Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

From Mixers
to Magic

A Very 2020 Tale of Startup Brands & Their Emerging Champion

Ryan Callery is an Editor of the Startup CPG Spotlight. He is also a Digital Commerce Sales Director and CPG Ad Industry Vet.

Startup CPG is the national community for emerging brands, dedicated to providing resources, critical connections, access & growth, all at zero cost. This is a story of real community, creativity and commitment to innovation in one truly unique year for founders and the brands to which they give their all.

“Five months ago I was taking fake pics of my brand on Erewhon shelves & now I’m doing digital eggnog cheers with buyers from National Co+Op Grocers…are you my secret Santa?!?

Okay so I may be paraphrasing, but the reality of how it started vs. how it’s going for our brand community here at Startup CPG isn’t much more than six feet of separation from that barely-exaggerated digital Holiday Mixer conversation. That these transformative stories began in the ancient days of human interactions, handshakes and sneezes without duck & cover drills – you know, February 2020 – only lends to the fantastical feel of what this community of brand founders & allies has overcome and accomplished in one short (longest) year (ever).

Startup CPG was born of a genuine desire to fuel positive change by helping small, better-for-all brands break through the immense barriers seemingly cemented to the system by large legacy CPGs. We know the growing pains that come with the territory, and are committed to finding better ways to make the hard stuff a bit easier for our dedicated community of founders.

From humble, old-fashioned (aka in-person) Bay Area WeWork mixers to thousands (literally) of emerging CPG products in the hands of investors, media and retail buyers, and $100k+ in valuable service prizes, “fast & furious” doesn’t do justice to describe the pace and style of growth we experienced together in 2020. Plus, Vin Diesel wouldn’t let us borrow the rights for our Insta posts. But what’s one more pivot in a year like this? 😉

A detailed recap of every Startup CPG milestone from start to finish of this absurd, amazing & somehow oddly rewarding year for our community would require patience from you, dear reader. So to the Cliff’s Notes we go, starting with the dastardly month that flipped the world its head:

  • Oh March. You were the best of times, you were the, no…no you were pretty much just the worst of times. But hey, we came together, we pulled through, and we pivoted to our now dearest of 2020 pals, the beloved Slack and Zoom; veritable saviors of get togethers & communities the world over.
  • We created a 100-person beta Slack test from the growing IRL event attendees (that’s “in real life”, for other… veterans of time like me), added interactive Zoom mixers complete with panels, pitches & breakout rooms that grew to 80+ attendees in no time, and built our very first official “Pitch” event that gave 17 incredible brands a live audience with buyers, investors and key media voices (and $50k in valuable, immediately impactful prizes!)
  • These digital mixers and our Pitch event quickly became a coveted alternative to canceled trade shows and ultimately led to what’s now the largest and only national community for emerging CPG brands. It’s a community we could not be more proud of, nor more excited to carry into a new, exciting, extremely promising 2021. What other group routinely gets 60-80 people, each of whom gets time to talk at each event?
  • Along the way, we partnered with the magicians at Hubba & Wagon Design to provide logistics and social content expertise, created a 3PL database, an e-comm retailer resource, discounts on services like RangeMe and amazing coverage for our brands from industry media outlets like The Beet, Food Navigator, Food Entrepreneur, The Spoon, and so many more (who we now consider mission-aligned friends)
  • We grew our community from under 100 members to over 7,000 across all our channels. We’re all about bigger and better in everything we do – whether it is Pitch (doubling our panel of VIP judges from 50 to 100, and our prizes from $50K to $100K), our team (from 1 person to 30), or our brand database (4x since Pitch I)
  • And last but certainly not least, we gave back to our neighbors in need, funding 13 micro-grants that empowered our community to donate thousands of pounds of product to local food banks throughout the U.S.

To say it was truly a “community effort” would not only be an understatement, but also one of the last few puns of this article, maybe. But it really is – this place has become special to all of us because of each person in it, and the contribution they make. And we’ve only just begun.

So how do we plan to top it all for 2021?

(Because that’s just in our and your DNA, amirite?) Why thank you for asking, mon ami.

Building on the incredible participation and success of our mixers, Slack community and amazing live (digital) Pitch events in 2020, we’re beyond excited to take the bold next step of hosting an epic, unique, first-to-market, fully digital trade show for small brands dubbed, “The Emerging Brands Trade Show”! If the level of excitement for this even among us here at Startup CPG were personified, it might look like this:

Playfulness aside, we could not be more excited for The Emerging Brands Trade show, coming to you live on the interwebs this summer.

This show is the natural evolution of our commitment to creating the most interesting events that showcase brands & connect people. Which is our core ethos. In 2021, we’ll keep pushing the envelope and finding even better ways to connect, empower, elevate and propel these natural & organic startup superstars to their destinies. This year, Startup CPG will invite you to things like digital launch parties WITH product included – like THIS one for LOCA Foods on Feb 3rd, holiday parties that people actually enjoy and want to come back to, and interactive breakouts & collaboration sessions at our events that go beyond the basic and mundane to actually create lasting, immediately valuable actions and network growth.

The Emerging Brands Trade Show will attract 1000s of buyers and, as with all of our events, continue to be 100% FREE for participating brands.

We feel this is truly important. Small, scrappy, blood, sweat & tears brands like these should not be paying for access & opportunities to give away product and simply talk to key contacts in what’s often a non-personal environment. We’re here to help and they’ve undoubtedly earned every ounce of what we can offer.

All in all, 2020 was a tremendous growth & learning year – the ship is built, and we’re so excited to watch it sail to new and grander adventures. Throughout the journey, one course will remain unchanged – our effort to make everyone feel like they belong to a community and that they’re not going through these founder challenges (or celebrations, importantly) alone.
To our community – we are always here for you! Your access, learning, growth and success is our raison d’etre. And we simply cannot wait to see what amazing feats & eats you’ll pull off next!

Here’s to a safe, successful, incredible 2021.

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