By Margaret Hedderman
All Justine Barone wanted to do was rent a stand up paddleboard. She started by looking online then calling outdoor retailers throughout the Denver area. An hour later, she still hadn’t rented a SUP and ultimately failed in her mission to spend some time on the water that day. Little did she know, that experience would lead to an industry changing startup.
“I realized that [rentals] needed to be more accessible,” Barone said.
The idea for Gearo was born when Barone realized there wasn’t an online marketplace for outdoor gear like there was for other common rentals – cars and hotels, for example. Barone had worked for other startups in a variety of industries over the years, but decided now was the time to start her own.
She launched Gearo in the Spring of 2018 with her husband Andrew. Both a one-stop online marketplace as well as a plug-and-play inventory management system for independent retailer websites, Gearo allows small mom and pop businesses to make their rental equipment easily accessible to shoppers. Retailers who had previously been using pen and paper or spreadsheet based systems, can now load their rental inventory into Gearo’s back-end and offer real-time gear rentals online. From a customer standpoint, Gearo makes it easy to search for rentals by either location or directly through the store’s website.
“When I first started, I was a one-man band in my basement. Me and my husband were literally cooking on our grill outside and using a camping stove.”
Justine Barone, Founder of Gearo
Today retailers around the country are steadily adopting Gearo, but it was tough going at the start.
“When I first started, I was a one-man band in my basement,” Barone said. “Me and my husband were literally cooking on our grill outside and using a camping stove.”
Barone and her husband spent their first few months that spring and summer beta testing the platform with a small group of retailers. Last winter they officially launched for ski season. (And what a ski season!)
“It was a huge learning experience,” Barone said. “Ski season is a completely different beast than summer.”
Since then, Barone has hired ten employees-primarily remote workers based in Colorado-and is constantly tweaking and improving the system based on feedback from her retailers. Barone, who also participated in the Catapult Outdoor Recreation Accelerator, says they are currently raising their first investment rounds.
As rentals become a growing trend within the outdoor industry, we’re looking forward to watching Gearo lead the way.