Sundial, Unilever’s Platform for New Voices

Sundial Brands and Unilever unveiled the New Voices Fund Sunday at a brunch in the Breakers’ Magnolia room alongside two rising CPG stars benefitting from the effort.

The $100 million New Voices Fund is aimed at fostering emerging brands — with a focus on those run by women of color — offering entrepreneurs access, capital and expertise to help their companies thrive. In terms of access, the fund offers connections to help develop an upstart’s enterprise structure, and the capital component offers companies financial support to build, grow and scale a company.

“New Voices is set up to say, ‘We’ve done well, but that’s not enough; we’ve brought change, but that’s no enough, we can’t stop here,” Richelieu Dennis, Sundial Brands founder and CEO, said to a crowd that included executives from the Emerson Group, Unilever, Ulta Beauty and Sundial Brands. “Given the challenges that we went through, I can say that we wouldn’t be standing here today if we didn’t get the access you gave us and the expertise you gave us. The capital piece was hard, and we figured that out, but even if we had gotten just that capital, without your expertise and without you giving us access, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.”

At the event, Dennis was joined by Melissa Butler, founder and CEO of vegan and cruelty-free lipstick company Lip Bar, and Beatrice Feliu-Espada, founder of natural feminine hygiene brand the Honey Pot. Butler’s brand launched in 42 Target stores in February and is set to expand to roughly 450 in the fall. The Honey Pot hit 1,000 Target stores this month. However, Feliu-Espada noted that the journey to success wasn’t easy, and she struggled to secure funding to scale up her company.

“Even when you’re dealing with investors, you’re going to hear a thousand ‘noes’ before you get to a ‘yes,’” she said. “The challenge [of raising funds for the launch] was the uphill battle of finding the capital even though you have the best damn problem in the world”

Butler echoed Dennis, noting that capital is one piece of the whole, with expertise and access constituting the missing parts for brand success, even one that has wide appeal.

“Our challenges have been how do we scale, how do we get the proper advisors, how do we get that access to capital, how do I translate my authentic relationship with my customer into sales without having that back-end or that front-end support?” she said. “Oftentimes as a small business owner, I don’t know if something is specific to me as a small business owner, as a black woman or if this is just how business goes — what is the standard in this industry? Just knowing ‘this is what you should expect’ will be invaluable for us.”