Inspiring Diversity Grant Impact: Insights from 2 A&O Recipients

2022 will be the fourth year of Prosper Portland’s $10,000 Inspiring Diversity Grant. The grant offers funding for Portland-based companies to inspire creative, equity-related best practices around workforce, community partnerships, marketing and communications.

Portland A&O companies such as Castelli/Sportful, HiFi Sound Cycling Components, and KEEN have been past recipients. With the upcoming deadline of the 2022 Inspiring Grant Diversity, we wanted to take a moment to highlight previous year recipients in the hopes to inspire the next year of applications.

2021 Grant Recipient – Castelli/Sportful USA

Company: Castelli/Sportful USA
Company Contact: David Fee, General Manager
Grant Program: De La Salle North Catholic High School (DLSN) Corporate Work Study Program

We believe that, by bringing DLSN students into our team, we will give the students — and through the students, their friends and family — the opportunity to experience the cycling industry.

What inspired your grant application and collaboration with DLSN?

Castell/Sportful USA has a Diversity, Inclusion & Community Committee. When we learned about the Corporate Work Study Program at De La Salle North Catholic High School, we agreed that it accomplished every goal our committee set. The IDG program made it possible for Castell/Sportful USA to hire three students from De La Salle for the 2021-22 school year.  The students work in our office four days a week. In return, our contribution to the school, along with the IDG funds, help pay for the students’ education. It’s a win-win-win.

photo: DSLN student, Emmanuel Baltier-Moreno (center),
with our employees Juan Ochoa (left) and Todd Gonzales (right).

What were some of the outcomes of the partnership and grant?

The grant has given our 25 Portland-based employees the opportunity to work closely with three great high school students—and we helped fund their education in the process. And our students—Latia, Emanuel and JahAllah—have received real-world work experience.

The IGD program made it possible for us to increase the diversity within our team and have a greater impact on our community. Without the funds and support of the program, we could not have achieved the goals that our Diversity, Inclusion & Community Committee set for this year.

What has been employees’ experience with the partnership?

In our 2022 employee survey, we saw significant improvements on how our employees rate our company on Diversity and Community Involvement. Without the support of the IDG program, I do not believe we could have made this level of improvement.

2021 Grant Recipient – HiFi

Company: HiFi Sound Cycling Components (HiFi)
Company Contact: Joshua Liberles, co-owner
Grant Program: BIKEPOC PNW Partnership

Reducing barriers and increasing access to cycling and cyclocross racing for BIPOC Portlanders.

What inspired the partnership with BIKEPOC?

There was an existing relationship between HiFi and several of the people involved in BIKEPOC PNW. Silas & Sukho are two of the leaders of the BIKEPOC program, and they are also part of the HiFi Cyclocross team. Supporting the growth of cycling among underrepresented populations is a central value for HiFi, and that’s BIKEPOC’s primary function. We want to contribute to a diverse, inclusive sport. That makes the sport, the industry, and our local community stronger.  

What about BIKEPOC seemed like a good fit for HiFi’s current goals?

The fit was obvious for us. Representation of people of color has historically been lacking in cycling, and it’s something that HiFi cares about. We’ve seen our loved ones not represented and discriminated against, looking for a space to fit in.

This includes two of our founders–one of whom is a refuge from Laos, and another who is trans. Josh Liberles, Rob Douangpanya, and Jake VanderZanden – the three primary owners of HiFi – immediately recognized the opportunity, and Erin, who runs the HiFi Cyclocross team and has a background in equity work, helped us to write the grant proposal.

We’ve always worked hard to make our HiFi-sponsored race team representative of the larger Portland community, and this grant felt like a way to dramatically accelerate that work, and to give folks their own space.

What were some of the outcomes of the partnership and grant?

Many of us have been involved in cycling for a long time, and this was among the most meaningful experiences we’ve had in the sport. The folks who were new to racing thrived in ways that they often didn’t expect, and the community that BIKEPOC created in their clinics and at their events was vibrant, supportive of one another, and very special for us to play a role in. Their team tent was full of cheering friends & family, BBQs, music, dance parties, and exuberance.

Our support of this group was very much reciprocated by the larger BIKEPOC community–beyond just the cyclocross racers. Many of their members subsequently purchased HiFi wheels. The exposure HiFi has received from the affiliation with BIKEPOC has certainly expanded our reach, bolstered the brand name, and established a buzz among the existing, established cycling community both regionally and nationally.

What has been employees’ experience with the partnership?

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity, and I’ve learned a lot about how to be a better ally–and a better person–along the way. This experience has also been a terrific example of a meaningful initiative that can both affect change and positively impact our business.

These are the types of relationships that HiFi wants to pursue and invest energy into moving forwards. We’re beyond  appreciative of the opportunity that the Prosper Portland grant gave us to make this impact. 

But here are some insights from other HiFi employees:

In the first few minutes of our first cyclocross clinic, I knew the partnership between BIKEPOC and HiFi was going to be special. The folks who showed up were eager to learn, happy to see each other, and ready to create a community of fun-loving bike racers.” – Erin

“Being semi on the sidelines, it was amazing to watch as things started happening. Watching donated bikes come in, plans being made for skills camps. As we (at the HiFi shop) started building wheels and getting them set up with their own custom BIKEPOC decals, I remember being transported back to my first ever ߴcross season, and my first long gravel rides. I was reminded of the sense of community, being a recent Portland transplant, from a group of strangers that soon grew to be family. I remembered my early bike life and I was excited to be part of a project that would be bringing that feeling to a new group of people.” – Neil

“It’s amazing to see how BIKEPOC has brought people of all shapes, sizes, sexual orientations, and ethnic backgrounds together to enjoy the outdoors.”
– Robbie

What has been the experience of the riders? 

Based upon how many riders came out and participated in the clinics, tried racing, and participated in multiple races, the program was an incredible success. We had folks come to the clinics initially to hang out with their more racing-focused friends and–surprising to themselves, most of all–they’re now buying their own cyclocross bikes, going on long rides, and already planning out next year’s race calendar. Over and over, we hear how important it was for them to have their own space, where they were comfortable being themselves, and supporting one another. 

What is HiFi’s biggest takeaway from the partnership?

Representation matters. The BIKEPOC PNW team tent, set up at cyclocross events, was a powerful example of this; other racers of color who’d been competing for many years, would stop by and voice their surprise and support for seeing folks who looked like them. This program developed into Oregon’s first ever bike racing team of color. In marketing, this matters too. Representation–on the trail and in advertising–means that folks will be more comfortable pursuing outdoor activities, and trying new events. 

Thanks to David and Joshua for providing additional insights into the impact the Inspiring Diversity Grant had on their company in the past year.

Please consider applying for the 2022 Inspiring Diversity Grant. Applications are due May 2, 2022

Apply now

The grant was designed to encourage private employers to incorporate creative, equity-related best practices around workforce, marketing and communications. To review previous award recipients and their projects, please click here.


Prosper Portland creates economic growth and opportunity for Portland. Our vision is to make Portland one of the most globally competitive, healthy, and equitable cities in the world by investing in job creation, encouraging broad economic prosperity, and fostering great places throughout the city. We aspire to be a workplace of choice with passionate staff excelling in an open and empowering environment and sharing a commitment to our collective success.


Portland A&O powered by Prosper Portland aims to support the success of Oregon’s 800+ Athletic and Outdoor firms through community, peer-to-peer learning, events, and programming.