Access to co-manufacturers, marketing and branding expertise, and investors is pivotal to budding entrepreneurs in the consumer goods industry, especially those who are probably equipped with the next groundbreaking ideas, but short of relevant resources and connections.
Natural product entrepreneurs Mike Fata and Greg Fleishman learned that firsthand when starting their businesses decades ago. After years of scaling companies to multimillion-dollar exits, including Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods and Lily’s Sweets, which was recently acquired by Hershey
Currently the cofounder and CEO of junk-free bakery company Foodstirs, which Fleishman created alongside Galit Laibow and Sarah Michelle Gellar, he also serves as board of directors at Once Upon a Farm, Nuun that was recently acquired by Nestlé, as well as partner of VC firm Cambridge Companies SPG.
Meanwhile, Fata runs a boutique investment firm Fata & Associates, Inc., investing a group of organic, health-focused consumer brands, including Sol Cuisine, Love Good Fats, and Mid-Day Squares.
“We’re naturally renegades, challenging the status quo of the industry,” said Fleishman recently, while calling out people who profit off early-stage founders by acting as their intermediaries, providing key resources that otherwise would be free. “Altruism is important to us because one of the core values in the natural products industry is giving back,” he noted.
The idea for a free mentorship portal sprung out of a series of Clubhouse meetings where Fleishman and Fata teamed up with other CPG experts, including ArriveAhead’s founder Anthony Brunetti and CEO of District Ventures Arlene Dickinson, to help startups perfect their pitches. They quickly realized how desperately all these entrepreneurs need help from the beginning.
“We ended up having 300 Zoom calls in a week because we didn’t want to turn anybody away, and our DMs exploded on every platform from Twitter to Instagram and LinkedIn,” Fata said. “So this idea of creating a website, and offering up all of our killer tools seemed so natural.”
The Fata & Fleishman Mentorship program currently offers 13 folders for free focusing on areas including sales planning, market insights, legal and financial modeling, coupled with the duo’s recorded CPG master classes. So far, they have been downloaded over 500 times since the website went live in July, and the number of their audiences continues to grow organically.
Fleishman said: “We promoted it through social media without any paid ads, and it’s been growing mostly by word of mouth,” noting how the toolbox is also reaching entrepreneurs outside of North America.
“We’ve been very clear on leaving out any service providers right now, because that way, it would look overly commercialized and bought out, and we believe that would erode our trust,” Fleishman added. “We also have an email to sign up only for security purposes, and we don’t collect emails for newsletters or any forms of monetization.”
One of the top questions for CPG startups is how to raise capital, Fleishman and Fata concluded after mentoring various entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to timing, what type of investors to partner with, and how pitch decks should be presented.
“We’ve tried to make it easier by providing our point of views and curated methods,” Fleishman explained. “We do have a list of investors, including the ones that focus on the BIPOC community, women-owned businesses, and those that really focus on natural CPG.
“So we popped those investor lists in there to answer that major question,” he added. “We do have pitch deck templates, and living examples that people can just download and copy… In terms of when to raise money, we have those models that, when populated, they’ll tell you how much to raise, when and even how to structure [deals]. We even have a list of alternative forms to fund a business, including venture debt, and credit facilities, [in addition to] giving advice on how to build an advisory board.”
The ultimate goal for Fata & Fleishman Mentorship is not just to provide a curated list of tools, Fleishman said, but to become trusted open resources for all natural product entrepreneurs.