Keith Hammermeister has owned his kayak for a decade — but that doesn’t mean it’s well used.
“I look at it under my deck and say, ‘it sucks that it doesn’t get used as much as I would like,’” he said.
But that could soon change: Gear Share Hub, Hammermeister’s peer-to-peer outdoor gear rental website, is poised to take off following his victory at the Whistler Centre for Sustainability’s third annual Social Venture Challenge (SVC) final pitch event on Wednesday (June 28). The Dragon’s Den-style pitch event saw each of the six SVC participants present their pitches to the judging panel, in front of a packed audience in the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre’s theatre, in three minutes or less. Hammermeister’s socially minded business concept earned him the win, including a $3,000 cash prize from Squamish Savings.
Born out of Whistler’s abundance of both under-used equipment and adventurers looking for gear, the environmentally friendly idea for Gear Share Hub first clicked when Hammermeister began hearing about the sharing economy trend and grew after he found software to set up these platforms.
“The whole idea behind it is creating access for people who maybe don’t want to purchase it or don’t have a long-term use for it,” he said. “Storage is such an issue here, as well.” Currently, Hammermeister is in the process of building up Gear Share Hub’s supply of rental inventory before officially going live.
The Social Venture Challenge’s three judges — Jennifer Schorz, Cathy Goddard and James Kirkwood — cited the concept’s financial feasibility and reduction of its users’ environmental footprints, as well as Hammermeister’s clear, purpose-driven pitch as the reasons behind their choice. “If you get the money today, you could take it and run with it as of tomorrow and actually do something great,” Schorz told Hammermeister.
Winning the challenge is “amazing,” Hammermeister said. “It’s super exciting. It’s validation that it’s a viable business and I can start pursuing it further.” The prize money will likely go towards the development of Gear Share Hub’s website “so it’s a little more user friendly,” Hammermeister said. “What I have right now is something that’s out of the box — it’s pretty good, but it’s kind of the minimum viable product to get started and get something going. I’m going to take the money, invest it into the website, and hopefully do a little bit of marketing.”
The Social Venture Challenge judges chose Hammermeister’s social venture over his five fellow participants’ — Brian Hockenstein’s “Affect,” an immersive, virtual reality media platform that aims to drive social change; Lenny Rubenovitch’s Rubenovitch Furnishings & Co, which turns waste into artistic furniture and décor; Melissa McLachlan’s Bees Knees for Kids, an early learning centre for children aimed at curbing Whistler’s childcare crunch; holistic nutritionist Claudia Schemitsch’s Rejuvenation Station food workshops and Minna Koskela Wild’s Blue Mar 4 Change, a lunch box that supports plastic-free oceans.
Wednesday’s community pitch event was the culmination of the four-session program that pairs participants with mentors and teaches them important business skills like value proposition and customer segments, marketing, identifying key resources, partners and key stakeholders and making the pitch as they set out on their social ventures.