SKU, the trailblazing consumer product accelerator, has launched its first pet care track and a cohort centered on women and BIPOC-founded brands. The four brands selected for each cohort showcase creativity, passion, and true innovation — from functional foods to remedies to ease painful periods to hip-hop-inspired pet treats.
The pet care cohort includes D.R.E.A.M. Pet Food, 5 Element Food Therapy, Innovative Pet Lab, and Pupsentials. The women and BIPOC tracks include Blossom Essentials, Neeshi, Phreshly, and The Humble Seed.
The 12-week cohort kicks off on August 24, 2023. The founders and mentors will celebrate the culmination of the tracks with a Showcase Pitch event in Austin on November 14, 2023.
“I am most looking forward to networking with some of the best and brightest in the CPG space and forging meaningful connections and collaborations,” said Sarah Meis, co-founder of The Humble Seed. “My dream for The Humble Seed is to disrupt the snack category so your whole family can snack happy and healthy.”
SKU works by equipping startups with the tools they need to succeed. Startup companies receive the resources and relationships that they require to become breakout successes and household names. During the 12-week program, SKU surrounds founders with a customized curriculum focused on the entire CPG ecosystem, advanced operations support, and access to funding.
While the curriculum is best in class, the true stars of the show are the mentors — a dream team of industry leaders, successful founders, and investment luminaries. Each brand is surrounded by a hand-picked team of mentors who guide them through the 12-week program, all focused on helping these startups successfully scale.
“While working with SKU seasoned mentors, industry experts, and networking with like-minded entrepreneurs, we hope to supercharge growth, gain essential skills, and position Innovative Pet Lab for long-term success,” said Jaime Smith, Chief Executive at Innovative Pet Lab.
Both cohorts will be hybrid programs with both online and in-person programming — a model SKU first adopted during the onset of the pandemic that also gives founders across the nation access to SKU without geographic barriers.
SKU’s mentors are what truly sets the accelerator apart. Brands are surrounded by a customized mentor team hand-picked to meet their needs. SKU’s mentor community is a ‘who’s who’ in the CPG industry and includes successful entrepreneurs, investors, and top executives from some of the most successful consumer product companies including Coca-Cola, 7-Eleven, and Target. They all are united in their desire to help founders successfully scale these companies.
SKU’s track record speaks volumes and includes such brands as Siete Foods, EPIC Provisions, and DUDE Wipes. Of its impressive alumni lineup, more than 80 percent are thriving to this day.
Get to know the pet care brands
D.R.E.A.M. Pet Food
D.R.E.A.M. (Dogs Rule Everything Around Me) was founded by Jaime Cooper and Paul Paige, who grew up loving hip-hop music. They noticed there were no brands that represented the people and culture they grew up loving. Leveraging their knowledge and experiences from the pet food industry, they worked to curate a pet treat line consisting of the finest ingredients. The name was inspired by an iconic hip-hop song.
5 Element Food Therapy
5 Element Food Therapy, founded by Sharon Tuggle, offers fresh whole food supplements to add protein, fat, and mineral-rich organic vegetables to a pet’s diet. 5 Element got its start when Tuggle’s dog Hoochie had a seizure one day while we were at the dog park and a week later she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was given no more than two months to live. She contacted her vet who suggested she had food therapy — a combination of protein, vegetables, and herbs. Hoochie lived for nine months.
Innovative Pet Lab
Founded by Robert David, Betsy Redmond, and Jamie Smith — scientists with decades of experience in diagnostic testing — Innovative Pet Lab is transforming pet care with advanced home testing. Identify current and underlying health issues and evaluate whether diet and lifestyle are working with a simple at-home stool collection. Easy-to-understand digital reports and targeted recommendations provide a path to improve overall pet health.
Pupsentials creates hyper-detailed custom pet embroidery apparel. Started by Kyndall and Jake Chambers, Pupsentials wants to redefine what it means to be pet obsessed with a wide range of items — from hats to fanny packs. Pupsentials has been featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things list, Goop, and Yahoo.
Get to know the women and BIPOC-founded brands
Founded by Sarah Vilenskiy, Blossom Essentials creates clean, transformative, and effective face and body products for your customers with ultra-sensitive, dry, and inflamed skin. The products are cruelty-free and are gentle enough for the most sensitive skin. Blossom sells products for the face, body, hair, and scalp.
Founded by Gita Vellanki, Neeshi makes functional foods based on the principles of Ayurveda and natural food healing to ease heavy and painful periods and PMS. The products offer a balance of micro and macronutrients to keep your body nourished for happier periods. Product offerings include Chocolate Mini Cakes, Brownie Batter, Low Sugar Spread, Banana Bread Muffins, and Dark Chocolate Banana Pumpkin Seed Muffins.
Founded in 2020 by Paul Owusu and Ama Marfo during the pandemic, Phreshly is a premium canned cocktail based in Atlanta using locally sourced ingredients and premium spirits. Phreshly leverages West African flavors, Southern cuisine, and culture for premium taste and experience. Flavors include Bay Lemonade (bourbon, strawberry, and lavender) and G’iddem (rum, blueberry, and lemongrass).
The Humble Seed
The Humble Seed was founded by Sarah Meis, Steve Shaffer, and Jennifer Mancuso, a team of CPG veterans who worked together to create a healthier and tastier cracker. Made with a six-seed blend — sunflower, flax, pumpkin, sesame, chia, and hemp — the grain-free crackers are available in Sea Salt, Garlic & Herb, and Everything flavors.