Toad&Co explains why helping adults with disabilities is a huge focus for the brand

Toad&Co not only does good by its outdoor gear, but also by its devotion to help adults with disabilities enjoy the planet. After co-founding the Planet Access Company, Toad&Co has worked to create opportunities for disabled adults to enjoy nature and national parks through a special "Canoemobile."

Since co-founding the Planet Access Company, Toad&Co has worked to create opportunities for disabled adults to enjoy nature and national parks through a special "Canoemobile."

Sarah Matt, Toad&Co's marketing director

Sarah Matt, marketing director of Toad&Co. // Photo: Courtesy of Toad&Co

A few years after Toad&Co got its start in a Telluride garage, the brand co-founded the Planet Access Company to employ adults with developmental disabilities. Since then, Toad&Co has used PAC exclusively for picking, packing, and shipping its goods, and has expanded its efforts to make adults with disabilities permanently a part of the diversity conversation. Last year, the brand partnered with Wilderness Inquiry and the National Park Foundation to make canoeing accessible for adults with disabilities. The “Canoemobile” brought folks around the country who had never visited national parks to nature. We asked Sarah Matt, marketing director for Toad&Co, about its core mission to empower adults with disabilities.

1. Why has Toad&Co made it its mission to help adults with disabilities?

In the outdoor industry, there are a lot of brands that are fighting the battle for the environment. Giving back to people felt like something that we could really own. More brands are operating with this mind-set now, but in the industry, our competition was much more focused on environmental leadership. We look at ourselves as environmental citizens, and sustainability is huge for us, but we wanted to give back to people. It was an area we felt was underrepresented, and something we really wanted to make a mark with.

2. What kind of an impact have your programs had on raising awareness?

Last year Toad&Co honored its longtime social mission through a grant to the National Park Foundation, which connected 1,000 adults with disabilities to national parks across the U.S. The program was activated alongside Wilderness Inquiry through the Canoemobile—a van pulling a fleet of 24-foot voyageur canoes. Because the program had quantifiable national scale, Toad&Co, the National Park Foundation, and Wilderness Inquiry were able to pool resources around press outreach, as well as generate attention via social and traditional media outlets. We were really pleased with the engagement and coverage we received on a local and national level. For us, its about the individuals we touch, but also creating awareness that people with disabilities deserve the chance to have the same life fulfilling experiences as the rest of us.

3. You can read on any clothing label where the garment was made, but Toad&Co goes a step further and explains its high standards for foreign factories on its website. Why is that important to the brand? 

We believe the factories we partner with are an extension of our brand, so we work hard to ensure they meet our standards for quality and sustainability, as well as providing fulfilling and humane working conditions. From our factories to our social mission and environmental commitment, we are a company that truly walks the talk. The deeper you dig [into our work], the more proof you’ll find that we truly practice what we say. It’s something that Gordon Seabury, our CEO, has embedded into our culture. We don’t know how to do it any other way.

4. What has been the most inspiring moment for you during your time at Toad&Co?

I think it was when the Canoemobile came to Santa Barbara, California. It is a transformative experience when you watch someone approach the water, approach the canoe, and they’ve never been in a canoe and they’re scared. They’re saying, “I don’t think I can do this.” Watching them go through land training of how to hold a paddle, put on a flotation device, and get in the canoe, and then seeing this transformation from fear into total enjoyment—it is a very linear process which has an end result that is truly beautiful. It’s people realizing they can do anything they set their minds to—anything they want to do—once someone gives them the opportunity. That has been one of the most touching experiences.

5. Seabury is Board Chair of OIA, and Scott Whipps, global VP of sales, is on the Conservation Alliance board. how does Toad&Co use this influence on the industry as a whole? 

From a leadership perspective, it’s interesting to look at the role we’re playing in the industry. We don’t take it lightly. We’re proud to be in those positions. Gordon’s role has opened up a lot of opportunities.

We had an interesting meeting at last OR with the National Park Foundation, National Park Service, and Wilderness Inquiry. When people think of equality and creating access for everyone, they go to the diversity quotient. The role Gordon is playing is simply asking people to think about it, to be even more inclusive. “Inclusive” is one of those words that people are using a lot and it can have a pretty broad definition. We’re encouraging people, when they talk about being inclusive, to also include people with disabilities.

—Kassondra Cloos

This article was originally published on p.60 of Outdoor Retailer Daily's Day 1 issue.