Willow Growth Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm, recently announced that it has closed its inaugural fund of $28 million to invest in early-stage consumer companies and supporting technologies. The company raised the money almost entirely over Zoom. Willow brings a new approach to investing in early-stage consumer brands in beauty, health and wellness, apparel and accessories, and food and beverage as well as the supporting technologies that power these companies.
“From my time as an operator and seed investor, I recognized there was a real need for a fund that provides the right type of capital to early-stage consumer brands,” said Deborah Benton, Founder and Managing Partner, Willow Growth Partners. “Tech venture capital funds tend to overvalue and over-capitalize brands, pushing them to achieve often unrealistic $1 billion exits, while private equity funds prefer profitable later-stage companies and often seek control. Willow looks to change this dynamic by investing right-sized capital at rational valuations, setting them up for success from the beginning.”
Powering early-stage companies
Willow aims to take the best of the traditional VC model and PE model. It invests at the first institutional stage, provides extensive hands-on support and advises towards high-integrity growth. The goal is to make companies attractive for later-stage growth investment or acquisition. The firm chiefly looks for values-driven consumer brands that have a reasonable near-term path to profitability. It also looks for strong underlying unit economics and customer retention.
“Since starting dae a year and a half ago, I have always had big plans for this brand, and I needed a partner who could help me get there,” said Amber Fillerup Clark, CEO and Founder of dae. “Deb and Amanda believe in my vision to provide a beautiful, effective and affordable clean hair care brand, steeped in our values of sustainability. Willow’s funding will allow dae to expand our product assortment, broaden our marketing and deepen our customer relationships.”
Experienced and knowledgeable
Together, Benton and Co-founder and General Partner Amanda Schutzbank have a combined 30 years of operating and investing experience. At this time, they have advised a combined 75 companies on scaling, fundraising, recruiting and acquisitions. Benton brings deep operational experience. She previously served as President and COO of NastyGal and ShoeDazzle. She was also Executive Vice President of Operations for Teleflora. Most recently she was angel investing in high-profile brands, including Manscaped, Carbon38 and TrueBotanicals. Schutzbank was previously an investor at Amplify LA and Primary Venture Partners. These roles equipped her with a wide variety of institutional fund experience. She was also part of the founding team and Vice President of Marketing at Karma. She started her career in investment banking at Merrill Lynch.
“We do not invest through a specific gender or diversity lens; we simply back the best and strongest founders,” said Schutzbank. “As two female GPs, we are highly cognizant of building a platform that welcomes and encourages all founders from diverse backgrounds that understand their consumers’ needs.”
Early-stage companies included
Aalmost 75 percent of Willow’s current portfolio companies to date have female or minority founders. These companies include:
- Bubble (clear skincare for GenZ)
- Coterie (premium baby personal care)
- Dae (clean hair brand)
- Goodfair (bringing thrift online)
- Feals (premium CBD delivered to your door)
- FlavorCloud (international shipping platform)
- Lalo (baby and toddler products)
- Ox (fulfillment platform for supply chain)
- Swell (headless ecommerce platform)
- YGN (accessories for textured hair)
The firm is also supported by a diverse group of credible LPs from both VC and private equity firms.
For more information, visit https://willowgrowth.com/.
About Willow Growth Partners
Founded in 2020, Willow Growth Partners is an early-stage capital firm that invests in emerging consumer brands and their supporting technologies. Founded by Managing Partner Deborah Benton and General Partner Amanda Schutzbank, the firm brings a new approach to investing in seed-stage consumer companies.
Read about a study from Bolster that found that early-stage companies have less diverse boards.