In 1938, Lloyd and Mary Anderson founded Recreational Equipment, Inc. as a co-op designed to help outdoors enthusiasts get better gear for their adventures. The Seattle-based venture did not experience much growth in its first few decades, but served a loyal community of backpackers and mountaineers. That changed in the 1980s when the store began catering to campers, cyclists, and other outdoor activities.
Over the course of its 70-year history, REI has grown to serve some 3.5 million active members (many more casual shoppers) and employ over 10,000 individuals. The key to its success has been its ability to cultivate connections and help people enjoy things they are passionate about.
What makes REI's unique?
As a co-op, REI offers lifetime memberships for $20. Upon purchase, members are entitled to annual dividend checks based on corporate performance.