SKU celebrated the culmination of Track 9 with a virtual Showcase pitch event. Founders from the seven startups in the latest SKU cohort presented their brands to a national audience of CPG leaders and investors. If you missed it, we invite you to watch the Showcase.
Track 9 was truly an amazing track. Through every step of the program, we saw such amazing growth in each founder, and are excited to see what the future holds for them.
The Track 9 founders worked hard over the past 12 weeks, diving into the curriculum and meeting with their mentor teams to hone their strategy to accelerate the growth of their brands.
“Our participation in SKU was just what we needed, at just the right time,” says Kyle LaFond, founder of men’s grooming company, American Provenance. “The program was well constructed and extremely informative. Guest speakers and
presenters were all well-known industry leaders with a willingness to share their experiences to inform our business decisions.”
“In the past months the SKU team sparked my imagination of what Waka Coffee can grow into,” adds David Kovalevski, founder and CEO of Waka Coffee, an instant coffee brand. “They dived in with me to learn more about my company
while providing countless ideas on how to execute our vision. Saying that SKU was worth the effort and time is an understatement.”
SKU has produced more than 75 alumni including a variety of innovative and successful brands, including Siete Foods, Seaweed Bath Co., Austin Eastciders and EPIC Provisions. After participating in SKU’s eighth cohort in 2020, sparkling
water brand, Aura Bora, has seen tremendous growth and is now in 1,500 stores expecting to do $4M in sales in 2021.
Pre-COVID, SKU’s Pitch Showcase event was a packed event drawing hundreds of investors, CPG executives and entrepreneurs to Austin to hear the founders’ pitches. But the virtual event enables the founders to present to a much-larger audience in a way that’s as impactful – if not more so – than a live event. While attendees won’t be able to sample the products, they’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the founders and their mentors to provide a virtual taste of the brands.
The seven companies in SKU Austin’s 9th cohort are:
Co-founders Kayla Castaneda and Erin PonTell met while working at a
cold-pressed juice company that made juice out of surplus and ugly produce.
Fueled by a passion to create something culturally authentic and healthy, they
developed Agua Bonita, a healthy version of the traditional Agua Fresca Mexican
Drink. Agua Bonita is available in two flavors: Cucumber Coconut and
Founder Kyle LeFond, a former middle-school science teacher, created the
natural personal-care brand in 2015 after he realized the chemicals in his
students’ body sprays and perfumes were giving him headaches. A class project
revealed that most products were created by synthetic ingredients. He wanted to
develop high-quality, all-natural products that are safe and effective. The
products, which include deodorants, body wash and hand sanitizer, are sold in all
50 states at stores ranging
BeeFree evolved from Jennifer Wiese’s desire to bake tasty gluten- and dairy-free treats for her autistic son. But navigating the world without gluten and
dairy is no easy task. So, with the help of her mother (a.k.a Queen Bee) they set out to create gluten-free and dairy-free versions of their favorite recipes. Available in Clay’s Chocolate Buzz, Augie’s Original, Hagen’s Berry Bomb and Mae’s apple pie, BeeFree granola is available in grocery stores, specialty health stores and CrossFit gyms nationwide, as well as online. The company’s corporate mission is to support the autism community by providing jobs to teens and young adults on the spectrum.
Lisa Stoy grew up valuing high-quality, great tasting and authentic food. When she was diagnosed with a health condition and food allergies, she had to decide to adopt a plant-based lifestyle. Green Girl Bakeshop sprouted from the simple idea of creating allergy-friendly desserts that taste great and use whole, nutrient dense ingredients. Green Girl’s signature products are her ice cream sandwiches, available in such flavors as Golden Turmeric with ginger cookies, Fresh Mint-Chip with dark chocolate cookie and Vanilla Bean with chocolate-chip cookie.
Macro Snacks was driven by founder Justin Wiesehan’s love of chips, coupled with his desire to eat a more balanced diet. He wanted to create a healthy high-protein alternative – a functional snack. Macro Snacks are available in seven flavors including Pizza Pie, Churro Loco and Spicy Chile Lime.
Austin Sisters Kiku Chaudhuri and Shaz Rajashekar spent childhood summers in India watching their grandmother as she mixed natural ingredients from her kitchen and garden to create beauty concoctions rooted in old Indian Ayurvedic practices. Using what they learned, they decided to create their own product line last summer, starting with their Back to Your Roots Pre-Wash. They quickly have become a darling of beauty editors, featured in such publications as People, The Cut and WWD, where they were named one of the Up-and-Coming Beauty Brands of ‘20. Currently sold direct to consumer, they are launching in Urban Outfitters as well as other specialty beauty retailers.
Growing up in Israel, founder Kovalevski was used to quality instant coffee, but when he moved to the United States, he was disappointed to find a lack of premium options. The category was known for such stale brands as Nescafe and Taster’s Choice. He decided to change that by creating an instant coffee that rivaled fresh brewed. To make Waka, he uses a freeze-drying method that preserves the coffee’s aroma. Waka is available online in single-serving packs in a range of caffeinated and decaf options.