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

From Self-Doubt to Success: Charlotte Bowens and Conscious Gear Receive $10,000 Grant for Inclusive Outdoor Products

Charlotte Bowens, the founder of Conscious Gear, a brand dedicated to creating products for a more diverse hiking community, received unexpected news this week that will help her business grow. Verizon awarded her a $10,000 grant to support her brand as part of its Small Business Digital Ready program.

Bowens won the grant after participating in the program and being recognized for her active engagement on the platform. Claudia Hidalgo, Verizon Arizona Director of Small Business Sales, stated that Bowens was chosen because her story resonated with Verizon and she is an inspiration to others.

Charlotte’s story began with her personal weight loss journey and fitness experiences. She noticed a gap in the outdoor equipment industry and decided to address it by creating VestaPak hydration packs designed specifically for larger bodies. These innovative products use a vest-style design instead of traditional backpack-like straps, enhancing movement, hydration and exercise. The Vestapak quickly gained popularity, earning recognition from USA Today as one of the top 10 gifts for outdoor enthusiasts.

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.

Looking ahead, Bowens is excited to expand her brand by developing new products such as hiking shorts and shirts catering to plus-sized individuals. She also plans to make VestaPak available in REI Co-op stores nationwide and online. Bowen’s commitment to inclusivity and innovation continues to propel Conscious Gear forward in the outdoor industry.

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