Breezy Griffith, who founded the lightly-coated nut company with her mother Val Griffith and doubles as the business’ CEO, advises entrepreneurs take time to find and partner with mentors and investors who share their values, listen to their ideas and concerns and decide on a course of action with them instead of for them.
While this approach might mean walking away from much-needed capital, manufacturing or assistance in other areas, Griffith said a company with a complementary leadership team is more likely to see fast and lasting growth than one grappling with in-fighting – as illustrated by her company’s dramatic growth in its first five years.
SkinnyDipped, which Breezy Griffith described as being “born at the kitchen table” of the home she shared with her mother in 2013, grew sales 6,642% year-over-year from 2015 to 2018 to become one of the top five fastest growing female companies in the US with rapidly expanding distribution at CVS, Kroger, Vons, Safeway, Target, Whole Foods, Wegman’s and HEB and more.
Its strong sales, “insanely delicious all natural nuts snacks,” and its duel-mission to make nutritious, clean and delicious food accessible to everyone and to help lift up women and children, helped the company attract and secure funding earlier this year from the internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Shakira and in 2019 from sought-after CAVU Venture Partners .
'Manufacturing is still very much a boys club'
But before the Griffith’s successful connections with Shakira and CAVU Venture Partners, Breezy Griffith acknowledged that she and her mother “faced challenges because we are women.”
She explained that “manufacturing is still very much a boys club, and we had to walk away from certain relationships because we weren’t being heard or listened to. And so, my advice would be to find some real mentors who believe in you – not mentors who want to tell you what to do, but mentors who listen to you and help raise you up and allow you to make the decisions that are right for your business.”
She added an essential component of finding the right investor is to first know what are the company’s goals, strengths and weaknesses, and then find a partner who shares those goals, complements those strengths and offsets those weaknesses.
“If you sit back and clear your head and answer some of those bigger questions about what are your long-term goals as a business, that can help you establish what sort of investor you are looking for,” Breezy Griffith said.
For example, she said she is excited to welcome to the SkinnyDipped family Shakira, who invested an undisclosed amount, because the company and singer “have a lot synergy in terms of our philanthropic efforts,” which should help protect the company from pressure to put profits over people.
The partnership also should help the company drive brand awareness among consumers who also share SkinnyDipped and Shakira’s values, added Breezy Griffith.
As for Cavu, Breezy Griffith said SkinnyDipped connected “by chance” with one of the founders who had a reputation for picking winning products before the investment group was formed, which allowed them to create a mentorship relationship without financial pressures.
Eventually, once the group formed, Griffith said that SkinnyDipped secured $1m from a subset of funds set aside for smaller, emerging brands.
“Over the past four years, they have been big cheerleaders for the brand,” and offered “wonderful support,” she added.
Driving innovation, distribution & brand awareness
The funds from both Shakira and Cavu will help the brand continue to innovate, expand distribution and build brand awareness – all of which the young company has already demonstrated an ability to do on its own.
For example, early in the brand’s existence, the Griffiths and their other co-founders caught the attention of a buyer from Target who believed in their mission and product enough to take every SKU chainwide “overnight.”
Breezy Griffith acknowledged the company had to overcome significant hurdles – including a shipment of 80,000 rancid almonds that needed to be replaced quickly – to meet Target’s order on time, but thanks to the team’s industry connections they were able to make it happen.
She explained that when the original shipment of nuts arrived at a lower quality than SkinnyDipped would accept, the team made dozens of phone calls to colleagues in the industry to secure new supply and meet the order.
The young brand also “nurtured” its relationship with Target by “making sure we were easy for our buyer to work with and … trying to show that we could act like a big brand, even though we were still very small,” she said.
In addition, the company worked with influencers to create buzz and excitement around the brand and direct them to Target, and partnered with airlines to sample their products on planes to build up national interest quickly.
While national distribution at Target gave SkinnyDipped a significant leg-up, the company also distributes its products in alternative retailers, which helped it further diversity its consumer base.
“What we realized is that we were really embraced by the mass market and that our success in Target gave us permission to expand national distribution” in grocery, conventional and other channels, Griffith said.
With a solid consumer base established, the company listened to what fans said they wanted and expanded its line of coated almonds to include a lemon coated option that Griffith said “tastes like summer in a bag,” a Super Dark all-vegan chocolate SKU and a line of coated cashew snacks earlier this year.
“Looking forward we have some more nuts in the pipeline,” and a longer-term vision to become “a multi-platform brand with innovations in 2021 that go beyond coated nuts into adjacent categories,” she said.