Annika Mang leads us down her path to becoming the founder of TrailCollectiv
We are so excited to share that Annika Mang (TrailCollectiv) was named the UPS People’s Choice Winner of the 2022 Startup Global Pitch Competition! “100 semi-finalists were chosen to compete in the Startup Global pitch competition. Semi-finalists were given 90 seconds to present their pitch in front of our panel of judges, where 10 finalists were selected to compete in the grand finale” — Startup Canada. This is a massive accomplishment for Annika, and we could not be more proud!
We recently had the privilege of walking down the path of Annika Mang’s founder journey and what led her to TrailCollectiv! Take a step outside, breathe in the fresh air, and give this FOUNDER FEATURE a read and get ready to learn more about TrailCollectiv.
“Adventuring does not end when you have children; it is only the beginning…”
For those unfamiliar with your company, please tell us about TrailCollectiv!
TrailCollectiv is a new hiking trail app that breaks down barriers to families accessing the outdoors by providing detailed hiking trail information. Our mission is to help families feel welcome outdoors and prepared for their next family adventure. We want to build a world where all abilities can access the outdoors with the information they need and connect to a community that has placed footprints on the path already.
What led you down your path to becoming a founder?
I feel like this could be a long story haha. Before I had kids, I was super active! I was a high-level rugby player, and my husband and I would go on long backcountry hiking trips. I enjoyed snowboarding and soaking up the fresh air. I was so excited to start our family and have my first daughter; however, it completely changed my world, and I had to start to do things differently.
Some people would say that once you have children ‘you can no longer travel with kids’… But I decided I was still going to do it anyway! I was determined to stay active and have our children experience the outdoors. Truthfully, it was really hard to make this work. At the time, no one really shared this view about getting out and staying active with your kids. There were no resources, and I felt like it was a challenge to find anything that supported my ambition to hike trails with my baby.
With this in mind… I would try to take my daughter anyways. As a new mom, I found that her crying was way quieter outside than it was inside. But I also found that figuring out all of the details for my hikes and trying to do everything on my own was exhausting. There was so much to consider and so many different things I had to think of when packing and preparing for a hike with a baby. Looking back, after having my second baby, I realized that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety that was really challenging to overcome. I know now that the only thing that helped me find comfort was getting outside with my baby. With this realization, I knew that with my second daughter I would need to continue to stay active… I had just wished that it was easier and that I didn’t need to stress about the details of my upcoming excursions. I wished I had other people to look to so they could tell me places that were accessible to visit with children and I could connect with similar parents looking to share and exchange information.
So… fast forward after my second baby… because we had done so many things with our firstborn, I knew I could share my knowledge with others and help moms navigate the balance of active living and parenting. That’s where I had the idea to create an app! At the time it felt IMPOSSIBLE – so instead, I decided to take my family’s old blog I had created after my first daughter, “Ace Family Adventures”, to the next level and launched my website: ‘Born to be Adventurous’. I was also embarking on the long road to writing a hiking guidebook. The interest in family hiking was growing, and as I decided to share, more people wanted to learn.
Our family moved to Saskatchewan after publishing my book: Hikes for Families (A Guide to the Canadian Rockies). And after a short while, I learned about Cultivator powered by Conexus. I saw a post from Cultivator explaining “if you have an idea – and it’s a tech idea – come bring it to us”. This is when everything clicked, and I saw the potential to bring my idea of an app for family hikes to life – so I thought “I’m going to try to do this”. Through Cultivator’s START program, I was able to narrow my focus and determine how I could accomplish my plan to start the app.
2 years into the journey – and staying connected in the Cultivator tech community – I finally launched the app in June of 2022.
Regina feels like home. I love the atmosphere of the community over competition and the sense of warm and welcoming people. I appreciate this so much and often feel this way about Cultivator. I feel so lucky to live in Saskatchewan and to have had the opportunity to expand into the tech space through Cultivator.
It’s clear that you had such a passion for helping others access the outdoors, but what do you think sparked your entrepreneurial spirit?
I always wonder what sparked the entrepreneur in me. I guess I have always been super motivated. It’s funny. Actually, my dad said recently: “it’s our fault we took you camping too many times before you were 3 months old!” I laugh at this now thinking back to growing up and traveling with my parents in our VW van. I truly think my passion was just so rooted in being a mother and being able to help other mothers.
I went from being a full-time teacher to doing this! I am super passionate about getting kids active and getting women outside. When you can inspire kids to get active and get outside – it does wonders for their confidence. Movement is so powerful.
Hearing the feedback from grateful users of the platform, I am constantly motivated to continue helping families live healthily. I recently had a woman reach out to me that quit smoking and is now making time to enjoy outdoor activities with her kids because of TrailCollectiv. How awesome is that!
