When Cotopaxi, an adventure gear and apparel company based in Salt Lake City, launched three years ago, founder and Chief Executive Officer Davis Smith decided to get creative. “We bought two llamas on Craigslist and brought them to a bunch of college campuses around Utah,” he says. “Hundreds of students took selfies, so we had 30,000 social media posts by the end of that first day.” Though the strategy sounds like something dreamed up on the fly, the idea for a socially minded, sustainable outdoor brand was something Smith had been working on for a decade.
The son of a civil engineer, the Utah native had spent most of his childhood living in some of the most impoverished countries in Central America and South America: Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru. “I remember being four years old and seeing kids younger than me on the side of the streets, completely naked, ” he says. “I felt that I had a responsibility to give back from an early age.”
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