BrainTrust Founders Studio, the largest members-only platform dedicated to Black founders of beauty and wellness companies, launches the BrainTrust Fund, a planned $25 million venture fund. The BrainTrust Fund invests exclusively in early stage companies identified via BrainTrust Founders Studio, whose 120+ members collectively sold more than $100 million in products via 23,000 retail doors and online in the past year. “We designed the BrainTrust Fund as a ‘blue ocean’ investment opportunity to capitalize on innovation by Black entrepreneurs in beauty and wellness, whom we expect to continue to outperform as leaders of culture and creativity,” said General Partners Kendra Bracken-Ferguson and Lisa Stone, citing reports that VC-funded Black beauty ventures have a superior track record of success compared with non-Black counterparts, yet fewer than 1% of venture capital investors are Black women and fewer than 1% of Black women founders are funded by the venture capital community. “The BrainTrust Fund exists so that as the massive and growing multi-trillion-dollar beauty and wellness marketplace pays off, Black founders, Black funders and allies may participate in the upside from creating and selling what shoppers want,” said Bracken-Ferguson and Stone.
The BrainTrust Fund, anchored by WestRiver Group, includes an accredited investor community that resembles beauty and wellness shoppers by design, fund partners said. Most identify as women (77%) and BIPOC (76%), and all are experienced leaders in today’s consumer marketplace, from beauty, wellness, and consumer packaged goods, to e-commerce, marketing, media, and funding and growing startups. Bracken-Ferguson, Founder, CEO and General Partner is a leading domain expert across beauty and wellness and a three-time co-founder with two exits. Among her firsts, she has the distinction of being part of the first group of 100 Black women ever to have raised more than $1MM in investment for her first company. Stone, Co-founder, Chief Investment Officer and General Partner, is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur turned investor with multiple exits and track record of having raised $100MM+ in venture investment.
So what’s the secret sauce for BrainTrust Fund? Investing in founders from BrainTrust Founders Studio, which was also founded by Bracken-Ferguson. In the Fall of 2021, Bracken-Ferguson founded BrainTrust Founders Studio with the goal of creating an ecosystem for winning by Black founders of beauty and wellness companies. One year later, the studio has become the largest platform dedicated to Black founders of beauty and wellness companies, 92% of whom are women , who have shipped more than 4,000 SKUs to market and collectively sold more than $100MM across 23,000 retail doors and DTC online sales. “Our proprietary deal pipeline, BrainTrust Founders Studio, is the largest membership-based platform dedicated to Black founders of beauty and wellness companies. The studio provides an ecosystem of resources from our members only app to monthly virtual programming, our on demand learning center and Founders House content-meets-commerce immersive pop-up experience. Our “leave no founder behind” studio model does not require equity for studio participation, nor do we guarantee investment. Rather, it’s a bootstrapping community of entrepreneurs; Our founders collectively sold $100+ million in beauty and wellness products via 23,000+ retail doors + online in the past year per our 2023 Economic Advancement Report,” Bracken-Ferguson and Stone shared.
The BrainTrust Fund is targeting investments in beauty and wellness companies with at least one Black-identifying co-founder across 20 sub-sectors, from cosmetics to AI and technology. These companies must be members of the BrainTrust Founders Studio that demonstrate traction via $1MM+ in revenue from a market-tested MVP. The fund recently announced a $1 million equity investment into Listener Brands, Inc., the parent company of hair care brands CurlMix and 4COnly created by Founder and Chief Executive Officer Kim Lewis. Listener Brands is the fourth investment by the BrainTrust Fund, joining a portfolio that includes BeautyStat, Thirteen Lune and Uoma Beauty.
BrainTrust Fund is anticipating making ten to twenty investments between $250K – $2.5MM.
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