Women’s gear site blazes new trail

A Bold Betties group participates in a 5k mud run. Photos courtesy of Bold Betties.

A Bold Betties group participates in a 5k mud run. Photos courtesy of Bold Betties.

What started as a Meetup.com group has quickly blossomed into an online retail operation and resource for women testing the waters of outdoor adventuring. And its owner is continuing to push the concept into new territory.

Bold Betties Outfitters, an outdoor gear rental site for women, is launching a new sales platform this week, as well as a customer rewards program.

Founder Niki Koubourlis launched the online rental operation – which includes gear like headlamps, trekking poles, jackets and tents – in August. Her goal was to make it easier for women to get involved in outdoor activities.

Now, she’s starting to focus on more experienced outdoorswomen.

“Women want to be able to rent when they’re trying something for the first time,” Koubourlis said. “But once they do it and like it, they want to buy it. Now they can buy former rental products.”

Available brands include outdoor industry giants like Osprey and Patagonia, with more to be added this summer.

The Bold Betties Outfitters website is intertwined with the Bold Betties online community that organizes group trips.

Niki Koubourlis

Niki Koubourlis

“There’s a lot of intimidation in the industry that stems from it being a male-dominated one,” Koubourlis said. “Most women get introduced to an outdoor activity by a man – a brother, boyfriend or husband.”

Koubourlis founded Bold Betties about a year ago as a Meetup.com group.

She expanded the group into a gear rental operation in August. The inspiration for the rental venture was Rent the Runway, a website that loans out formal wear.

“I figured, ‘Why can’t we do that with other expensive things like outdoor equipment?’” she said.

Bold Betties events include activities like zip lining, rafting, ATV trips, skydiving, hiking, skiing, snowboarding and paddle boarding. In the spring, fly fishing will be added to the list.

“The point is to get exposure to a variety of activities,” Koubourlis said.

Koubourlis has funded Bold Betties out-of-pocket so far. She’s put about $20,000 into the company, with about $4,000 of that spent on equipment.

The Bold Betties group has risen to about 850 members after accumulating 150 in its first week.

Bold Betties is currently limited to the Denver metro area, but Koubourlis said the company will expand its territory in the future.

And Bold Betties’ next move is to push into the adventure travel market.

“Say you want to hike Inca Trail to Machu Picchu,” Koubourlis said. “We’ll send you a kit of things that you want, you’ll take it, and then you’ll send it back. You don’t even need to wash it.”

Because adventure travel isn’t seasonal like most outdoor sports, it will allow for a constant stream of revenue.

“Long-term, this is the future of the business,” Koubouris said.

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