Adventurist Backpack Update: How We Expanded Into 40+ New Retailers This Year

Published: April 16th, 2022
Kelly Belknap
Adventurist Backp...
from Denver, Colorado, USA
started September 2017
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
270 days
average product price
growth channels
Word of mouth
business model
best tools
MailChimp, Shopify, Google Drive
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
24 Pros & Cons
10 Tips
Discover what tools Kelly recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Kelly recommends to grow your business!

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

I’m Kelly Belknap, co-founder of Adventurist Backpack Co. We design minimalist backpacks for travel and hiking, with a cause. For every backpack sold, we provide 25 meals to families in need across the U.S. in partnership with the non-profit Feeding America.

Our flagship products are our Classic backpack and Sidekick crossbody, and our main customer base is people looking for fashionable bags that they can take on their everyday adventures. Our backpacks have been featured in Outside Magazine, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, Forbes, Conde Nast Traveler, and more, as some of the best minimalist travel backpacks on the market. We have provided almost 200,000 meals to families in need across the country to date.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?

Adventurist has been in steady growth mode since the spring of 2021. We’ve used the pandemic winding down as a stepping stone to expand more than we ever have before. Because many retailers had been waiting to re-open their doors for the first time since covid struck, they were looking for exciting new products to try out, to get customers back in the door and shop again. We have focused purely this last year on getting our backpacks into physical store locations, growing our market presence while increasing sales simultaneously.

Just keep setting concrete goals, and accomplish them step by step, with the hopes of growing a bit each year.

We have also kept a steady hand on our social media marketing and focused on creating engaging and authentic content rather than paying for ads. While we haven’t worked as much this year on PR, we will be doing our best to promote our brand through publications this holiday season, and hopefully can get some good exposure through gift guides as a brand that offers gifts that give back.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

We have learned a lot in the last year, with covid playing a specifically big role in our struggles and achievements. We learned that even a pandemic that slows short-term growth can be used to your advantage in the longer term. With many companies struggling to produce/import their goods to fulfill orders for stores, we were able to step in with the backpacks we had on hand to take the place of many brands that weren’t able to supply their products to retailers this last year. We hope that stores that picked up our brand during the pandemic continue to re-order so that we can build strong relationships with lots of retailers (especially other family-owned and boutique stores) across the country.

One thing that I feel like I learned and have taken to heart is to strike while the iron is hot. When things have cooled off and slowed down it’s fine to sit back, relax, and do a bit more learning and planning (and not stressing) so that you can strike when the iron turns hot again.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

This year, we were fortunate enough to get our backpacks into 40+ new retailers across the country, bringing our total to up around 80. We are planning to continue trying to grow our presence in brick and mortar stores, while steadily increasing our online sales each year.

On the product side of things, we will be focusing on expanding colorways on our current lines first and foremost, and will hopefully come out with a new backpacks design and a new sling bag within the next two years.

We’re excited to continue growing our online and brick & mortar sales, building Adventurist as a trusted brand for high quality, fashionable, travel/hiking essentials, and hopefully becoming a key player in the market. We’d love for Adventurist to be a household name (at least in the adventure community) within the next 5 years to a decade - we’ll see if we can do it!

Have you read any good books in the last year?

I love reading biographies and historical non-fiction, and one of the best that I’ve read in the last year is Titan by Rob Chernow, which is the most extensive recollection of the life of John D. Rockefeller to date. I mean, how can you pass up reading about the self-made businessman from Cleveland who grew the largest petroleum business in history and was the richest human to ever live? Whether you agree with his business methods or not, it is a pretty fascinating life he led, with many lessons to learn.

Secondly, I re-read Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahnemann for the second time. The author delves into his Nobel Prize-winning work regarding human psychology and economics, revealing ways we can best approach problems, make good decisions, and refrain from committing irrational errors when we don’t take time to properly think something through.

Both books I highly recommend, and although they are both on the tougher end of any reading list, the slow and steady slog through will be well rewarded!

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

My biggest advice for entrepreneurs who are currently struggling is just to keep with it through the ups and downs and try to figure out ways to spread the word and grow your business for free. It can be easy to get swept up in paying for ads/professional photography/influencer marketing/etc but I truly believe that slow, steady, organic marketing is the best way to build a brand and find your best customers.

If you haven’t already, try starting an Instagram page and engaging in a friendly (non-spammy) way with the community that best represents your brand - many great connections are ready to be made with organic social media usage alone!

And lastly, it takes years to grow a brand sustainably so do not worry if it’s not exploding from the start. Slow and steady is the name of the game - just keep setting concrete goals, and accomplish them step by step, with the hopes of growing a bit each year.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

While we aren’t currently looking to hire for any positions, please feel free to send an introduction/resume to [email protected] and we will keep your information on hand if anything comes up that’s a good fit! Thanks!

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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