From Business at Leeds 2022 | Full issue
Before she moved from Lima, Peru, to Vail, Mariana Cevallos described herself as an “urban explorer” without much outdoors experience. But like so many transplants who arrive in the Rockies, she quickly became an outdoors enthusiast—one with a budding passion for packrafting.
But while enjoying her new hobby, she began to notice a disturbing trend: a serious lack of people of color participating in outdoor recreation.
“By 2046, people of color will be the majority of the population of the United States, yet we represent less than 15% of outdoor enthusiasts,” Cevallos said.
Around the same time, she had a second revelation: “There was a huge gap in the market for casual paddlers who want to get out on the water.” Most packraft companies were targeting “outdoor experts” who go on multisport backcountry adventures. But what about urban explorers and people just wanting to do day floats?
That’s when she and her husband decided to make the outdoors more accessible to everyone. In 2021, they co-founded Alluvia Packraft. Set at affordable price points, their packrafts were promoted to urban and suburban users who faced barriers of entry to the outdoors, such as not having a car. Their durable, lightweight and packable products are much easier to transport, even on a bike or a bus.
In their first year of operations, Cevallos attended the Startup to Scaleup workshops of the Demystifying Entrepreneurship series in Norwood and Vail. She gained a holistic view of her business and left with actionable takeaways.
The most valuable aspect, she said, was the network.
“There’s not a lot of big networking events outside the big cities; it’s a completely different pace here. Getting to know other entrepreneurs who face similar challenges provided a network of support I didn’t have before,” she said.
Alluvia sets aside 3% of every sale toward making the outdoors a more inclusive, diverse and safe space for everyone. As CEO and co-founder, Cevallos hopes she will inspire other people of color, especially women. “I want them to see me running this business and think, ‘I could do that, too,’” she said.