Pitchfest: Leveling the Playing Field to Drive Innovation and Grow an Industry

Pitchfest: Leveling the Playing Field to Drive Innovation and Grow an Industry


Camber Outdoors launched Pitchfest in 2015 to drive innovation and bring top-tier women entrepreneurs and their businesses to the forefront of the active-outdoor industries. As the first live pitch event to show at Summer Outdoor Retailer, Pitchfest highlights women-owned early-stage businesses from the across the country, each selected through a rigorous review process to participate in an immersive, remote eight-week, mentor-driven program to uncover the opportunities and challenges most critical to their business. A curriculum taught by subject matter experts is offered to fill in any gaps in key skills entrepreneurs need – financial, marketing, legal, compliance, and pitch.

Leveling the playing field for women to benefit the outdoor industry

In 2018, Harvard Business Review published findings that a diverse and inclusive workplace is fundamental to delivering business results. Yet, we live in a time where only 2.19 percent of venture capital funding goes to companies with a woman CEO, and women entrepreneurs lack the networking, mentors, and informal relationships necessary to access capital and business growth.

With the goal of elevating women entrepreneurs and driving industry-wide innovation, Pitchfest creates equitable workplaces while strengthening women-owned businesses by providing entrepreneurs with resources that would otherwise not be available to them.

The outdoor industry as a whole benefits from these efforts as Pitchfest advances businesses that meet needs or services to improve the experience of outdoor enthusiasts and grow a larger and more diverse outdoor participant base to benefit the future health of companies in the outdoor industry and the outdoors.

2018 Successes

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 20 percent of small businesses fail within the first two years, and 50 percent within the first five. Over the past four years, 32 entrepreneurs have participated in Pitchfest, 29 of whom are still in business. These businesses show the promise of success and significant impact to the industry and the outdoors; we’ve chosen to highlight five Pitchfest entrepreneurs who have achieved notable success in 2018.


Nicole Bassett, Pitchfest 2016 entrepreneur founded The Renewal Workshop to recover the full value out of what has already been created as a way of serving customers, partners and the planet.

Brands and retailers lack systems to recover value from unsellable inventory. This leads to massive waste problems with negative environmental impacts. According to the Council for Textile recycling, the amount of textiles that become waste is projected to grow to over 35 billion pounds in 2019.

The Renewal Workshop takes discarded apparel and textiles and turns them into Renewed Apparel, upcycled materials or recycling feedstock.

In 2018, The North Face partnered with Renewal Workshop to launch its re-commerce program called The North Face Renewed to offer great quality and performance with less impact on the earth.


Jennifer Hannon Kriske, Pitchfest 2017 entrepreneur founded Machines for Freedom, a premium women’s cycling brand.

After being told that women didn’t need high-quality goods, and sensing that women’s cycling apparel was derived from men’s clothes and geared toward racing culture, Jennifer felt that the women’s cycling community deserved more attention than it was getting, so she created Machines with the objective of filling a big gap in the women’s cycling apparel market.

Specialized Bicycle Components acquired Machines for Freedom, with the company maintaining its unique voice and Jennifer continuing to oversee operations.


Gloria Hwang, Pitchfest 2017 entrepreneur founded Thousand, a bike helmet company that creates high-performance, stylish, bike helmets to help cycling enthusiasts ride more safely.

An avid cyclist, Gloria was never a fan of helmets because they lacked style. But after losing a friend through a cycling accident, her perspective changed and she set out to design a bike helmet that people would want to wear. Each year there are 50,000 reported cycling injuries in the U.S., 1,000 of which are fatal. The name Thousand was symbolic of eliminating those statistics, which is also reflective of the company’s target audience of cyclists who don’t currently wear a helmet.

Just eight months after pitching her business at Pitchfest, Thousand helmets launched in REI Co-op stores in major markets throughout the country.


Kay Martin, Pitchfest 2015 entrepreneur founded BOCO Gear, a custom athletic headwear and accessories business that allows companies to design and create stylish, technical gear.

The industry veteran focused on custom work with each brand, retailer, or event because she saw that the industry was moving toward customization. Kay’s goal was to offer better products than what was available at the time and to have the freedom to fulfill the most specific customer requests.

Today, BOCO Gear is carried at REI, produces headwear for top brands, including Hoka One One and Clif Bar, and became the official headwear of IRONMAN, serving more than 40 races each year, including the 2017 and 2018 IRONMAN World Championship events.


Sarah Smith, Pitchfest 2016 entrepreneur founded The Dyrt, which can best be described as Yelp for the camping world – a website and app where you can check for reviews of campsites across the United States.

More than 60,000,000 Americans camp each year. When Sarah founded The Dyrt, there wasn’t a clear leader in the campground search and reviews space. With the outdoor industry being an economic giant, Sarah knew there was a big opportunity for The Dyrt.

It’s now the fastest growing camping app for web and mobile. Campers have uploaded more campground photos and reviews to The Dyrt than anywhere else on the internet. This rapid rise is part of what helped the company quickly close a $2.6 million Series A funding round this year.

Impact made possible by donor support

Pitchfest program and event was launched in 2015 through a foundation grant from The REI Foundation’s Mary Anderson Legacy Grant. Individual donor and corporate sponsorship support has been critical to enabling the program and event to take place year after year. For more information about the program or to support Pitchfest contact Mary Hsue

Formerly the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC)


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