Maria Boustead is the founder of Po Campo, “a mission-driven, woman-owned small company that makes bike bags and travel bags with weatherproof fabric and lots of pockets to fit your favorite devices.”
Designed to transition from your bike to your body in no time at all, Po Campo’s products are practical, versatile, and chic (and if the name sounds familiar, that’s because Misadventures has reviewed Po Campo bags in the past)!
So we were excited to catch up with Maria: both founder and designer at Po Campo, a bike commuter herself, and a finalist in this year’s 2016 OIWC Pitchfest. Soon enough she’ll be pitching Po Campo’s brilliance to a room full of outdoor industry leaders and execs-but for now, here’s an exclusive peek at Maria Boustead, and her inspiring business.
What inspired you to found Po Campo?
I loved biking to work in Chicago but longed for a better way to carry stuff while riding. Backpacks and messenger bags made my back all sweaty, while a handbag would just fall down my arm, and bike bags weren’t comfortable to carry around off the bike. I wondered why there weren’t bags on the market versatile enough to attach to your bike while riding and then be attractive and comfortable enough to carry around with you throughout your day. I recognized that more and more people were biking for transportation all the time, so supplying the growing market with products created for their unique needs seemed like a great business opportunity.
What has your experience been like, so far, as a female entrepreneur in the outdoor industry?
I came to the outdoor industry from the bike industry and my first reaction walking around OR was, “Wow, look at all the women here!” I find the outdoor industry to be very encouraging of new brands and entrepreneurs. Po Campo is not a traditional outdoor brand - we make products for biking in cities after all - yet we’ve been made to feel very welcome. I consider that to be a testament to the industry’s forward-thinking values.
That said, the vast majority of companies are owned and run by men, and you feel the influence in subtle ways. Here’s an anecdote: One time, a male buyer demanded to know if my bags were “bomb proof.” I was like “Bomb proof? Why would they need to be bomb proof?” I thought it was the weirdest question. When someone explained to me that “bomb proof” was industry lingo for “super durable,” I knew that some guy in marketing must have come up with that term, and it unfortunately stuck. I thoughtfully design my bags to last a long time, but the last thing I would want to do is describe them using a word associated with aggression and destruction. I mean, really.
Why did you decide now was the moment to apply for Pitchfest? What are you hoping you and Po Campo will gain from the Pitchfest experience?
Po Campo launched in 2009 and it was a little ahead of the curve. There were people biking for transportation, but nothing like it is now. The time is right to increase distribution and brand awareness, and I need help getting Po Campo to that next level. Participating in Pitchfest would give me a chance to tell my story to an audience that can help me raise the funding and build the strategic partnerships I need to expand.
What are your goals for Po Campo in the next year or two?
Every women who bikes for transportation needs to know about Po Campo and that we are here to support her. That means we need to increase brand awareness and distribution. And growing sales will propel our efforts to do so.
And what has the mentorship side of Pitchfest been like, for you?
The mentorship experience has been stellar. This is the first time I’ve done a proper pitch and the process has really helped me focus on my vision and my hurdles to growth and what exactly I need to overcome them. My mentor Gregg Bagni has been encouraging and patient and supportive as I work through everything. I feel much clearer on Po Campo’s path forward from this alone, so the program has already paid off for me.
What’s the best adventure you’ve been on recently?
I went on a bamboo boat trip through the picturesque Lijiang River in China in May. It was bucket-list-worthy for sure!
What is your spirit biome?
Bamboo forest on a rainy day.
In a sentence, what’s your perfect day outdoors?
This is an easy one. A partly cloudy day, around 78º, breezy but not windy. I’m biking through a city with great bike lanes and lots of culture, where I can stop for a coffee or glass of wine at an outdoor cafe, pop into cute shops, and lounge in city parks with a good book.
This interview is part of our Women of Pitchfest series! Learn more about OIWC’s Pitchfest here.