Pitchfest 2018 Recap
Day 0 of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market kicked off with Camber Outdoors’ Pitchfest, a dynamite event that brings entrepreneurship front and center to the outdoor industry. Pitchfest 2018 featured seven entrepreneurs of early-stage companies with a passion for the outdoors. Marking the 4th year of the annual event, Pitchfest drew an energetic crowd of more than 300 attendees, including investors, CEOs, influencers, entrepreneurs, and media.
Selected from more than 60 applicants from across the nation, this year’s line-up of remarkable Pitchfest 2018 finalists included Bold Betties, Western Rise, Pace Match, Heather’s Choice, Wild Rye, Gearo, and Heroclip.
Leading up to the event, the 2018 finalists were featured in Forbes. Camber Outdoors also spotlighted each finalist on her inspiration for the company, lessons learned, mentors who have helped shape the steps forward, and advice they would give to other entrepreneurs. These stories can be found on the Camber Outdoors blog.
Emcee Aisha Weinhold, CEO and founder of No Man’s Land Film Festival, opened the event with an icebreaker, fun facts about each of the finalists and the judges, and a humorous yet poignant comparison of creating, incubating, and launching a company into the world to having a baby – there are good days and not-so-good days, it’s exciting and terrifying at the same time, and ultimately the reward far outweighs the risk.
Each of the seven finalists had five minutes to pitch her business to a panel of judges. The pitches were comprehensive, offering an origin story of the company, growth strategy, financial projection, and an ask based on need, including advisers, capital, and industry introductions. Following the pitches was seven minutes of Q&A with the judging panel. This year’s judging panel was comprised of four highly-visible executives in the active-outdoor industries: Diana Seung, executive vice president of merchandising at Backcountry.com; Dan Nordstrom, CEO Emeritus of Outdoor Research and co-founder of Roundhouse Collective; Susan Viscon, senior vice president of merchandising and private brands at REI Co-op; and Steve Meineke, operating partner at Roundhouse Collective and board member for Truewerk, Miir, and Outdoor Research.
Despite diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and professional experience, each of the finalists noted the spark of their company from identifying a gap in the market based on personal experience: Bold Betties brings women together as community through adventures and experiences; Western Rise is changing the status quo of functional pants for men; Pace Match is a platform that uses data to match runners and bikers to those who enjoy the same trails at the same speed; Heather’s Choice is redefining backcountry meals to include dehydrated, nutrient-dense options that won’t weigh down a pack; Wild Rye is creating active apparel for women that combines form, function, and fashion for mountain biking and skiing; Gearo is disrupting the landscape for gear rental through its unique online platform and positioning; and Heroclip is simple, yet essential as a gear hanger for outdoor adventures.
Each of the finalists received advice from the judges, and some even hinted at assisting with resources and partnerships. Meineke commented to Bold Betties founder, Niki Koubourlis, that Outdoor Research would be interested in collaborating with Bold Betties in the future; Viscon told Heather Kelly of Heather’s Choice that REI is interested in testing some of the company’s products in their Alaska Northwest markets; and both Nordstrom and Meineke suggested that Pace Match should partner with Bold Betties. Others received advice on strategic partnerships, advisers, and company focus.
While there is no selected winner of Pitchfest, each of the finalists receives eight weeks of mentorship prior to the event, and a prize pack comprised of services from supporters including ACT Lab, Bobbi Parisi, CFO Advanced Consulting, Perkins Coie LLP, True Communications, and Walden Hyde, as well as annual membership to Camber Outdoors and the Outdoor Industry Association.
Camber Outdoors Pitchfest continues to elevate entrepreneurship in the outdoor industry with several alumni making waves in the industry with growing successes, and some of which had a strong presence at Summer Market, such as The Dyrt, BOCO Gear, and Dirty Gourmet.
Pitchfest 2018 marked the 4th year of the program, which has supported 33 entrepreneurs and accelerated innovation and leadership in the active-outdoor industries. This year’s program was sponsored by The REI Foundation’s Mary Anderson Legacy Grant and Perkins Coie LLP.
Pitchfest kicked off Summer Market by celebrating entrepreneurship, bringing together community, and creating an undeniable energy that carried through the rest of the show.