Dare To Roam creates innovative antimicrobial backpacks and accessories made for roamers. The company was conceived in partnership with Grammy-nominated R&B artist Ciara and H&S Labs, an incubator responsible for building mindful brands. Dare to Roam’s product line offers consumers stylish travel gear that protects against the growth of harmful germs, mold, and fungi, a must-have in our new COVID-conscious world.
According to Dare to Roam founder Michael Cohen, the three essential elements to succeed in this space are a great product, a great brand story, and an influential name to get you on the map.
“Partnering with Ciara was the smartest decision we could have made,” said Cohen. “She goes above and beyond in terms of her availability, ideation process, and creative input. As a businesswoman and world-renowned talent, her perspective and experiences are cutting-edge and unmatched.”
Within 90 days of launching, Dare to Roam’s Prodigy Backpacks found themselves atop Oprah’s Favorite Things 2021 list, highlighting the brand as one of the hottest female-owned businesses of the year. Dare to Roam’s inboxes were immediately flooded with requests from small and large retailers alike, all of whom were looking to carry the new products. Almost overnight, the brand accelerated from a strictly DTC company to an omnichannel one, with plans to roll out in two major department store chains this fall.
Transparency, accountability, and sustainability are all mission-critical to Dare to Roam, especially in terms of the company’s workforce, supply chain practices, materials, and sourcing. Giving back is equally important, with three percent of every purchase going toward the Why Not You Foundation, a nonprofit that Ciara and her husband NFL player Russell Wilson, founded to support children’s health and education.
Still less than a year old, the brand’s strong market position has allowed the company to enjoy more flexibility in molding its business model so it can adapt and change course as needed. The company has not raised any outside capital to date, however, they are currently in the process of going out to strategics for a small round of funding. Short term, Dare to Roam is preparing to launch a new product next month created from recycled nylon, a sustainable material that uses fewer resources than most of the brand’s competitors’ compositions. Long term, the company has big plans to launch more luggage collections and will soon reveal its future retail distribution partners for Q3.
This next One to Watch is focused on delivering high-quality, luxe scalp care products that are helping to change mindsets and the conversation around dandruff. Jupiter was founded by Ross Goodhart and Robbie Salter, who share entrepreneurial ambition and the desire to solve a problem for which there is clearly a market, with nearly 75% of the world experiencing scalp discomfort at some point in their lives and the haircare industry topping $100 billion.
Only two brands were dominating the category — Head & Shoulders and Nizoral — two companies that sell more shampoo in-store and on Amazon (respectively) than any other brands in the world, agnostic of category. Even with that level of saturation, Goodhart and Salter knew there was the demand for a better smelling, looking, and more effective option—one that focused less on making you feel bad for having dandruff and more on embracing a healthy scalp.
“We know that people are clamoring for a modern, elevated, clean solution and/or are willing to pay more for that improved experience,” said Salter. “That’s what gets us excited, and that’s what keeps us hungry.”
Jupiter bills itself as a “feel-better” brand that is entirely dedicated to the physical and mental health aspects of scalp care. By incorporating over-the-counter ingredients in certain products and removing synthetic, environmentally unfriendly, and potentially harmful or irritating ingredients in others, they ultimately created a premium formula that leverages the best clean and natural ingredients.
They also prioritized the customer experience, teaming up with Alexa Adler, who had played a critical role in scaling Warby Parker’s well-known customer experience operations. “We’re very proud of what we’ve done and what we’re doing,” said Salter. “There’s a lot of noise from companies on the periphery who are jumping onto the scalp care train and we’re staying focused on the singular category and how we can perpetually improve the customer experience.”
Finding the right balance between patience and urgency across every aspect of the business is by far their biggest challenge. Case in point, like most consumer product businesses, Jupiter has not been immune to supply chain issues. With such a rapidly growing business, they are constantly asking themselves how to both plan and react better and more creatively to serve their customers who, in many cases, need their products to avoid physical discomfort.
Still a small, nimble team of five employees, the brand has raised a total of three rounds of funding, mostly from angels, and in the latest round, an institutional investor with an exceptional track record betting on CPG companies. To date, the lion’s share of that money has gone to inventory and marketing. Jupiter is heading into another fundraise shortly as they look to roll out several exciting new products in 2022.
The inspiration behind our final One to Watch, premium olive oil brand Kosterina, dates back to 2012 when founder Katina Mountanos read a New York Times article with an eye-catching headline — The Island Where People Forget to Die. The article chronicled a Greek man living on Long Island, NY with terminal cancer who traveled to his native home on the Greek island of Ikaria and then lived another 35+ years.
The article piqued her interest in how people of the Blue Zones — geographic regions around the world that are thought to have a higher than usual number of people who live longer than average — live their lives. It also reminded her about spending time in southern Greece and all of the things she loved about the laid-back, Mediterranean lifestyle — enjoying delicious fresh food, good wine, and an unrushed calendar.
A former Walmart executive leading brand incubation in the retailer’s e-commerce division, Mountanos’ family hails from a small town in southern Greece called Koroni, home to the famous Koroneiki variety of olives. So, when she sampled the Greek and Italian “extra virgin” olive oils on the supermarket shelves in the U.S., they tasted nothing like what her family enjoyed back in Greece, so she decided to take an olive sommelier course to learn more.
With Kosterina, she had a simple goal: to create a Blue Zone in every U.S. household. “Kosterina will always stay true to our mission to create olive oil that tastes incredible and is truly some of the absolute best in the world, from a taste and health standpoint,” said Mountanos. “But we’re also building a wellness platform with the Mediterranean lifestyle at the center of it.”
Like many other brands in the current climate, Kosterina has faced global supply chain challenges, especially as a result of COVID disruptions. Despite being a young brand, many of the company’s ingredients are sourced from Europe and because the brand sits across multiple categories, its supply chain, and operations are very complex. “We have been facing shortages in the glass industry that have sent us on a wild goose chase for glass bottles, but thankfully the Kosterina dream team is resilient and able to find creative ways to get us through the tough times,” said Mountanos.
Entirely self-funded at first, Kosterina is now venture-backed and has raised $5 million from funds like Karp Reilly and Lakehouse Ventures as well as from angel investors. Looking ahead, the brand has plans for a major product and distribution expansion. Within the next year, they are looking to launch new products in both their food and skincare collections, while also expanding their retail footprint through a nationwide launch with Whole Foods and other key retailers that align with their mission and target customer.
Ones to Watch is produced in partnership with Rosenthal & Rosenthal — a proud supporter of growing brands through factoring, asset-based lending, production financing and d2c and e-commerce inventory financing. Click here to learn more about Rosenthal’s newest division, Pipeline™, offering growth capital solutions exclusively for high-growth DTC and e-commerce businesses.