In this series, New Hope Network covers the ins and outs of accelerators and incubators across the United States that provide mentorship, funds and resources to help grow natural businesses. Here, Michelle Breyer, COO for SKU, provides insight into the original SKU accelerator program, which has helped over 60 startups and counting, as well as the new SKU DFW program.
What: SKU, a 12-week accelerator in Austin, Texas, founded in 2011 with an alumni base of more than 50 companies; an eight-week program tailored toward later stage brands launched into the Dallas-Fort Worth market in 2020.
When: SKU in Austin runs from January through May; SKU DFW runs each fall.
Notable alumni: EPIC Provisions, Siete Foods, Good Seed Burger, The Seaweed Bath Co.
When are SKU accelerator applications open, and when is the application deadline?
Applications for SKU Austin and SKU DFW are currently closed. Track 9 will kick off in January 2021.
What types of companies does SKU assist?
SKU DFW is tailored toward later stage CPG startups with revenues of over $500,000.
SKU in Austin is focused on CPG startups with revenues of $100,000 to $1 million. It is product agnostic, and alumni include food and beverage apparel, health and beauty and other types of consumer products.
What’s your mission in doing this work?
SKU accelerates emerging CPG brands with a world-class program driven by a thriving community of serial entrepreneurs and industry experts. Through education, support and networking, SKU provides the resources that founders need to take their businesses to the next level.
SKU DFW is supported by DFW CPG, an organization co-founded by Richard Riccardi and Rick Jordan in 2019 to help connect and build food and beverage companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
What top attributes is SKU looking for in applicants?
SKU looks for companies with proven traction, an innovative product that’s scalable and motivated and coachable founders with a compelling story. We want founders who understand the “why” of their business.
What is one game-changing piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs?
Be honest with yourself about what you know and what you don’t know. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. That’s why mentorship is so invaluable. When CPG founders are coached by successful entrepreneurs their likelihood of success grows exponentially.
It’s been said so many times it’s become cliché. But remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure the fundamentals of your business are strong to support growth.
What is your favorite project to have come out of your accelerator?
Since SKU was founded in 2011, close to 60 companies have completed the program. Of those, 84% are still in business.
One of the biggest success stories—an example of the power of SKU’s model—is Siete Foods. Veronica Garza created am almond flour-based tortilla recipe in her home kitchen after she was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. With the help of her little brother, Miguel, they began bringing samples to the local natural food co-op, which gave them a shot. When Siete was selected to join SKU’s fourth cohort in 2015, the brand was called Must B Nutty. With the help of their SKU mentors, the Garzas rebranded their business as Siete Family Foods to enable them to scale beyond products made with almond flour.
Siete’s products are now sold in more than 13,000 stores throughout the U.S., including Whole Foods Market, Target, Walmart and Kroger. In 2019, Siete Family Foods received $90 million from Stripes Group LLC.