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Outdoor Trips Around Iowa Allow Women to Build Relationships + Community with Other Wanderers

Wander Women Iowa

It was evident to Jenn Riggs, co-owner of Wander Women Iowa, that all-inclusive, restorative outdoor experiences for women were needed in Iowa. More than 20 showed up to the first Wander Women Iowa meetup, and Riggs was convinced that moving forward was the right decision. After meeting co-owner Kerri Sorrell on a hike in the fall of 2018, the two made it their mission to connect and bring even more people together in the outdoors to address the inequity surrounding access to the outdoors for women.     Wander Women Iowa Camping

There is strength in numbers so Wander Women concentrates on helping women gain outdoor skills (learning how to set up a tent, start a fire, etc.) in a group setting so they can feel confident for more outdoor adventures in the future. While hikes and camping trips are big summer activities, cabin trips at Whiterock Conservancy and their Winter Pike Series take place during the colder months.   

Research has shown that when women and men are young, they spend the same amount of time outside, but as they age, women spend less time outside than men. This is due to a lot of things, women taking on new roles, lack of educational resources and opportunities for women, lack of safety for women in outdoor spaces and lack of community to get outside with. All those factors are heightened in the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. A lot of times, the traditional outdoor industry is wrapped up in ”hardcoreism” — doing the hardest hikes or conquering something — and the smaller, gentler achievements aren’t seen as valid. A lot of women get intimidated by that, but when Wander Women plans a six-mile hike, the time passes quickly, and participants don’t even realize they’ve made it the six miles (or sometimes further than that!).    

Riggs and Sorrell have seen alumni of Wander Women begin to take on a leadership responsibility within the organization, helping others and giving advice, while also bringing new people in to experience the business. This has led to a new focus on creating adventures for more advanced adventurers as well as following them on their outdoor journey as they grow. Many participants have gone on to become guides. As the co-owners look into the future, potentially a franchise model or expanding into more areas around the state, Wander Women Iowa has the potential to develop in all kinds of ways. Currently, local partnerships with other small businesses like Bread by Chelsa, Pie Bird Pies, Red Dragon Herbs & Tea and Pammel Park Coffee Co. are a priority, each of whom Wander Women partners with to provide food and drink for outdoor trips.   Wander Women Hike

Greater Des Moines (DSM) is special in that you can cold call or email someone and request a meeting and that person is very receptive to meeting. Riggs and Sorrell say it’s imperative that you believe you are a person who can do that. This mindset shift and having the confidence to reach out is essential. Everyone here is invested in the community and so many want to help 

The entrepreneurial community can feel very male-dominated with tech and venture capitalists, but there is another type of community that is not always represented. There are many female-led small businesses that have launched in the last five years. Wander Women hopes to help build that community through friendship and vulnerability — something that hasn’t always been seen in the local entrepreneurship community. They believe this is how more women will choose to start businesses. Wander Women has and will continue to lean into this to build and create into the future. 

About Wander Women Iowa

Wander Women Iowa empowers, guides and connects women through camping and hiking trips throughout the Midwest. 

Owners: Jenn Riggs and Kerri Sorrell

Industry: Outdoor Recreation | DSM County Location: Polk County


hello@wanderwomeniowa.com | wanderwomeniowa.com

Advice for Other Local Entrepreneurs

“It takes a village. Utilize the resources around you. There are people that want to help you — take the help.” 

“If a company or organization doesn’t appreciate you for who you are, you don’t have to change yourself to fit in.” 

Entrepreneur Podcast + Book Recommendations


Ologies, Completely Arbortrary, Outside Voices, She Explores, The Trail Ahead


"Braiding Sweetgrass," "The Firekeeper's Daughter," "Hudson Bay Bound"

Find a complete list of Wander Women Iowa book recommendations at Storyhouse Bookpub.

Preview the Wander Women Iowa Experience



The Greater Des Moines Partnership celebrates the Greater Des Moines (DSM) entrepreneur community and helps small businesses succeed with one-of-a-kind resources and opportunities for networking. Find out how other entrepreneurs have found success by reading their stories and attending local small business events in the region.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 400 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.