Austin-based SKU — the nation’s first accelerator focused on consumer packaged goods (CPG) — will expand into the Dallas-Fort Worth market this fall with a program tailored toward later-stage startups. Walter Robb, former Whole Foods co-CEO and an icon in the natural foods industry, will kick off SKU DFW, which features a best-in-class curriculum taught by top CPG leaders.
“SKU is an essential and exciting part of the powerhouse Austin entrepreneur ecosystem and offers support, encouragement and capital for the next generation of companies,” Robb said.
Five companies will be selected for the eight-week program, which kicks off Sept. 10 and concludes with the Nov. 11 Showcase pitch event. The program 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 Metroplex. SKU DFW currently is recruiting companies and mentors for the program, who can apply through the SKU website here.
“We are thrilled to support SKU’s entry into the DFW market, the addition of a nationally recognized CPG accelerator to the DFW CPG community and the utilization of the region’s strength to help build great companies,” said Riccardi, a veteran CPG executive and longtime mentor for SKU’s Austin program.
Jordan, a Dallas-based shareholder and co-chair of the Venture Capital and Emerging Growth Companies practice at Polsinelli, said SKU helps the DFW CPG organization’s mission of supporting emerging brands and helping them scale.
SKU DFW will combine in-person and virtual programming, surrounding founders with talented industry experts, investors and serial entrepreneurs. The more advanced curriculum meets the needs of CPGs with over $500K in annual revenue.
Throughout the program, founders will be guided by a team of mentors who are laser-focused on helping them grow their businesses. SKU’s mentor community is a who’s who in the CPG industry, including the founders and top executives of some of the most successful consumer product companies in Texas and beyond.
Expansion into Dallas-Fort Worth comes at a time when the CPG industry faces extraordinary challenges because of COVID-19, making a program like SKU DFW even more valuable.
“One of the common themes that has come up from entrepreneurs is the need for guidance weathering these uncertain conditions,” said SKU Executive Director Kirstin Ross. “SKU’s program provides emerging brands the mentorship, network and support they need to grow and thrive.”
SKU has a proven track record, with such successful alumni as Siete Foods, EPIC Provisions, and Austin Eastciders.
“Going through SKU allowed us to objectively look at our company and make the necessary changes to fuel the next phase of growth. It was an invaluable experience,” said Adam Grossman, co-founder of The Seaweed Bath Co., a SKU alumnus.
Robb, a longtime SKU advocate and an investor, mentor and advisor, has a long and varied career in the history in the natural food industry, ranging from retailer to farmer to consultant. Robb joined Whole Foods Market in 1991 and in 2010, was named co-CEO. In 2017, Robb transitioned his leadership focus to his role as Chairman of the Board for Whole Kids Foundation and Whole Cities Foundation. Robb also serves on the Board of Directors for Union Square Hospitality Group, The Container Store and FoodMaven.
Robb is a leading advocate of the importance of conscious capitalism. Under his leadership, Whole Foods continually donated at least five percent of all annual pre-tax profit to charity.
Over the past year, SKU has been in expansion mode. In fall 2019, it joined forces with CPG consulting firm BeyondBrands to launch BeyondSKU, an accelerator for natural CPG brands. In
August, it will kick off the ImpactSKU Preview program in Minneapolis with FINNOVATION Lab for purpose-driven startups.
SKU was founded in 2011 by lawyer Shari Wynne Ressler and serial entrepreneur Clayton Christopher, founder of Sweet Leaf Tea and Deep Eddy Vodka, with the mission of accelerating CPGs. It has been a catalyst in establishing Austin as a CPG powerhouse. Since it was founded, 60 companies have completed the SKU. A 2016 Forbes column called SKU one of the nation’s top three accelerators. Learn more at www.sku.is.
About DFW CPG
DFW CPG was founded in 2019 by Polsinelli’s Rick Jordan and food veteran Richard Riccardi to foster growth and connection within the region’s food and beverage industry, which includes early- to late-stage brands, billion-dollar food and beverage enterprises, food retailers and investors, and all who serve the industry. The community provides education and networking opportunities. Its website is www.dfwfoodbev.com.