Ones to Watch | Summer 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 the future front-runners in the fashion, retail, & consumer industries. These high-potential direct-to-consumer brands are breaking away from the pack and showing great promise, plus the foundations to make a significant impact on the industry. Andrew Barone of Rosenthal & Rosenthal highlights the latest Ones to Watch brands that attracting attention from consumers and investors alike.
During the first week of the pandemic in 2020, Youthforia founder and CEO Fiona Chan realized it was the first time in a long time that she hadn’t put on makeup. To her, makeup was always about getting ready in anticipation of going out and seeing and connecting with people. But with nowhere to go in March of 2020, Chan began to think about makeup differently. She realized that she is someone who always falls asleep in her makeup, so she wanted to create makeup that looks and acts more like skincare. And from there, Youthforia was born.
Marketed as “makeup you can sleep in,” Youthforia has focused on making innovative products that are naturally derived and plant-based while tapping into popular trends and social media to build its following and spread the word. Chan says some of the biggest challenges she’s faced were in the beginning, simply being able to find manufacturers and partners who would be the right fit to work with. With new formulations that had never been attempted before, the company had to work through product development to get it right, at a challenging time during the pandemic.
Chan says they are going after a very targeted niche within the $80 billion color cosmetics industry but sees incredible potential for growth. Since it’s 2021 launch and subsequent Shark Tank appearance and deal, Youthforia’s exposure and customer base has grown exponentially. To date, the company has raised a Series Seed led by True Beauty Ventures, with participation from Willow Growth and Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban. With a dream to make a full face of Youthforia products available to customers via existing retail channels like Amazon, Ulta and smaller boutiques, Chan has big plans on the horizon for the brand in the coming months.
Elias Stahl has always been hyper-aware of the massive amount of waste that brands are responsible for creating every day. He saw it first-hand while working in product development at Handshake, helping Fortune 50 brands leverage their influence for social impact, and says was struck by the inability of incredibly smart, motivated and capitalized teams to change legacy business models from the inside out. That resistance to change is what inspired him to co-found HILOS, a Portland-based 3D-printed footwear company that is creating a way for brands to adopt a completely new, waste-free supply chain.
HILOS offers a radically new way to make footwear. It is the first commercially scaled and tested use of 3D printing technology for on-demand shoes, with a unique focus on bringing sustainable manufacturing back home. Stahl recognizes that HILOS isn’t the only brand exploring this space. In fact, there are several footwear and technology brands working hard on similar solutions, albeit with fundamentally different approaches. But Stahl believes the competition is raising the bar industry-wide. “There are multiple paths to changing the way footwear is made, and it’s important that HILOS isn’t the only one to succeed in applying new technology to reinvent this sector,” Stahl says.
While brands like HILOS are driving innovation in the industry, they are not immune to technology challenges. Stahl points out that 3D printing “existed backwards,” with printing companies releasing printers without defined materials or applications, material providers scrambling to focus on and vet the right printers and app developers left trying to connect the dots. “From where we sit, this is the greatest systematic challenge that hinders reducing costs and expanding product capabilities at the speed the market is asking for,” says Stahl.
But with the global footwear market clocking in at $365 billion—and estimated to reach $530.3 billion by 2027—it’s a challenge worth tackling. In fact, the footwear market is just one part of the overall $1.7 trillion fashion industry where HILOS aims to transform global supply chains and deliver an on-demand, circular future. HILOS’ current market focus is working with mid-tier and luxury DTC brands in Europe and North America, a $25 billion market. HILOS has raised $7 million from prominent investors, including industry leaders like retired Nike executives Eric Sprunk and Greg Bui, as well as Better Ventures, Builders VC and XRC Ventures. Stahl says the company is currently revenue-generating and will use their most recent investment to accelerate work with innovative and sustainably conscious brands. He looks forward to announcing some head-turning partnerships later this year.
After more than three decades focusing on the retail experience at legacy brands including Saks Fifth Avenue, Dillard’s and Vera Bradley, industry vet and goodMRKT co-founder Harry Cunningham had a premonition in 2020 that the retail world was changing before our eyes. An idea came to mind to create a new kind of retail space that would celebrate purpose-driven brands. What he initially thought would be a group of 10-12 brands, quickly grew to more than 30 before the first goodMRKT store opened in April 2021. Fast forward to 2023, and the company is proud to have more than 70 brands in their retail space and on their website, including ABLE, Sackcloth & Ashes, New Hope Girls, Utopian Coffee and Warner Music Nashville, to name a few. With holiday pop-up stores, a popular podcast showcasing the stories behind their brands and a host of exciting collaborations, goodMRKT has been front and center in the quest to reshape the consumer retail experience.
Cunningham says goodMRKT is focused on good people, great products and exceptional causes, and is continually looking to expand the “good movement.” Every single brand they carry is focused on doing good and all are merchandised together in a compelling space anchored by the Good Café, a coffee bar featuring socially conscious brands. Since its founding, the company has become a “hub for good,” partnering with local and national causes and brands to educate and inspire conversations and celebrations around issues that matter to their customers.
Cunningham says the addressable market is easily worldwide. “We’re all born to do good and once we’re presented with easy ways to do good, it’s actually quite simple to join our community”. The company’s aim is to always share the positive impact that each person is making every time they purchase something at goodMRKT. The company is hard at work on its second location now, with plans to open its doors later this year. In the coming months, be on the lookout for compelling new storytelling and original content and a slew of new brands joining the community.
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.