Black Founder Feature: Charlotte Bowens

By John Kregler, StartOut

Charlotte Bowens (She/Her/They) loves being outside. A few years ago Charlotte, like so many of us, decided to take control of her physical and mental health and found her motivation out on the hiking trails. By walking, jogging and running, Charlotte found her mission outdoors.

But that mission came with a challenge as Charlotte, a self-described ‘bigger-bodied woman,’ had trouble finding outdoor apparel that fit. Many retail options simply didn’t cater to sizes above a large and after searching far and wide with no result, Charlotte decided to do something about it.

Thats when she started Conscious Gear to encourage bodies of all shapes and sizes to get equipped and get outside. Conscious Gear’s first product — a hydration pack — comes in sizes all the way up to an 8XL and is designed to complement all body types.

“I’m really committed to increasing the presence of people of color and bigger-bodied folk in outdoor spaces,” Charlotte said. “Just like anyone else, we have every right to participate in these spaces.”

In addition to creating a product with consumer sensitivity in mind, Charlotte is committed to making her business ‘conscious’ — in every sense of the word. Her products are made with environmentally-sustainable materials with the hopes to later expand into upcycling as the business grows. She also makes sure to use manufacturing plants that pay their workers a living wage so that her hydration packs are conscious from creation to delivery.

For Charlotte, StartOut’s been able to help her business grow in a few ways. To start, the importance of having a support circle — or “a cheerleader” as she so joyfully describes — is instrumental to success. For so many of our founders, the ability to be noticed and seen by our community of entrepreneurs is something they can’t get elsewhere. The opportunity to connect with mentors who provide expert knowledge on key business concepts like marketing, finances, supply-chain management, and more also goes a long way.

Like so many of our founders, Charlotte has found immense support from the StartOut NetworQ (sponsored by Vistaprint), our online directory where LGBTQ+ business people can connect with one another.

“The NetworQ is hands down one of the best tools I use to help run my business,” Charlotte said. “I can reach out and talk to so many entrepreneurs and ask questions about the challenges I’m facing.”

Recently, Charlotte was selected as a recipient of our Black Founder Empowerment Initiative scholarship sponsored by Google. These 12-month scholarships seek to uplift and support Black-owned startups who often face bias in the funding world. When asked about her journey as an underrepresented founder, Charlotte had this to say:

“Being a Black, queer, bigger-bodied woman is the antithesis of what people want to see. There are times when you’re met with unconscious bias and microaggressions, but I always stay focused on the bigger picture — and part of that is bringing my complete self to the table.”

We’re thrilled to call Charlotte a member of our StartOut community. As a role model for inclusion, innovation, and determination, we couldn’t be prouder to support someone like her.

StartOut’s mission is to increase the number, diversity, and impact of LGBTQ entrepreneurs. www.startout.org