What’s in a Pitchfest Entrepreneur? Meet the Finalists
— College Outside —
Through gear accessibility, education, community, and institutional discounts, Sarah Lockwood, founder of College Outside, aims to introduce more students to the outdoors.
What was the inspiration for starting your company, and how has it evolved?
The inspiration for College Outside came from my experiences in my college outdoors club (shoutout to the Tufts Mountain Club!). I was introduced to rock climbing through this program and quickly became trained as a trip leader in charge of the onerous task of purchasing rental gear and outfitting new students. Providing rental and programmatic gear is a primary pain-point of outdoor education groups, and so we built our program to streamline their purchasing and help them spread their budgets further.
What is the mission and vision of your company? What does the future trajectory look like?
Our mission is to support the outdoor education groups that are introducing the next generation to the outdoors! We aim to work with every outdoor education group and student in the country and be the primary connection point for any brand that wants to work with this crucial demographic. We are actively growing and improving our online membership and purchasing site, and expanding our vendor and brand partnership. We want to be able to provide every piece of gear that an outdoor program may need.
Why did you apply for Pitchfest, and what are you hoping to get out of your experience?
We have been inspired by past Pitchfest finalists and love the opportunity to be a part of a community of lady crushers. There is nothing like being a part of a peer group that intimately understands the unique struggles of being a woman founder, and the camaraderie alone has been hugely valuable. That being said, we are taking this opportunity very seriously and are looking for increased press coverage in addition to some larger strategic industry partnerships. At the end of our pitch, our hope is that you’re either going to want to sell your products with us, partner with us, or invest in us!
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned, thus far, in founding your company?
I’ve learned that building a company takes time and many years and iterations to get it right. I’ve spoken with so many founders who are frustrated that they aren’t insanely profitable and successful by year two. I live and die by the expression “the seven-year overnight success,” which to me signifies the fact that you often hear of a company’s success, but you don’t hear about the effort and work it took to get there. One thing that hasn’t changed since day one, however, is our core mission. Exactly how we are going to achieve our goals is constantly changing and refining, but our mission powers us at every turn.
What did you not see coming, and how did you respond?
I have never really seen College Outside as a “tech” company since we were simply automating a fairly well-established purchasing process. That being said, both our industry partners and customers have closely tracked the Technology Adoption stages (Innovators, Early Adopters, etc). Had I anticipated this earlier, we could have been more thoughtful and targeted about our partnerships early on, and let the “Late Adopters” jump on board when the time was right.
What’s your superpower? Napping and flying (not at the same time, obviously)
Outdoor adventure of choice for daily release? Paragliding
What book would you recommend? Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Your number one outdoor hack? Brownie Mix (just add water for premium chocolate dessert!)
One word that you think of when we say outdoors? Learning
Pitchfest 2019 will commence on June 17 in Denver, CO. Register here.
Sarah has lived all over the world, from Boston to France, and adventured even further. She’s a proud alumna of Tufts University, and currently runs College Outside from Carpinteria, CA! When she’s not picking avocados on the farm where she lives, she can be found paragliding, climbing, backcountry skiing, surfing or fishing. Most recently she became a paragliding instructor to help more women get into the sport, and travelled to Nepal to fly! Check out all her adventurers on instagram @slockwood09!