Pitchfest: Where Are They Now?
— The Dyrt —
Last month, Camber Outdoors selected seven finalists to pitch their business plans in front of a judging panel at Outdoor Retailer on July 22.
Leading up to the event, the finalists receive eight weeks of intensive mentorship from private equity executives who will coach them in several areas: focusing their vision and business plans, refining financial models, and preparing their pitches.
These finalists will join the 26 businesswomen alumnae of Pitchfest past, including Sarah Smith, founder of The Dyrt.
Sarah pitched The Dyrt at Pitchfest 2016. The Dyrt is a user-generated campground review platform that has taken the industry by storm. Think of it as “Yelp for Camping.” – Sarah
Sarah credits Pitchfest with helping her revise her business model focus, as well as amplify The Dyrt story.
Where did the inspiration for The Dyrt come from?
The Dyrt was born out of pure frustration. As an avid camper, I wanted to be able to get a feel for a campground before I made a weekend commitment to stay there. The resources available to me didn’t provide the basic information I wanted access to – photos, videos and other people’s opinions. I rarely go to a restaurant without first checking on Yelp and I would never book a hotel without first checking on TripAdvisor. The same applies to camping.
More than 60,000,000 Americans camp each year and we want the experience to count. There wasn’t a clear leader in the campground search and reviews space, and because the outdoor industry is an economic giant, I knew there was a big opportunity for The Dyrt. We’re now the fastest growing camping platform, with over 100,000 user-generated campground reviews and a new user signing up every 60 seconds.
Why did you decide to apply for Pitchfest?
Pitchfest was an incredible opportunity to not only tell The Dyrt story, but also connect with other women in the outdoor community. I love to see how other women are innovating in the outdoor industry, and how we can amplify one another’s voices in this space.
What was the most valuable thing you took from the Pitchfest program?
Absolutely my biggest takeaway from Pitchfest were the relationships I built by attending. I’ve stayed in touch with several of the women in my cohort, and we’ve continued to share our perspectives with one another as we build our businesses.
How did Pitchfest impact your business model?
Pitchfest had a huge impact on our business. When I pitched The Dyrt in 2016, the concept was focused on camping and outdoor adventure trips. The judges wisely encouraged us to focus only on camping. We decided to do just that and have been growing ever since. Our goal now is to win the camping vertical with our active community and technology. After that, the sky’s the limit with other aspects of camping and also with other verticals in the outdoor space.
Would you be where you are today without Pitchfest?
Without Pitchfest, we may have lost focus too early. Instead, by taking the advice from judges, we doubled down on creating the fastest growing campground community and it paid off. We recently closed our $2.6M Series A funding, expanded our team to 25 staff, and are currently tracking at 6,000,000 annual visitors— I’d say the focus on user-generated campground reviews paid off!
Did you have an adviser or mentor? How did they help you with business decisions
Early on, The Dyrt participated in the Telluride Venture Accelerator in Colorado. That served as an amazing jumping off point for us, and we had some incredible guidance and mentors. Here in Portland, I’m a board member of Starve Ups, which is a founder-to-founder accelerator for entrepreneurs in Oregon. In the beginning, when I was building The Dyrt by myself, I worked out of the Starve Ups co-working space, shoulder to shoulder with other entrepreneurs. It’s proven to be an invaluable resource for me and The Dyrt. Every member of that group has become adviser to me, and now as a board member I get to pay it forward.
What do you see for the future of The Dyrt?
I want The Dyrt to be THE go-to resource for the millions of Americans looking to get “the dyrt” on amazing outdoor experiences. We’re winning the rating and review space for the camping vertical and will eventually replicate our user-generated review model across other verticals in the outdoor space.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just starting out?
Don’t listen to the doubters or your own inner fears. Stay focused on your mission and goals. In all honesty, going from nothing to something was harder than any other step along the journey of The Dyrt, and one that many people with great ideas are never brave enough to take. So be brave. Trust your instincts, and continue working harder than you ever knew you could.
Funded in part by The REI Foundation’s Mary Anderson Legacy Grant, Camber Outdoors launched Pitchfest in 2015. The program has been supported through annual sponsorship; Perkins Coie and Backcountry.com were the Pitchfest 2017 sponsors. Pitchfest continues to support and accelerate women’s leadership and participation in the outdoors, providing the opportunity for women founders to live-pitch their business plans at Outdoor Retailer.
Learn more about Pitchfest 2018, set to take place at Outdoor Retailer on July 22.