While Austin is one of the fastest growing cities for CPGs, BIPOC founders too often have faced challenges growing their businesses.
There are some startling stats: Seventy-seven percent of CPG founders are white, regardless of gender or education. That’s not because BIPOC founders aren’t creating exciting, innovative products. Often they don’t have the same access to capital and to decision makers in the industry.
We have to do better. We have to find a way to level the playing field. And as a leader in the CPG community, I want to be a part of that change.
That’s why I’m so proud to partner with Naturally Austin to launch M/O – an innovative initiative designed to create more equitable opportunities for BIPOC startup to create a more inclusive community. The M/O name is two-fold: It is focused on minority-owned CPGs. It also sends a powerful signal to the entire CPG industry that there is a new Modus Operandi to champion and grow these businesses going forward.
Education, Mentoring and Networking
The two-pronged M/O program includes the Naturally Austin’s M/O Fellowship and a special SKU M/O Track.
M/O kicked off in March 2021 with the 12-week Naturally Austin Fellowship program, which provides fellows with mentoring, networking and a financial empowerment course, which is open to all members. The financial empower course is led by Bianca Carey, who has been working with BIPOC-owned CPG companies for five year. She has experience providing strategic financial guidance and education to drive stability and growth for small businesses. The foundational curriculum tackles the most common pain points and potential pitfalls CPG startups face.
The first phase of the Fellowship officially runs through May 31st, and mentoring and monthly programming will continue through the end of the year.
This second phase of M/O is a customized SKU Track. Ten fellows will be selected for the 8-week SKU program, which will run June 3rd-July 23rd. The program will include the same top curriculum that SKU is known for, taught by CPG leaders on topics such as branding, product innovation and supply chain. Founders also will be assigned mentor teams to guide them through the program.
Participants in the SKU M/O Track will have access to critical seed capital, and will present at a special Demo event on Aug. 18th. We hope it can be held in person, but that will depend on COVID safety requirements. Unlike other SKU tracks, founders will not be asked to give up equity in their companies
Exceeding Expectations: Close to 80 fellows; 50 mentors
Response to M/O has far exceeded our expectations! More than 75 fellows have been matched with an amazing community of close to 50 high-level mentors who come from some of the nation’s top companies. These mentors are sharing their expertise on such crucial topics as digital marketing, branding, innovation and channel strategy.
M/O would not have been possible without our amazing partners, who provided both mentors and funding for the initiative. Our sponsors include: General Mills 301 Inc., ePac, Ironclad Consulting, The Stable, Bamboo Worldwide, Nine Supply Co. Deep Eddy Vodka, Fitjoy, Future/Proof, Gathered Foods, HumanCo,, Venture Best and Agave Fund. Special thanks to our lead sponsor, Amplify Snack Brands.
Through their involvement in M/O, these companies are showing a deep commitment to social change in CPG and deepening their connections with BIPOC founders. In addition to providing mentors, they also provide the funding for seed capital for the BIPOC-owned brands who go through the SKU M/O Track. These companies are passionate about being a part of a real and lasting change in our industry.
Partners make M/O a Reality
“Amplify is proud to support this new M/O track in partnership with SKU and Naturally Austin as one measurable way to make the Austin CPG community more equitable, inclusive and representative of our vibrant city,” said Hector De la Barreda, president of Amplify Snack Brands and New Ventures at The Hershey Company “As we continue to grow our business here in Austin, we look forward to sharing our resources and learning to further foster diversity in entrepreneurship in the city.”
This is M/O’s first year, but it is our hope that this will be an ongoing initiative that will have an impact on the CPG industry in Texas and beyond.
For more information about how to be a mentor or a sponsor for M/O, please email SKU COO Michelle Breyer at Michelle@sku.is. The SKU M/O Track applications for mentors will open mid-April. An info session will be held on Monday, April 19th.