Re-thinking ways to be both big and agile
The fourth and final group is the large, established Fortune 500 companies who are renovating their brands for the twenty-first century. We call them the Re-Starts.
The nature to nurture
A common practice among Re-Starts is to launch venture capital practices as a way to incubate future brand offerings, test and learn in real-time, and bypass large bureaucratic structures standing in their way.
General Mills, creator of traditional family favorite brands such as Cheerios and Pillsbury, is one such company. Now a household name in the packaged-food brand category, the cereal giant found itself struggling to keep up with innovation to meet new consumer demands in today’s rapidly changing food industry.
That’s why they transformed 301 INC into a venture arm to support small, innovative brands—including potential competitors. General Mills nurtures these companies with corporate expertise, marketing power and distribution, while allowing the startups to retain their own creativity and entrepreneurialism.
Since launching in October 2015, the 17-person 301 INC team has invested in five “partners,” including plant-based yogurt Kite Hill and kale chip manufacturer Rhythm Superfoods. Less than one year in, they’re already starting to see an impact. For example, after a US$3 million investment in Good Culture cottage cheese, the startup’s sales have increased tenfold and are now found across major retailers nationwide, including Whole Foods and Shoprite.i
Instead of making one or two big bets on acquisitions, General Mills now has the agility to place small bets on many brands, nurturing the pipeline for future growth and product development.
Mentor and learn simultaneously
The Re-Starts are testing new models of agility, moving beyond empowering core consumers to actually accelerating them.
Sephora, the beauty retailer that was founded in France in the 1970s, now has a global brand reputation for retail and digital experiences, gaining loyalty from the highly desired beauty product audience. In order to maintain relevant with this fickle clientele, Sephora is actually buying into them, funding their beauty business ideas.
Sephora Accelerate was founded in January 2016 with the objective of funding ten female-led, early-stage beauty startups. The program recognizes the underfunding of female-led start-ups in Silicon Valley, and stands up for them, reinvesting in these women through incubator bootcamps, mentorships, and a public stage to present their ideas. Each start-up is given customized access to Sephora's network of beauty industry leaders and bespoke funding.
By investing in their customers, Sephora keeps them close and its eye on the future of beauty.