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Black entrepreneur designs hydration pack to fit plus-size community

The new outdoor equipment brand, Conscious Gear, aims to help people meet their fitness goals.
Black entrepreneur designs hydration pack to fit plus-size community
Posted at 12:36 PM, Feb 08, 2024

An entrepreneur is working to make reaching physical activity goals more attainable for the plus-size community through her new outdoor gear brand, Conscious Gear.

Charlotte Bowens is a researcher at Arizona State University who is now getting national attention for her creation of a hydration backpack built to more comfortably fit bigger bodies.

The Vestapak has a vest style, instead of backpack-like straps, to make it easier to move, hydrate and exercise.

The idea came from her own experience with weight loss and getting fit.

"The doctor was like, 'Look, you got high blood pressure, high cholesterol, you're borderline diabetic,'" she said. "I was morbidly obese and, from what they could tell, a little depressed."

She knew she needed to take action to be healthier and live life to its fullest, so she started going to the gym.

"On that first day, I could barely walk two minutes at 2 miles per hour, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other," she said. "Sixteen months later, I was crossing the finish line at my first 50-mile ultramarathon."

Along the way of her fitness journey, though, Bowens discovered a gap in the outdoor equipment industry. The hydration backpacks she would try out would not fit comfortably and would cut into her sides.

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"I thought the industry would make bigger products [eventually], so I just waited, you know, but they didn't," she said. "I felt like I didn't matter."

That's when Bowens decided to take action and created Conscious Gear, along with its first product, the Vestapak.

"I'm excited that I get to provide a much-needed piece of gear to people who really need it and who've been neglected and kind of abandoned by the outdoor industry," she said.

She got some help through a startup accelerator for Black entrepreneurs through Local First Arizona.

"I felt like I knew nothing. I was a beginner, so it was a place for me to feel safe and supported and nurtured."

She's hoping her story inspires others to go after their own ideas.

"For minority people, like, yes, it's going to be hard," she said. "You're going to have to be on your hustle and on your grind, but you too are just as capable and deserving of being successful as a business owner as anybody else."

USA Today recently chose the Vestapak as one of the 10 best gifts for outdoor enthusiasts.

You can purchase one on the Conscious Gear website.

This story was originally published by Amelia Fabiano at Scripps News Phoenix


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