What’s in a Pitchfest Entrepreneur? Meet the Finalists
— Coozie Outdoors —
We caught up with Rachelle Snyder, co-founder of Coozie Outdoors, to learn about the company that rents premium outdoor gear with delivery anywhere in the continental U.S., creating a more cost-effective and sustainable system for the experience-driven consumer.
What was the inspiration for starting your company, and how has it evolved?
We moved from Boston to Los Angeles in 2016, and in the process, got rid of all of our outdated outdoor gear. When we arrived in Los Angeles we were excited to explore California and the adjacent areas. However, we soon faced the reality that if we wanted to explore these areas throughout the year, we’d have to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on gear. Then we would have to store and maintain gear in our 600 sq ft. bungalow. We had no interest in owning all that gear, had no time to maintain it and certainly no space to store it.
We did a bit of research and found that most of us are outdoor dabblers, or occasional participants in the outdoors. And most of us prefer to spend our money on experiences over owning physical things. However, the retail-driven outdoor industry is focused on gear-owning enthusiasts, leaving the needs of the experience-focused consumer unmet.
When we searched for rental options we found them to be inconvenient or offered low-quality, overused gear. With more and more people wanting to experience the outdoors, we knew that the outdoor industry was missing an opportunity to serve the experience-focused consumer by not providing access to the appropriate gear.
In the spring of 2017, after a lot of gear testing, we built a website and offered a camping set for rent. We spent nearly two years gathering customer feedback, logistics, and operations data and creating our vision for the future. In the winter of 2019, Coozie accepted an offer to join Science Inc, an incubator and venture fund based in Santa Monica, CA. As Coozie’s first investor, we’ve now expanded our gear offerings, launched national shipping and now operate out of a 6000 sq ft warehouse.
Today, Coozie Outdoors is an outdoor experience company based in Santa Monica, CA. We partner with premium outdoor gear brands and offer their gear for rent on our platform starting at 15% the retail price. We’re making it easy for the experience-focused consumer to access the outdoors and providing an opportunity for brands to better serve a new customer segment.
What is the mission and vision of your company? What does the future trajectory look like?
We’re transforming the retail-focused outdoor industry into a utilization and experienced-focused model, ultimately expanding access to and increasing sustainability in the outdoor industry. Coozie Outdoors owns and maintains all available outdoor gear to ensure a high standard for quality. In addition to providing premium outdoor gear, we offer our customers 1:1 support for their outdoor adventures. We believe in making it incredibly easy to access the outdoors and instill confidence as our customers venture out. With this, Coozie is positioned to be a market leader in sustainability and access in the outdoor industry.
Why did you apply for Pitchfest, and what are you hoping to get out of your experience?
I applied to Pitchfest to meet other founders and leaders in the outdoor industry. I had also heard about how helpful the mentoring program and support network had been to past participants. As a first-time founder, I am always searching for groups of powerful and ambitious women to learn from, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to stand alongside the other participants at Pitchfest!
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned, thus far, in founding your company?
I am always learning—whether it be around product management with the website, testing new gear offerings, determining our marketing channels or anything to do with operations. I believe that as a startup founder it can be helpful to learn how to do tasks yourself before you decide to hire for that role—whether by force or by choice : ) Doing so many different roles and tasks has helped me learn new skills and find creative solutions to problems. This ultimately helps me better support our staff and move the company forward.
What did you not see coming, and how did you respond?
I’m a very independent person, but building a business is not a single-player activity. No day is the same when you are running a startup—it can be both exhilarating and overwhelming at times. I’ve had to force myself to better understand what I’m good at, what I’m not good at and when I need to ask for help. And what I did not necessarily expect was that when I do ask for help, so many talented people are willing and eager to step up to the plate.
What’s your superpower? Organizing anything!
Outdoor adventure of choice for daily release? Running along the beach
What book would you recommend? Give and Take By Adam Grant
Your number one outdoor hack? I prep all of our meals before we go camping.
One word that you think of when we say outdoors? Recharge!
Pitchfest 2019 will commence on June 17 in Denver, CO. Register here.
Rachelle Snyder is the co-founder of Coozie Outdoors, an outdoor experience company with a mission to create a world where you can experience the outdoors sustainably. We are transforming the $184B outdoor gear and services market by partnering with premium outdoor gear brands to offer their gear for rent on our platform. It’s the smart alternative to buying, maintaining, and storing gear.