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Creating a new funding opportunity for mission-driven brandsCreating a new funding opportunity for mission-driven brands

Eric Schnell, founder of the newly-formed MetaBrand Capital, talks about the mindset and strategies of startup investors. Schnell's investment fund aims to become a new financing opportunity for mission-oriented brands and even retailers. 

Carlotta Mast

February 11, 2014

3 Min Read
Creating a new funding opportunity for mission-driven brands

Securing funding is often the most vexing challenge facing natural products entrepreneurs, particularly the smaller brands that independent natural retailers rely on for product differentiation. Steaz co-founder Eric Schnell, who runs the consulting firm MetaBrand, wants to make accessing money easier and more helpful with his latest venture MetaBrand Capital, an investment vehicle created in partnership with 6Pacific Partners. Here Schnell explains why this new pledge fund is good for mission-driven brands and retailers alike.

Why create MetaBrand Capital?

Eric Schnell: Through my work with MetaBrand, I meet what I believe will be the next Honest Tea, Clif Bar or Nature’s Path. These are young entrepreneurs with phenomenal dreams and great missions behind them. Where they often need a lot of help is in raising money and finding funding throughout the life cycle of their companies.

What’s different about your MetaBrand Capital investments?

ES: This new fund has the mindset of an angel investor, which allows us to invest in very early stage companies—much earlier than most private equity companies would. Yet, because of our partnership with 6Pacific Partners, we also bring private equity-like discipline and financial expertise, which will help young companies successfully grow their businesses.

Our main investor is a privately wealthy individual who allows us to really do whatever we want. We could invest $100,000 in a brand or $10 million, depending on our appetite.

How do you decide where to invest?

ES: For us, it has to be a natural channel friendly brand. Within the channel, we look at any company—food, beverage, supplement and even personal care and fiber—that we believe we can add value to as an investor. We seek mission-driven brands that are first to market or have a unique technology and are run by a strong team of founders. With early stage companies, you are betting as much on the team as you are on the idea or product.

Our first deal is a brand coming off two years in business called We Juice Well. The company has a couple hundred thousand in revenue and looks to be profitable next year. We love the fact that the founders got through the first year and did a lot of the heavy lifting. Now we can roll up our sleeves and help them get to the next level.

Why should retailers care about what you’re doing?

ES: I am a natural foods entrepreneur at heart and grew up working in our industry as the co-founder of the Steaz brand. One of our industry’s own has the ability to bring financing and experienced natural channel management together with the goal of nurturing and supporting the entrepreneurs who will create the brands of tomorrow. We are really trying to change the world, and I know so many natural retailers are doing the same with their stores.

Would your group consider investing in a natural products retailer?

ES: Running retail stores is not our specialty at this point, but we are definitely open to co-investing with strong retail management teams that have an exciting and game-changing idea for a retail concept.

About the Author(s)

Carlotta Mast

Senior Vice President of Content and Market Leader, New Hope Network

Carlotta leads the New Hope Network Content Team, producing all content and conference programming for Natural Products Expos, NBJ Summit, Esca Bona, Nutrition Capital Network, Natural Foods Merchandiser, newhope.com, Nutrition Business Journal and the NEXT portfolio. In addition she is the chief author of the NEXT Natural Products Industry Forecast. With 20 years of experience, Carlotta has her finger on the pulse of new health, wellness and natural product trends and the forces shaping consumer attitudes and behaviors.

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