Conscious Gear Founder Receives $10,000 Grant from Verizon to Expand Inclusive Hiking Brand

Entrepreneur designing size-inclusive hydration packs awarded $10K small business grant

Charlotte Bowens, founder of Conscious Gear, a brand dedicated to promoting inclusivity in the hiking community through innovative products, received a $10,000 grant from Verizon this week. This unexpected boost came as a result of her participation in Verizon’s Small Business Digital Ready program, which offers tools, coaching, and resources to small businesses.

Bowens won the grant after entering a competition through the program. Verizon Arizona Director of Small Business Sales Claudia Hidalgo commended Bowens for being an active and engaged user on their platform and emphasized that her story resonated with Verizon. Her brand has previously received national attention from USA Today, which included the VestaPak hydration pack in its list of top 10 gifts for outdoor enthusiasts.

The VestaPak is designed using a vest-style approach instead of traditional backpack-like straps to improve movement and hydration during exercise. It was inspired by Bowens’ personal weight loss journey and fitness experiences, where she noticed a gap in the outdoor equipment industry. She launched her brand to address this issue and provide products that better fit plus-sized individuals.

With the grant money, Bowens plans to hire a team member, outsource order fulfillment, and cover office rent expenses. Despite occasional self-doubt, she feels validated by the support she has received from the community and believes in the importance of her work. She is excited to expand her brand by developing new products such as hiking shorts and shirts catering to plus-sized individuals. Additionally, she aims to make the VestaPak available in REI Co-op stores nationwide and online.

Sophia Reynolds

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