As you mention your connection to helping mothers, can you elaborate on the community you have built online through ‘Born to be Adventurous’ and how it has fueled TrailCollectiv?
When I started ‘Born to be Adventurous’ the community started to grow like crazy with views and shares across social media. The strong interest in the content led to the inception of a ‘Born to be Adventurous – Mama’s Group’. The idea behind this group was to encourage moms to get outside and adventure. I wanted to make sure that moms were taking the time to put themselves first– if they were choosing to go for a hike with their kids, it was because the mom wanted to go too, not just for the child’s enjoyment. Moms could experience joy by being outdoors while having their children close. The group also encouraged moms to get together without their children and support one another through their goals of staying active. We started the mamas’ group in Calgary, and it soon expanded to Edmonton, Fraser Valley, Vancouver, and Saskatchewan.
The creation of the mamas’ group actually led to me finding my co-founder of TrailCollectiv, Jess Sproat. Jess reached out to start a mamas group in Vancouver in 2020, and we reconnected in 2021, leading me to ask Jess to join TrailCollectiv. Jess’s husband had experience in the startup world, so she understood the work of beginning a tech startup and the importance of having a business mindset. I wanted to make something sustainable and something that would have a long-lasting impact on families.
What is it like having a long-distance relationship with your co-founder?
Jess and I meet once a week or more online. The great thing about our relationship is that we are both moms and both women – we understand how each of us works. We have found a way to make family and work coexist while working on TrailCollectiv. We are always pushing through. We have only met in person twice, but continue to have great communication virtually.
What has your experience been entering the tech industry as a woman? Have you faced any challenges as a B2C company targeted at mothers?
I’m always surprised at the amount of funding and the bias behind investments. I’m happy to see there is growing popularity of support to rally behind women in the tech space. We have to be the change. This is a world I’m new to – and I’m always shocked about the difference between women and men in the industry. The questions female founders are asked in comparison to male founders. I have even noticed the classic biases in the types of questions asked by investors. Men are often asked questions about growth in their business – whereas women are often asked questions on a nurturing side about keeping a business safe. I have been in this situation myself. To see it firsthand is discouraging– but I always try to flip it and become more aware, so I can be ready to frame questions positively when they are asked.
Again, I just own the fact that we are a women-led company and use it to our advantage by knowing our customers!
Since the app launched (whoo hoo!!), how have things been going? Have you attracted many users?
The existing community that surrounds ‘Born to be Adventurous’ has driven most of our traffic to TrailCollectiv. We are seeing the most uptake for the app in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. It’s also gaining popularity in the United States with contributors and users within the states starting to use the app. Our focus is to continue to target Western Canada and expand into more of the United States with increased trails on the app.
Can you walk me through the process of how you are collecting information about the hikes you have available on the app?
Of course – it’s super easy! All you need to do is create a profile on the app. Adding in trails can be done on the app and if you leave your Instagram handle on the trail, then we can connect to make sure the information is correct. After the first one, you enter it becomes a lot easier. We often encourage our contributors to tag back to their social media if someone has a question about a trail. Jess and I then review the information and approve the trail to be added to the TrailCollectiv.
We have a lot of repeat contributors, and we are currently working on a system to offer rewards and incentives to our contributing hikers!
Between Jess and I alone, we have each submitted roughly 400 trails… My husband is also an ‘ultrarunner’ so we have leaned on him to add some of his favourite locations.
Do you have any advice or encouragement for anyone joining Cultivator’s START program?
To be honest, I felt totally out of place – I was a teacher– I asked myself “why would I get into technology”. I would come home after the sessions and look up all of the terminologies and invest a lot of extra time into personally learning alongside the program, but I can not express how beneficial the program was to launch my dream.
We have exciting news to reveal! TrailCollectiv will be joining Cultivator in GROW programming! How does this feel?
Amazing! Cultivator has helped me build my confidence in an area where I felt like an alien. I never thought tech was a community I could ever be a part of. There were so many moments I wanted to give up along the way– and Cultivator has always been there to support me.
Being a founder can be a lonely space– but I feel like I always have a sounding board of other Cultivator founders to go to when I need some extra advice.
When I joined START – I always had the goal to someday get into GROW. For me, I feel like I do best when I’m hyper-focused on TrailCollectiv and silence the outside noise of what others are doing so I can keep my customer in focus. Now that I can create a revenue stream from the app – I feel that I’m ready to take TrailCollectiv to the next level and I’m so excited about this. It’s the best timing for us!
We can not thank Annika enough for sharing her background with us! TrailCollectiv has proven to inspire and motivate families with an inclusive and positive outlook on getting active outdoors. We can’t wait to see her continue her climb to success.
Download TrailCollectiv today to discover trails with your family and experience the outdoors together — Connect on Instagram!