Fundraising Saga of a Desperate Entrepreneur - Part 4
"Money money money money MONEY. " You all know the lyrics to that O'Jays song. Well, friends, I know the song and the dance. Getting HappyFamily off the ground wasn't easy, especially when it came to raising start-up and growth capital. What follows is my fundraising saga (the last of four parts).
By the end of 2010, I felt truly happy. We had supportive, private investors. We had key board members who were steering us in the right direction. And we had fans. Big ones. We were beginning to develop a cult following due to our grassroots approach to marketing. (The $50 million in media that American Express put behind us to tell our story didn't hurt, either).
After the $8 million round, we were finally in a position to manage our growth. This was a new luxury: being able to focus on execution against a vision and innovation to propel that vision instead of fundraising. For the first time since I started the company, I finally had the time I felt I needed to grow it. And, OMG, did I have ideas. We were going to be more than just an organic baby food company. We were going to be a platform brand for health and wellness for today's young family. Yes.
So, we expanded the line. Significantly. It was time to go beyond baby food into toddler and kids products. We developed Happy Tot Plus with Salba and Choline, Happy Munchies Crocs with Choline, and the Happy Times kids snacks line, just to name a few. All of these launched within a year of conception, compared to the 2-plus years spent developing the very first product; this was truly miraculous.
The best part about launching all of these new products was the fact that we did it all independently. We called the shots. If we had been working with a VC, we would have had direction, oversight, and potential limitations. And, if you've been following this 4-part saga, you already know that being in control of my destiny is extremely important to me.
The new products propelled our growth, and in 2011, we were No. 68 on Inc.'s list of the 500 fastest growing, private companies. That year we also turned a profit for the first time. Life was good.
We still had capital needs to continue to outpace the competition, though, so at the end of 2011, we did another round of fundraising. But this time, it was almost too easy to raise the money. Again, we were faced with an onslaught of private equity interest, but we finally really weren't in the market for this type of funding. We raised $10 million. Quickly. Independently. And 2012 has been a profitable year--Every. Single. Month. I feel like we've finally made it. We are changing the face of children's nutrition, and the future is looking very happy.
SHAZI VISRAM | Columnist | Founder and CEO of HappyFamily
Shazi Visram is the founder and CEO of HAPPYFAMILY, the leading premium brand of baby and toddler meals in the U.S. HAPPYFAMILY is sold in over 13,000 stores with 9 different lines of optimally delicious organic foods.