It’s all over — and there was plenty of shouting.
Nine promising CPG companies participated in the two-month-long Startup Stampede — a business incubator and pitch competition sponsored by American Underground, NC IDEA, and McKinney — to see who would prevail and receive $100,000 in in-kind marketing support from McKinney. And the big winner was Healthy Roots Dolls.
Healthy Roots Dolls is a Cincinnati toy company that creates dolls and storybooks that teach natural hair care because, as the startup points out, every girl should feel empowered by the beauty of the kink of her curl and the color of her skin.
“The Startup Stampede created an open and supportive community,” said Healthy Roots founder Yelitsa Jean-Charles. “This made it possible for me to ask the questions and get the feedback I needed from people who had my best interest in mind because they were personally invested in my success and want to see everyone flourish. I’m excited about working with McKinney because, as a creative, I have immense respect for the work they do and what Healthy Roots can learn from them.”
Sponsors launched the incubator and pitch competition in March at Durham’s American Underground startup hub to help the curated group of promising young companies better position themselves to earn a piece of the fast-growing consumer products market.
Judges from Burt’s Bees/Clorox, McKinney, Ad Age and Walk West evaluated the pitches. In addition, audience members following online or in person at the American Tobacco Campus’ Full Frame Theater weighed in on the people’s choice award, which Healthy Roots won, too.
“It was amazing seeing people present companies they’d borne from their own vision,” said Jenny Nicholson, group creative director, McKinney. “As a mother of a young girl, I am excited to support Yalitsa and to help young women of color embrace their natural beauty. As an advertiser, I was attracted to the power of her story and the intensity of her hustle.”
“I’m rooting for each and every one of the competing companies to wildly succeed,” added Swap Patel, director of media, McKinney. “We’re looking forward to working with Yalitsa to broadly tell the story of Healthy Roots and get Zoe in the hands of millions of impressionable children.”
The participating retail-focused startups serve a wide range of segments, from cosmetics and personal care to craft liqueurs, and included: Beard and Lady (Creedmoor, NC), @beardandlady; Brothers Vilgalys (Durham, NC), @BrosVilgalys; Descalza (Raleigh, NC), @WearDescalza; Fillaree (Durham, NC), @FillareeSoaps; Healthy Roots Dolls, @RootsDolls; Nellino’s (Raleigh, NC), @NellinosSauce; Sonoma West Beauty (San Francisco, CA), @SWBeautyCo; Tracy’s Gourmet (Morrisville, NC), @TracysGourmet; Wotter (Cary, NC), @WotterSwim.