SKU, the nation’s first accelerator for consumer packaged goods (CPGs) announced it is expanding its program into Atlanta in February 2022. SKU Atlanta will focus on elevating brands throughout the entire Southeast United States.
SKU works by equipping startups with the tools they need to succeed. Startup companies receive the resources and relationships that they require to become breakout successes and household names. SKU then surrounds those stellar startups with a wraparound infrastructure of seasoned entrepreneurial mentors, customized curriculum focused on the entire CPG ecosystem, advanced operations support, and access to funding.
“SKU is thrilled to be launching SKU Atlanta,” said Kirstin Ross, managing director of SKU. “With our groundbreaking model of building an ecosystem of seasoned experts, we create the network of support for young CPG founders to succeed.”
Coca-Cola North America’s New Revenue Streams division is a sponsor for SKU Atlanta.
“Coca-Cola is excited to support SKU in cultivating the emerging CPG-startup ecosystem in Atlanta and the Southeast,” said Dan White, chief of new revenue streams at Coca-Cola North America. “This partnership will enable Coca-Cola and SKU to have a formidable role in nurturing what ultimately will become a national hotbed for CPG entrepreneurs to base and grow their companies in Atlanta.”
The accelerator is currently accepting applications from CPG companies around the Southeast. Ideal candidates are market-validated companies with compelling founders and innovative products in a hot category. Brands can be in a wide range of categories, including food, beverage, apparel, personal care, and household products. Companies interested in applying for SKU Atlanta can apply here.
"Participating in SKU 9 was a game changer for me,” said Jenn Wiese, founder of BeeFree Gluten-Free Granola. “I'm surrounded by a vast network of seasoned CPG and industry professionals and brand owners. It's a unique, supportive network that's passionate about building each other up and bringing best in class products to market.”
For the launch of SKU Atlanta, SKU is also partnering with Atlanta-based Goods & Services and Craft Catalyst, and Charlotte-based Silver Falcon Capital. The companies are providing access to their vast network and their experience working alongside CPG companies.
"All of us at Goods & Services are thrilled to help bring SKU Southeast to Atlanta," said John King, managing director of Goods & Services Ventures, and a SKU Mentor. "There are so many talented entrepreneurs and innovative companies in the Southeast that will benefit immensely from SKU's program. I encourage anyone in the Southeast who wants to participate, mentor, or learn more about SKU to reach out and join us in this mission to grow the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
One of the most valuable components of SKU is its elite community of mentors — a who’s who of top executives, successful founders and investors. Each SKU founder is surrounded by a hand-picked team of mentors focused on helping them scale their businesses as they guide them through the program. In addition to the rewards of working with founders to help them achieve their potential, mentors benefit from the experience of working side by side with their peers.
In addition to providing brands with a team of powerhouse mentors, SKU Atlanta will provide a curriculum that covers topics important to CPG startups, including Mission + Vision, Branding, Channel Strategy, Supply Chain, and Innovation. The program is 12 weeks long, culminating in a pitch event. Each participating company receives $20,000 in funding at the end of the program.
“The Southeast has needed a leader like SKU to be a driving force in creating the ecosystem to provide support for emerging food and beverage players throughout the region,” said Chris Olivier, a principal at Craft Catalyst. “The arrival of SKU has the potential to be a force multiplier in bringing the Southeast together.”
Over the past three years, SKU has expanded nationally. In addition to Austin, where it is headquartered, the accelerator now operates BeyondSKU in New York for natural products, ImpactSKU in the Twin Cities for purpose-driven brands, and SKU Dallas. Earlier this year, SKU partnered with Naturally Austin to launch M/O — a program for BIPOC CPG founders.
SKU has produced a variety of innovative and successful brands across the United States, including Siete Foods, EPIC Provisions, and Seaweed Bath Co. Of SKU’s more than 90 alumni, more than 90 percent are still in business today. SKU companies have produced more than 1,200 products generating a combined $2.5 billion in revenues and creating more than 2,500 jobs.
“The Southeast has lacked an organized structure and network to support entrepreneurs in the CPG space, and bringing SKU to Atlanta is the first step in establishing the Southeast as a focal point for CPG investments in the future,” said Paul Funkhouser, vice president of Silver Falcon Capital.
SKU was founded in 2011 by lawyer Shari Wynne Ressler and serial entrepreneur Clayton Christopher, founder of Sweet Leaf Tea and Deep Eddy Vodka, with the mission of accelerating CPGs. It has been a key factor in establishing Austin as a CPG powerhouse.