As part of our ongoing Female Forces series to celebrate Women’s History Month (March), we’re highlighting some of the leading women in private equity.
Private equity has historically been a male-dominated field with women holding just 10 percent of senior positions. However, over the last few years, there has been a major push by investors for more diversity across the board.
To this end, the American Investment Council and the National Association of Investment Companies have developed Private Equity Women’s Initiative, which aims to employ and promote more women in private equity firms. We’ve rounded up six female leaders in private equity across CPG. These outstanding businesswomen are paving the way for other women in the field and changing the face of the CPG industry one venture at a time.
1. Kara Roell, VMG Partners
Since co-founding VMG Partners in 2005, Kara Roell has backed some of the biggest companies in the CPG industry. Her belief in brands like KIND, Justin’s, Mighty Leaf, and Bare Snacks helped change the CPG landscape and set the stage for the development of other affordable, healthier choices.
Roell is also a champion for women in private equity and entrepreneurship, believing that the industries would benefit greatly from more women in leadership positions. She places a lot of emphasis on mentorship and has a very hands-on approach with the companies she helps fund — a strategy that resulted in a recently-closed fourth fund with $550 million with another $150 million available in a flex-up vehicle.
2. Jordan Gaspar, AccelFoods
Jordan Gaspar is a self-described health nut. The former corporate lawyer dutifully reads supermarket nutrition labels before adding anything to her cart, a habit that inspired her to co-found her own private equity firm that would back more snack foods like those she actually wanted to eat.
AccelFoods now manages three separate funds that total $90 million. As the Chief Transaction Officer, Gaspar personally tastes every product AccelFoods backs with the goal of bringing more clean products, like Harmless Harvest, to grocery store shelves with prices that work for most consumers.
3. Karen Kenworthy, Stripes Group
One of the top names on the Nation’s Resturant News “Power List,” Karen Kenworthy has been singled out as one of the primary forces setting food trends in 2019. Kenworthy focuses on Stripes Group’s consumer and consumer Internet investments and has been involved with companies like Siete Family Foods, Califia Farms, Blue Apron, and Grubhub. With a passion for healthy living (she biked across the country just before joining Stripes), Kenworthy is committed to funding companies that are doing something new and creative in their industries.
4. Kirsten Green, Forerunner Ventures
Named one of the Top 20 Venture Capitalists by The New York Times in 2018, Kristen Green, a founding partner and Managing Director of Forerunner Ventures, has found unprecedented success in the industry. To date, Green has invested in more than $650 million into 80 companies (including major names like Glossier, Outdoor Voices, and Dollar Shave Club) and sits on the board of directors for a half-dozen others.
Green is also a founding member of the female mentorship collective, All Rise, and is dedicated to bringing quality brands (especially those founded by women) who re-write the rules of culture to life.
5. Lauren Rinkey, Alliance Consumer Growth
One of private equity’s newer faces, Lauren Rinkey joined Alliance Consumer Growth (which has partnered with brands like Krave Jerkey and Bark Thins) as Vice President in 2018. But don’t let her newness fool you — Rinkey has long been a leader in entrepreneurship and relationship building. Her years as an executive at Nike, Absolut Spirits, and Pernod Ricard, as well as those spent consulting, have given her a unique insight into the consumer landscape.
Rinkey has also spent the past several years working as an adjunct professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business, where she teaches the course “Taking The Leap: The Entrepreneurial Mindset.”
6. Carole Buyers, Boulder Investment Group Reprise
Twenty years ago, Carole Buyers began her career in the natural food industry as an analyst. Today, she is the co-founder and managing partner of Boulder Investment Group Reprise, which has backed companies like Hope Foods, REBBL, and High Brew Coffee. Formerly, Buyers was a Senior Vice President at Boulder Brands, where her acquisitions accounted for 75 percent of the companies sales. The depth of her experience and knowledge allowed BIGR to close on their first fund of $55 million in 2016.