A life-long Vermont resident, Jack Clarner ’24 grew up outdoors. When the sun was out, you could find Clarner surfing, sailing, mountain biking — you name it.
Clarner was fortunate to own his own outdoor gear but understood the many barriers to owning it. Outdoor equipment is expensive, difficult to store and tough to transport.
But what if there was an online marketplace for renting outdoor equipment? Think of an Airbnb for kayaks, paddle boards and other gear. Enter Equipme, Clarner’s up-and-coming business that unites outdoor equipment owners and renters.
“I wanted to make these types of sports that I fell in love with more accessible to everyone,” Clarner told The Campus. “Being out in nature and harnessing that energy is such a fun way to spend time — I wish everyone could have these same experiences that I’ve had, and that’s ultimately my goal with Equipme.”
There are other companies who have tried to do something similar. The Saratoga Springs, New York, Shurable has a similar concept, but their platform has very few listings. Other competitors include FriendWithA and SpinLister. Instead of seeing competitors as a barrier, Clarner said he sees their presence as a chance to learn.
Last summer, Clarner began to think of ways in which he could make these sports he loved more widely accessible. He was confident in the rise in online marketplaces and was energized by the prospect of starting his own business.
“Being an avid outdoor adventurer and lover of all sports, a platform like Equipme is exactly what I’ve been missing from my childhood up until now,” Clarner said. “A place where I can make money on all the equipment I don’t use enough and simultaneously go rent a paddleboard on some remote lake up in Vermont is a dream come true. I think my selfish desire to use this platform is why I’m the guy for the job.”
This past J-term, Clarner put his idea to the test, enrolling in MiddEntreprenurs, an entrepreneurship course taught by Sam Roach-Gerber and David Bradbury of the Vermont Center of Emerging Technologies (VCET). Throughout the four-week class, Clarner developed a business model, identified his early adopters and contemplated next steps.
Roach-Gerber and Bradbury quickly became mentors for Clarner, as did Terry Kellog, a venture capitalist and father to Carl Kellog ’24. Clarner also found other support from the Middlebury community, developing relationships with Heather Lovejoy ’08 and Ben Yamron ’21 of the Innovation Hub. Currently, the Hub is helping Clarner start fundraise through MiddSTART.
Clarner also recently won the Innovation Hub’s prestigious MiddChallenge grant, which offers $4,000 to students interested in business, technology, social impact and sustainability, and the arts. Clarner is now able to use this money to grow Equipme.
“There are so many resources [at Middlebury] and it’s been huge in allowing me to get early stage funding,” Clarner said. “$4,000 makes a massive difference, especially in these early stages.”
Clarner has also solicited help from his varsity hockey teammates at Middlebury. The hockey team has a robust core of student entrepreneurs, including Adam Wisco ’22.5, who runs Bigg-A-Bed; EMack Bentley ’22.5 and Bret Pastor ’22.5, who run Midd Wash & Carry; and Tyler Little ’23, who runs Middlebury Campus Storage.
Backed with support from many directions, Clarner has recently worked on finalizing his website. He’s also filing an LLC and recently hired a social media manager, Aidan Shepardson ’24.
Clarner will be in Burlington this summer, working at VCET and alongside the inaugural Vermont Innovation Summer cohort. This group includes students working across Burlington’s innovation ecosystem, both as interns at start-ups and partner organizations and on their own self-designed projects.
The summer months will offer Clarner a golden opportunity to establish Equipme. He plans to hone in on marketing, going door-to-door to ask people with outdoor equipment if they’d be interested in joining the platform. Equipme will be initially targeted at recreational kayaking and paddleboarding on the lakes of the Greater Burlington Area.
Clarner also hopes to execute other marketing events, like running focus groups and making flyers. The MiddChallenge grant money, along with the money he raises through his MiddSTART campaign, will help him cover these costs and should also help him cover legal costs and living expenses. Down the line, Clarner is also interested in expanding Equipme to other college campuses.
If you ask Clarner what the most rewarding part of starting his own company has been, he’ll tell you that it’s been the people who have wanted to help him succeed. This leads into Clarner’s message for student entrepreneurs: You can never talk with too many people.
“Try to soak in as much advice as possible,” Clarner said. “At Middlebury, there are so many amazing people who want to help, but they can’t lend a hand or give advice if you don’t reach out. Professors, friends, whoever it may be, start having conversations regardless of how new or uncertain your idea is.”
Clarner also encourages other student entrepreneurs to pick something they love. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, the work will sour. It’s clear that Clarner is passionate about outdoor equipment, mentioning that if he can continue working on Equipme after college, he would. “It wouldn’t get any better than that,” he said.
Blaise Siefer ‘23.5 is a sports staff writer.
Siefer is majoring in Sociology and minoring in Spanish.
For three semesters in 2021 and 2022, Siefer served as Senior Sports Editor. He also co-founded a Middlebury sports recap podcast, PFL Weekly, which is released on all major streaming platforms every Tuesday.
Siefer is also the Co-Founder and Co-President of Middlebury Club Soccer.