After selling personal care brand Schmidt's Naturals to Unilever in 2017, Jaime Schmidt and Chris Cantino were barraged with questions. Some came from entrepreneurs. "I'll get inquiries as broad as, 'How do I start a business and sell it to Unilever like you did,'" says Schmidt, the company's founder. "And I'll also get specific questions about sales or hiring." Then, from their financial advisor: Were they going to start a foundation?
But philanthropy wasn't where they saw the most immediate opportunity to make an impact. "Our priority was, let's be with the communities and the people we can help," says Schmidt. In 2018, that led to the formation of Color, a venture fund that invests in the Series A and B rounds of consumer companies started by under-represented founders. 'To me, it was clear, I wanted to invest in women," says Schmidt. "That's where my heart was, and I saw an opportunity to make a change."
Cantino, who is her husband and also was deeply involved in Schmidt's, also saw the need to do things differently. When it first came to financing Schmidt's, he said, "We had no concept of anything beyond going to the bank and asking for $100,000, and we didn't even do that. It was so intimidating for us, and we have a relative amount of privilege. If you are queer or black, where is that money going to come from?"
So far, Color's investments include Wild Friends, a maker of flavored nut butters; online marketplace Bubble; and ice cream makers Salt and Straw. They've also made an investment in Backstage Capital's operations arm, called the Studio. "I love that they don't back away from their voice," says Schmidt of Backstage. Says Cantino: "They show that even if your fund is not the biggest in the world, you can have an idea and change the world."