategic training program are part of a predominately virtual program. However, it will kick off with an in-person event in Seattle on Aug. 1. There, Navigate founders will connect with the Path Ahead Ventures team and REI leadership.

Learn more about the application process and apply at rei.com/path-ahead/navigate.

Path Ahead Ventures

The Navigate equity grant is the second initiative to come out of REI’s nascent Path Ahead Ventures program. It plans to invest some $30 million in 300 leaders of small, minority-run businesses. Furthermore, the program is one step in the co-op’s recent migration into DEI-focused philanthropy

To stay up on the new Navigate grant and other equity-based initiatives from the co-op, join the Path Ahead Ventures mailing list at rei.com/path-ahead.

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Jilli Cluff
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Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing — and life would never be the same. She now works as a contributor, gear tester, and editor for GearJunkie and other outlets within the AllGear family. She is based out of Atlanta, Georgia where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.