Since it was founded, Startup CPG has grown into one of the most robust communities in the industry, creating an ecosystem that supports emerging brands in a wide variety of ways. Focused on brands with five employees or fewer, Startup CPG shares SKU’s mission to elevate the next generation of household names. It’s growth accelerated during COVID, providing a place for brands to shine at a time when in-person events disappeared.
At the helm of Startup CPG is Daniel Scharff, a CPG veteran who also is CEO of Machu Picchu Energy, a mission-driven organic energy beverage brand. He shared how he built Startup CPG into the powerhouse it is today.
SKU: How and why did you create Startup CPG?
Daniel: Startup CPG began as a way to build community with San Francisco-based brands working towards a better food system. At the time, opportunities existed for larger CPG brands, but there were no communities really focused on the smallest, 1- to 5-person brands. The first few events provided a chance for founders of emerging brands to demo products and network.
SKU: Tell us how you pivoted when COVID hit.
Daniel: When COVID disrupted our meetup plans, we shifted to create a virtual community. We developed the Startup CPG Slack channel, a series of Zoom events, and sourced incredible opportunities for brands affected by delays in resets. Word quickly spread, our team and offerings have grown (our Shelfies award program, our digital magazine, The Spotlight), and our slack channel is now the industry go-to for all emerging CPG brands with over six thousand members.
SKU: Can yo share how you’ve leveraged insights from working at large consumer-product companies to help founders of small startups?
Daniel: From working at big companies (in management consulting and at Mars Chocolate), I know the advantages they have over small brands fighting for opportunity. That’s a major reason I created Startup CPG – to make it a bit easier for all the people without big networks and resources who can’t pick up the phone and call their ops or finance team.
Brands face enough challenges as-is on top of fees for distributors, brokers, slotting, and potentially before they are even paying themselves. The experts in our community do an amazing job of answering almost any question posted by a founder on the slack – immediately and directly (you need a warehouse in Indianapolis? Here are 3).
SKU: What is your vision for the future?
Daniel: We’ll always look for the ways we think we can provide the most value. In 2022 and beyond, look for more community events around the country, and bigger programs to help brands with what matters most – opportunities for distribution, media coverage, investment, resources, and community. We’re also scaling our content arm – the Startup CPG Podcast, The Spotlight magazine, the NielsenIQ data drops in our Slack channel, and so much more. We’re looking for as many ways as possible to feature and help brands.