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10 women-led outdoor companies you should know about

Plus, nominate someone you know to add to the growing list of lady-led businesses.


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Up in quaint Ketchum, Idaho, Cassie Abel always has something to do. As the owner of women’s apparel brand Wild Rye and founder of White Cloud Communication, as well as being an active skier, hiker, mountain biker, and dog owner, you can find her firing off emails and strategizing with her rock-star teams or getting fresh air and exploring the trails. Busyness aside, Abel found time earlier this year to lead another initiative: elevating female-powered companies through Women-Led Wednesday.

On International Women’s Day last year, we featured Abel among 10 female leaders in the outdoor industry. Since then, Abel has put the spotlight on dozens and dozens of other businesses we, and probably you, didn’t know were led by amazing gals. For the second year, we’ve compiled a list of another 10 rad women—and we’re putting a call-out to add to Abel’s growing directory of women leaders. Nominate some leading ladies through this form and they could be featured in next year’s roundup on SNEWS.

Happy International Women’s Day!

10 rad women

Amy Beck, president of Obōz/Kathmandu North America

 

"Amy Beck"
(Photo: Courtesy)
Before her position at the Montana-based footwear brand bought by the New Zealand retailer, Beck was a brand manager at Waypoint Outdoor. She has extensive experience in the outdoor industry, having worked at Smartwool and Lucy Activewear, both part of VF Corporation. Of her new role, she said: “I see an enormous potential for Obōz and Kathmandu in North America by continuing to develop long term partnerships within the specialty outdoor distribution and by bringing to market creative and innovative products.”

Ellen Brin, CEO/owner at Dakota Grizzly

"Ellen Brin - CEO/owner at Dakota Grizzly"
(Photo: Courtesy)

Brin’s grandfather founded the men’s outdoor clothing brand in the 1940s and when she was young and asked her father if she could join the business. The answer was no. She went on to get a CPA license and at age 40, her father finally asked if she’d be interested in becoming the CFO. Now, Brin is 50/50 partner with her brother-in-law, Rob, and the St. Louis, Missouri-based Dakota Grizzly also has a female president and designer.

Nailah Blades Wylie, founder of Color Outside

"Nailah Blades Wylie, founder of Color Outside"
(Photo: Color Outside)

Blades Wylie started Color Outside—an events, life coaching, and retreat business—”as a safe place for women of color to come together and create unapologetic, soul stirring lives through outdoor adventures.” Through different types of gatherings, she encourages people to push their bodies, reconnect with their true selves, and strengthen community ties. The Diversify Outdoors ambassador says, “We don’t let anyone question our right to take up space.”

Gloria Hwang, founder of Thousand Helmets

Gloria Hwang, founder of Thousand Helmets
Thousand Helmets

Until she lost her friend in a fatal bike accident, Hwang wasn’t fond of wearing helmets. To start Thousand Helmets, the entrepreneur emptied her savings account and launched a Kickstarter in 2015. The helmets are vintage- and moto-inspired, empowering stylish-minded people to protect their domes without sacrificing looks. Hwang is also mindful of how products might harm the environment and started a Carbon Offset Program and partnered with 1% For The Planet.

Corinne Prevot, founder of Skida Headwear

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Vermont never looked so colorful. Prevot, a skier and designer in her late 20s, picked up some fun fabric in 2008 and sewed it into her first line of hats headbands, neck gaiters, and other ski accessories. Skida can be found in about 300 stores across the U.S. and the funky prints—mountain fog, bento boxes, and geo blossoms—help skiers stand out on the slopes.

Alison Mariella Désir-Figueroa, founder of Running 4 All Women and Harlem Run

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An endurance athlete, mental health counselor, and activist, Désir-Figueroa was named by Women’s Running as one of twenty women who are changing the sport of running and the world. She was named by The Root 100 as one of the most influential African Americans, ages 25 to 45, Alison is an endurance athlete, activist, and mental health counselor. She founded the two running movements to empower runners of all levels, from all backgrounds.

Beth Cochran, founder and owner of What’s Up PR

"Beth Cochran"
(Photo: Courtesy)

Based in Denver, Colorado, Cochran heads up the specialty brand consulting firm and works with Bergans of Norway, Centric Software, and CHAOS. She started in the ’90s after biking across America without support for 60 days and wrangling The North Face, Power Bar, Therm-a-rest, and Trek as sponsors. Those who have worked with her say she is a natural mentor and deeply cares about her clients and employees. Cochran also served as a board member for Camber Outdoors, on the Snowsports Industries America Ski Committee to create female mentorships, and a panel facilitator for Outdoor Industry Association.

Justine Barone, co-founder and CEO of Gearo

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On a mission to simplify gear rentals, Barone founded Gearo. The marketing tool helps retailers with their inventory management, detailed reporting, and real-time booking. Barone was a finalist in Camber Outdoors’ 2018 Pitchfest. In an interview, she said she felt guilty when people wanted to offer support. But, “I’ve realized it’s not about owing one person, but generally giving back to future startup generations, or anyone I can, and it all balances out.”

Jaylyn Gough, founder of Native Women’s Wilderness

Jaylyn Gough, founder of Native Women's Wilderness
Courtesy

Gough is from the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico and founded Native Women’s Wilderness out of the frustration of the lack of women of color represented in the outdoor industry and to raise awareness about Ancestral Lands. Through the nonprofit, Gough has given a voice to and inspired indigenous women to speak up about the hardships of being a woman of color, but also how the land heals them. She currently lives in Boulder, Colorado, and enjoys fly fishing, backpacking, mountain biking, and hiking. Read her SNEWS story about indigenous leaders.

Jen Gureki, founder of Coalition Snow and Sisu Magazine

Jen Gurecki, founder of Coalition Snow. Photo courtesy of Coalition Snow.

Coalition Snow is one of very few women-run snowboard and ski makers. Often outspoken about equity, Gurecki started her company in 2014 to “deconstruct the status quo.” Gurecki also founded Zawadisha, a social enterprise providing small loans to rural Kenyan women, and Sisu Magazine, giving women a print platform to challenge the patriarchy. You can also find her often recording the Juicy Bits podcast.