Share this article

BigCommerce Women’s History Month Spotlight: Joanne Bienskie of Alpinistas

Alpinistas Customer Story

Get The Print Version

Tired of scrolling? Download a PDF version for easier offline reading and sharing with coworkers.

Speak with Joanne Bienskie for only a minute and you’ll quickly see her passion shine; her love for the outdoors, her entrepreneurial spirit, and her ambition to create more welcoming spaces for women

That passion led her to create Alpinistas, an outdoor retailer that’s determined to help more women connect with the natural world. 

Finding opportunity in the great outdoors

“In my early career I was working in New York, snowboarding recreationally when I could. As I got better, I got the West bug in me,” she said with a laugh. “I wanted to live in a mountain town, and when I got there, my snowboarding eventually turned into backcountry snowboarding. That led me to splitboarding, which led to mountaineering… all of these more technical outdoor sports that get you off of the resorts and out into the real wilderness.” 

Bienskie sought out bigger peaks to summit. A lot of her skills were self-taught, but many of the other skills necessary for higher-level climbing required more technical instruction. 

“In those experiences, I was usually one of the only women,” she said. “Sometimes, it was fine; I wouldn’t have issues. But there have also been times where I was essentially overlooked by the course leader. 

“On top of that, there’s this gap in the market in terms of women helping other women learn these skills. A lot of these classes and workshops are taught by tough, macho guys wearing all their technical gear. It’s really intimidating for someone to sign up for that,” she continued. “So I recognized pretty quickly that there was a need to provide approachable, entry-level courses for women wanting to get into the outdoors.” 

The world closed, but a door opened 

While the need for women-led and women-focused training became apparent, Bienskie also had an opportunity to become a women’s apparel buyer for a local outdoor store. But as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold, the brick-and-mortar store closed its doors. 

The store’s closure led to her ultimate decision to combine her passions — entrepreneurship and the outdoors — and create the business that she had always wanted: Alpinistas. 

“It was just this weird eureka moment where I was like, ‘Why don’t I just open my own store,’” she said. “I was able to spin up my website on BigCommerce, create this legitimate business with a purpose, and start placing orders to suppliers really quickly.” 

Alpinistas Website Screenshot

Alpinistas Adventures arrives

This initial move into clothing and apparel helped Bienskie bring her full vision to reality. While Alpinistas was getting off the ground, she was also running meetup groups to help local women get outdoors. 

During one of these meetups, she was introduced to someone who wanted to do more for women’s outdoor education, “which is exactly what I wanted to do,” Bienskie said. “I wanted to start a guide business to help provide this training and education. I knew there was this huge need, and she did, too.” 

The two began filing applications and filling out paperwork with various federal land agencies in their region to begin teaching these kinds of courses and leading expeditions through the wilderness. 

“That eventually became Alpinistas Adventures,” she explained. 

Alpinistas Adventures

With Alpinistas and Alpinistas Adventures, Bienskie created the representation she wanted to see in the women’s outdoor space: a thriving community of women who can find supplies, learn, and most importantly, enjoy the outdoors without the barriers to entry they might experience otherwise. 

The Alpinistas Scholarship and the future of the business

As Alpinistas has grown, so has Bienskie’s desire to give back and create more opportunity for women. 

“That’s why we started the ‘Together We Move’ Alpinistas Scholarship. We take one percent of our sales throughout the year and put it into this scholarship that we award to women nationwide who really just want to further their outdoor skills,” she explained. 

“We wanted this to appeal to the kind of person who wants to make the outdoors their life, but doesn’t quite know where to start. The scholarship is the jumping off point for that,” continued Bienskie. “This is our opportunity to help facilitate the bigger dream that they have.” 

Although her businesses take a large part of Bienskie’s time (“My new summit is higher ROAS, right?” she joked), she still finds ways to connect with the people she cares about and the wilderness she loves. 

“It’s not just about our own events,” she said. “We’re starting to do a lot of branded, free events in partnership with other local operators. We recently had an event with Nevada Nordic, a local cross country ski area, where we’ll have coaches teaching a classic nordic ski clinic for women. Our store offered a session on the importance of baselayers, in partnership with one of the brands we retail, Ibex.. I’m still tied to the outdoors, just in a different capacity.” 

With everything she’s achieved, Bienskie still has big dreams for Alpinistas. 

“Within the next few years, there will be an Alpinistas brick-and-mortar storefront,” she said passionately. “I want to create that kind of home base where we’re offering more than just shopping. Somewhere that’s a learning experience and a community space. Something unique with the Alpinistas spin on it.” 

Since its founding in 2021, Alpinistas has become a thriving enterprise that shows massive potential for growth. In 2023, Alpinistas was recognized with two separate awards: the BigCommerce Emerging Brand Customer award, and an Outdoor Retailer Inspiration award

“The BigCommerce award was incredibly impactful for me,” she said. “As a part of the prize, they put my brand along with the other award winners up on the NASDAQ screen in Times Square. For me, running around New York City in my earlier years and working there for so long, it kind of brought me back home. It was a really big deal for me to see that.”

The final word

At the end of our interview, I asked Bienskie for some advice she’d like to pass on to aspiring entrepreneurs, whether that’s advice she’s received, or something she wished she’d known at the beginning of her journey.

Without missing a beat, she said, “Be patient. Really, it takes time. It takes time to find the right thing, but it also takes time to turn your dream into a reality, so just stick with it and be patient.” 

She also urges aspiring entrepreneurs to act on their idea as soon as they can. 

“You can’t force something to happen,” she explained. “I didn’t have that eureka moment until I had it, right? But once you have your idea or your big thing, don’t delay. Start making it happen. If you sit there and analyze, you start getting analysis paralysis? You’re never going to get anywhere until you just get started.

And, just like any major expedition, be prepared for the unexpected. 

“Things are going to come up. It’s going to take you longer than you think to be successful. Factor in extra time, resources, and money when you create your plan. If you’re prepared for something, it won’t be as jarring when it comes up,” she said.

Reed Hartman avatar

Reed Hartman is a Content Marketing Manager at BigCommerce, where he uses his years of research, writing and marketing experience to help inform and educate business owners on all things ecommerce.