SKU, the nation’s first consumer packaged goods (CPG) accelerator, will kick off the second cohort of SKU Elevate in June 2022. This groundbreaking program was created to foster a more inclusive community in the CPG industry.
“Because of last year’s overwhelming success, we have a ton of momentum moving into 2022 with this mission-critical program to support diverse CPG founders,” says Emily Kealey, Managing Director of SKU. “We’re seeking diverse founders who want to be on this exciting second track and mentors, sponsors, and partners who want to be a part of this program that is now nationwide.”
Open to founders across the country, SKU Elevate (formerly known as the SKU M/O Track) is an eight-week virtual program that provides education, mentorship, and networking. Brands are chosen based on their traction, innovation, and their founder story. SKU Elevate accepts brands with revenues between $5,000-$100,000.
The track, led by SKU Curriculum Director and Master Teacher Kathy Guzmán Galloway, SKU Elevate includes the top-notch curriculum that SKU is known for on such topics as branding, channel strategy, product innovation, and operations. All classes are taught by industry experts from around the nation. Speakers for SKU Elevate 2021 included CPG leaders Tionna Cunningham, Marketing Director at Stacy’s Pita Chips; Nikita Shah, Director of Innovation and Insights at Keurig Dr. Pepper; and Marisa Bertha, Vice President of Growth at 7-Eleven.
Ten founders from the following brands completed the 2021 program: Algo Dulce, Babka ATX, Funky Mello, Hangio, Homescape Pets, Jeany’s Ginger Elixirs, Luv Fats Ice Cream, Naturally Noah’s, UJAMAA Lighting, and WAJU. SKU Elevate was a transformative experience for many of the founders.
“For years I’ve admired SKU’s world-class accelerator, yet I was still blown away by the unparalleled level of support and guidance throughout the process,” says Chris Oates, Founder of WAJU, a beverage made from upcycled fruit. “From accomplished speakers to a highly focused learning curriculum, it has been a great privilege to grow WAJU during the Track alongside a diverse group of visionary founders.”
A key benefit of the program is the mentorship founders receive throughout the track. Each brand is paired with a carefully selected mentor team dedicated to helping them scale their business. SKU Elevate mentors are a who’s-who of CPG leaders, successful founders, and subject-matter experts who are all dedicated to helping to level the playing field for people of color in the consumer products industry.
“The future is diverse and SKU Elevate is contributing to this future by connecting accomplished mentors with the founders of tomorrow’s great brands,” says SKU Elevate mentor Ethan Monreal-Jackson, Founder and General Partner of Newtype Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in underrepresented founders.
At the completion of the program, SKU hosts a Showcase pitch event for the founders to present their brands to an audience of retailers, investors, and CPG leaders. Each participant receives capital to use toward the growth of their brands. SKU does not take equity in the brands.
SKU Elevate is funded by mentors and sponsors. Elevate sponsors include many of the nation’s top consumer products companies like General Mills, PepsiCo, and Tito’s Vodka.
Austin-based SKU was founded in 2011 and has been in expansion mode over the past three years, In addition to Austin, where it is headquartered, the accelerator now operates BeyondSKU in New York for natural products; ImpactSKU in the Twin Cities for purpose-driven brands; and SKU Dallas. SKU expanded to Atlanta this year. If you are a CPG leader or sponsor who wants to support SKU Elevate, contact Michelle Breyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.