Founder of Cotopaxi Shares 4 Tips for Social Impact

When you think of adventure and “doing good,” you might also think about Cotopaxi. A Utah outdoor-gear brand with a knack for sustainable social change, this company has made waves with the integration of outdoor 24-hour “Questival” competitions that have a dual purpose: getting people into nature and funding charitable foundations. As for the gear sold at Cotopaxi? Much of it is made from sustainable materials by empowered workers who design unique products from fabric-ends that may have otherwise been discarded in a landfill.

We recently invited Stephan Jacob, founder and COO of Cotopaxi, to run a workshop on the topic of social impact. Here are tips he shared with us on the topic:

1.  “A good story is not necessarily good impact work, and a good impact strategy doesn’t necessarily translate into an easily concise tagline.”

This is to say that sometimes a story of one-to-one products, such as shoes or backpacks, charitable donations can actually backfire due to the displacement it can cause in developing countries. Instead, Cotopaxi works with small village areas to promote the education and health of communities without causing economic harm.

2. “Surround yourself with mentors and people who are positive [that] will still believe in you when things aren’t going so well.”

This tip is important to sustainability, social impact, business and all life pursuits. Jacob advises that all young entrepreneurs find support among their communities, professors and mentors to bolster their resiliency for when things are not going as well as expected.

3. “Empower your customers to tell your [business] brand story.”

Paid advertisements can be effective in the short-term, but ultimately, customer loyalty and brand following is the most valuable way to grow a business successfully. If you can create a story that your customers want to tell, you will have much greater long-term success.

4. “Build a very inclusive brand.”

In the outdoor industry, many products target the hardcore athlete. Cotopaxi saw a niche with urban athletes, like weekend warriors, and sought to provide products that were inclusive to all outdoor-seeking consumers.

The key to creating lasting social impact through business is to be intentional. Research the charities you intend to donate to, making sure they are reputable and will use your business proceeds effectively. Research the factories that are producing your clothing line or electronic device. If possible, visit them and verify that they are up to health standards and provide their workers with fair compensation. These tasks are feasible for a company of any size to complete. This is social change.

Learn more about Cotopaxi at

About the Author:

Megan Glasmann Megan is a school psychology Ph.D. student at the U. Her work has been published in multiple academic journals. She is passionate about advocating for entrepreneurial students and local startups. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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