Cotopaxi [kow-tow-paak-see] is one of the most wholesome brands we have worked with since our opening. It was a no-brainer when Steve Shriver had mentioned the brand to me during one of our first buying trips, before SOKO Outfitters had opened its doors. Their look was fun and unique – but their story was even more extraordinary. I knew immediately what a great addition they would be to our assortment.
Cotopaxi Mission Statement: “We believe the products that get us exploring can make a positive impact in other people’s lives. That’s why we create sustainably designed outdoor gear that fuels both adventure and global change, by dedicating a percentage of our revenues to nonprofits working to improve the human condition.”
If you aren’t familiar with Cotopaxi, you might still recognize their bright colored bags. We carry their “Del Dia Collection” which is vibrant, one-of-a-kind colorways designed from 100% repurposed fabrics. These bags empower factory workers as makers, giving them more creative control and purpose. From hip packs to duffels, Cotopaxi covers all adventures and made to last. However, it’s their story and mission that speak to us why you shouldn’t sleep on this up-and-coming brand.
Cotopaxi was inspired by the founder, Dave Smith’s, earliest childhood memories. Smith was born in Utah, but moved to the Dominican Republic when he was four-years-old. At such a young age, he saw people living in extreme poverty – naked children in the streets – and found himself to be incredibility fortunate, wondering how his life was so different compared to these children. Those experiences outside of the US shaped his perception of the world. Smith had felt a responsibility to live his life in an impactful way.
During college, Smith was also inspired entrepreneurs who sold their business, moved to the Philippines, and taught entrepreneurship skills to help others out of poverty. This began his search for paths that would allow him to create something similar. Years and a few businesses later, Smith found success but felt something was missing. He felt a call to make a social impact with a new business. Cotopaxi was founded on the business model that he needed to build an outdoor brand that used profits to sustainably alleviate poverty and named after the volcano near his childhood home in Quito, Ecuador.
The slogan, “Gear for Good,” the llama logo, and the early concept of the “Questival Race” were adopted very early on. As an outdoor enthuusiaist, he thought there was an opportunity to create a brand for a younger generation of passionate people who want to make the world a better place. Smith launches this brand with using an adventure scavenger race, promoting it on college campuses around Utah with two llamas purchased from online classifieds – names Coto and Paxi. Two weeks later, 5000 people showed up the the race and had 30,000 social media posts of people wearing their backpacks outdoors and giving back to their communities.
Eight years later, the mission still remains the same. They continue to make a larger impact – donating to nonprofits that focus on education, healthcare, and livelihood training. But also making a positive impact on the supply chain. One of their factories has a community garden where workers can take home fresh fruits and vegetables. Cotopaxi has a free trade factory partner where their workers are paid an extra $2 per hour and the funds are spent at the discretion of an employee committee – using it towards English classes and computers for their children. They even work with refugees in Salt Lake City, creating their first jobs after resettlement.
Smith’s hope is to change the way people look at capitalism and business. Their goal isn’t to sell outdoor gear, but to fight extreme poverty. Cotopaxi exists to do good and sell quality outdoor gear to fund their impact work. Carrying this brand resonates well with our mission as well. We are committed to supplying our customers with the best outdoor gear our industry offers and Cotopaxi is no exception. Next time you’re in need for a new windbreaker, bag, or fun t-shirt, think Cotopaxi.