Ones to Watch | Spring 2023
By Andrew Barone
Andrew Barone (@AndrewBarone) is Senior Vice President and Director of Business Development for Rosenthal & Rosenthal’s Pipeline division, helping d2c and e-commerce brands grow their businesses.
Ones to Watch spotlights future front-runners in fashion, beauty & consumer who are breaking away from the pack and showing great promise and the foundations to impact the industry. Here, Andrew Barone of Rosenthal & Rosenthal highlights the latest Ones to Watch, high-potential direct-to-consumer brands that are attracting attention from consumers and investors alike.
Ben Lewis, CEO and Co-founder of Little Spoon, a direct-to-consumer baby and kids nutrition brand, was working in the food industry and saw firsthand how outdated the baby food market was. Despite the rest of the food and beverage industry that was keeping up with the times, he found that baby food was still stuck in the past. Lewis and his co-founders realized that the baby food products found on grocery shelves were often older than the babies eating it and recognized that the new generation of parents was looking for healthier alternatives. So they set out to build a brand that served the needs of these busy parents – Little Spoon.
With products ranging from a baby’s first bites through toddlerhood and the big kid years, Little Spoon offers parents meal, snack, and nutrition options that make it easy to keep kids healthy. The brand a true end-to-end platform of thoughtfully designed products that allow families to start and stay with the brand as their kids’ needs change as they grow. “The baby and kids market is plagued with antiquated, heavily processed products, many filled with artificial ingredients, across each stage, that simply do not meet the expectations of this generation of parents,” Lewis says. “With Little Spoon, we are offering a fresh take with freshly made, junk-free nutrition offerings that meet and exceed the needs and standards of the modern parent.”
Lewis acknowledges that being a CEO these past few years hasn’t been easy. From navigating the pandemic, runaway inflation, a recession, rising interest rates, an extremely tight labor market and rampant supply issues, he says the challenges are innumerable and changing every day. “The real test of a good leader is to take everything in stride, keep an even state and actually thrive through the chaos,” Lewis says. He also points to the importance of keeping a quality culture intact, being there to support the team, and maintaining an ethos of serving the greater good.
With more than 90% of millennials now becoming parents, Lewis sees a tremendous addressable market — 10 million plus parents in the U.S. alone and that number is only continuing to grow with Gen Z now beginning to age into this life stage. Little Spoon has raised more than $90 million of capital to date and that funding has always gone to developing cutting-edge, innovative products that set a new bar in the market and to meeting the brand’s rapidly growing demand. Having already innovated in a number of categories, including baby food, transition-to-table food meals, on-the-go pouches and big kid meals, Little Spoon plans to continue to expand and enter new categories in the months and years to come.
Oliver Zak and Selom Agbitor — friends and tattoo enthusiasts — were struggling to find clean and effective products to help improve the healing process and preserve their tattoos. They saw an opening in the skincare space for a new brand that would reimagine tattoo aftercare and from there, Mad Rabbit was born in 2019. What began as a side hustle for the duo quickly grew into an explosive brand, thanks to a growing consumer base of 44% of Americans with at least one tattoo. The brand notes that many of those consumers are now looking for simple formulations with clean, natural and effective ingredients that protect their tattoos against aging, promote healing and prevent infections. According to the founders, the brand’s approach offers customers a welcome alternative to traditional tattoo skincare products that are laden with unnecessary toxins and ingredients.
Zak and Agbitor say their greatest challenge as founders thus far has been convincing others of the market opportunity to serve the tattoo customer better-for-your skincare products. “While the tattooed American and global population has exploded, there is still some resistance to think about tattooed skin differently,” the duo says. “Despite this, there are no other brands that have successfully developed a comprehensive skincare line that supports tattooed skin, which drastically leaves a hugely growing consumer cohort in a whitespace.” The brand projects that the tattoo aftercare market is expected to grow 6.4%, in comparison to beauty and personal care which is growing at a rate of roughly 2.6%, and that the tattoo market writ large is estimated to grow at 9.4% globally by 2029. Mad Rabbit is tapping into this growing demand by launching education initiatives, creating original, digestible content and focusing on brand awareness while also continuing to drive the category with new products.
After being featured on ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank” in 2021, the brand has accelerated in development and popularity and is currently growing 138% year-over-year. To date, Mad Rabbit has raised a total of $12 million from investors including Mark Cuban, Lucas Brand Equity, Acronym VC, H Ventures, Stefon Diggs and Leticia Bufoni, among others. These investments will be used to expand the brand’s product line, increase marketing efforts and grow the team to meet the demand for new products.
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.