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2021 Business Challenge $10,000 Grand Prize Winner

Benjamin Leibham

Founder/Designer, Alto Gear

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"The competition was a great catalyst to get me to develop my business further."

Alto Gear is a brand that makes rugged and eco-friendly outdoor gear for ice climbing, rock climbing, lifestyle, and more. Everything is made in Colorado using recycled and up-cycled materials.

About Alto Gear

Alto Gear started in 2020 with the mission to create climbing and outdoor products with a big purpose and little footprint. Benjamin was living in Boulder, Colorado, and working as a freelance industrial designer. “I saw an opportunity in the ice climbing market,” he said, “specifically how there were extremely few options for ice climbers to store their ice screws.” From the original idea, Benjamin then teamed with a world-renowned ice climbing photographer in Canada to develop, test, and market the Ice Screw Wrap, the first Alto Gear product. 


“My passion for the outdoors and the mountains drives my ambitions with Alto Gear,” said Benjamin. As a designer, avid climber, hiker, and skier, Benjamin enjoys creating functional outdoor products that are easy on the environment. Every Alto Gear product is made from recycled and repurposed materials here in the United States. Most of the product line is made from repurposed billboard vinyl, which saves old roadside billboards from entering landfills and gives them new life as outdoor products. Alto Gear currently focuses on rock and ice climbing accessories but is planning to expand into more products soon. 

In the more immediate future, Alto Gear will continue to focus on my ice and rock climbing products. “I am excited about having moved the business to Sheboygan,” said Benjamin. “Sheboygan may not be a rock or ice climbing destination, but I think it will be cool to expose the area to something a bit different.” Longer-term, Alto Gear looks to expand into everyday lifestyle products and open up a storefront/design studio in Sheboygan. 

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How did the Accelerate Business Challenge help?

“I had a fantastic experience with AccelSC,” said Benjamin. “The competition was a great catalyst to get me to develop my business further.” The Accel Pitch Competition required Benjamin to solidify his business plan, craft his pitch, and design a brand story presentation, all of which he has used several times since. The competition also helped him to focus on the goals and future of Alto Gear. “It was very cool to do it in a competitive pitch environment and see what other local entrepreneurs are up to,” he said, “and I received very helpful feedback from the panel to help with some of the challenges my business has been facing.”


As the Grand Prize recipient, Benjamin used the prize money in several ways, all of which helped Alto Gear tremendously. “First, I used part of the prize money to exhibit at North America’s largest ice climbing festival in Ouray, Colorado,” said Benjamin. “I also was able to upgrade my in-house sewing capabilities and fund my first large production run of Ice Screw Wraps.”


Benjamin’s advice for future AccelSC applicants is to be confident. “It is easy to compare yourself and your business to others,” he said, “but focus on what you are doing and your strengths and just be confident. Showing confidence in yourself and your business makes it much easier for others to get behind you too.”

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