Spencer Holton, Founder of Trail Supply Co. (photo by Brian Davies/ The Register Guard)

RAIN Eugene points Holton, Trail Supply Co., in the Right Direction

Mentors help a UO undergrad see the potential in his idea

Spencer Holton never intended to be an entrepreneur. Even after he won first place and $1,500 at a business competition last February for University of Oregon undergraduates, he still had no plans to pursue Trail Supply Co. — his idea of a resupply service for long-distance hikers.

“I just thought me and my friends had our beer money for the next few months,” Holton recalled.

Fast forward one year: Holton and his team have launched their first planning and ordering application; they offer resupply services for hikers on the John Muir, Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails, and they already have paid customers for the upcoming hiking season.

So what changed Holton’s mind? He connected with Joe Maruschak at the Civil War Shark Tank competition last April, and the chief startup officer for RAIN Eugene helped him see the potential for his idea and encouraged him to apply to the next Accelerator cohort.

In June, Holton entered the RAIN Eugene Accelerator by himself, but by the time of graduation in September he had formed a team with Cosmos and Eden Corbin — mentors with significant experience in web application development.

“The whole experience was so improbable,” said Holton, who grew up near Yosemite National Park. “I just fell into this entrepreneurial community that I never knew existed. The types of things I learned in my four months with RAIN will be some of the most valuable of my entire education.”

While Holton couldn’t be happier to have found this path, he knows that the road ahead won’t be easy. Trail Supply Co. needs to access a niche hiking community that previously had few – if any – resupply services to consider. To that end, Holton and his team have chosen an indirect approach to customer acquisition; they want to position themselves as an authority on long-distance trail hiking and offer a lot free resources, such as comprehensive trail guides and online chat support.

“No one has done this before. We need to prove there are people in this market are willing to pay for a concierge-type service,” said Holton.