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#9: Behind an Accelerator Program, Mentorship, & 2020 Trends with Alyssa Padron of The Ronin Society

Years ago, Alyssa Padron got her start at SKU – and, man! Their accelerator program has seen a TON of growth since then.

Just look at alumni brands Siete Foods and Epic Bar!

Today, the very same can be said for Padron who has continued her journey onward to grow into a new role at The Ronin Society.

Together, we unpack what’s really going on behind the scenes within an accelerator program, 2020 trends leading into 2021, and the value of mentorships of all kinds.

Let us break it down for you…

[0:45] Introducing, Alyssa Padron!

[1:17] Alright, so how did Padron get her start in the CPG industry. Perhaps, Mad Men might’ve played a tiny part. 😉

[1:51] SKU explained: an originally Austin-based accelerator program. And, what brands have been a part of this program in the past?

[2:58] Did you notice any similarities between the brands or programs that succeeded in that accelerator program?

[4:16] Walk us through SKU’s accelerator program application process.

[5:42] Okay, so what are brands expected to have when applying to SKU’s accelerator program? Revenue minimums? Perhaps, a social media following?

[8:26] The importance of social proof and actively building a community.

[8:55] Now, if you could give any advice to a CPG founder applying to SKU’s accelerator program, what would that be? More on mentorship.

More on The Ronin Society

[11:15] Tell us more about The Ronin Society! Financial strategy with small-market business programs.

[12:40] Please, explain more about the value in a brand truly understanding their financials across the board and when applying to an accelerator program. A real-life example!

[15:30] Through this accelerator program experience, have you seen a trend between CPG founders – that there’s often that missing piece when it comes to operational proficiency?

[16:55] Okay, let’s talk about the value of mentorship + leadership. Specifically, how valuable is that piece for CPG owners? It’s a two-way street – and, there’s value in connecting with Gen Z, too.

[21:30] To sum it up, some more clarification on The Ronin Society.

2020 Trends

[22:08] Any current product or marketing trends that you’re seeing? A push for consumer transparency.

[25:50] What’s your best advice for small-to-medium business owners, generally speaking?

[27:40] Next, free resources for business owners.

[29:28] So, are there any CPG entrepreneurs that you keep tabs on?

[31:25] Are you seeing a trend in inclusivity, specifically in Austin?

[34:00] How can we eventually get there, increasing inclusivity?

[38:08] Kind words for MARYJAE!

[39:27] Any other CPG entrepreneurs that inspire you? Let’s talk about Gardenio.

[44:11] In conclusion, how can YOU connect with Padron?

Mentions from this episode: 

Stay in touch:

Join Umai’s Facebook Group: CORE 

Read – #9: Behind an Accelerator Program, Mentorship, & 2020 Trends with Alyssa Padron of The Ronin Society

Narrator:
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To join in, visit our website at umaimarketing.com/mini-course. Alright, let’s get on with the pod.

Karin Samelson:
Well, welcome to the Umai Social Circle, where we talk consumer goods marketing tips to help business owners and marketers alike grow. 

We’re Karin and Alison, co-founders of Umai Marketing.

And, we’re being joined by Alyssa Padron, Campaign Manager at The Ronin Society and former Program Manager at SKU. 

Thanks for joining us, Alyssa.

Alyssa Padron:
Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Karin Samelson:
Very cool. Well, to start out, we just want to learn a little bit more about you.

Did you always have an interest in CPG? How did you get your start?

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah, I feel like I had about as much interest in CPG as maybe the average consumer, which means I watched a couple of episodes of Mad Men and was like, “Oh, okay. There’s some stuff happening behind the scenes here.” 

But prior to SKU, I did not have a ton of experience in CPG. It was really, SKU was definitely diving headfirst into the CPG world here in Austin, which was a really exciting opportunity.

Introduction to SKU

Karin Samelson:
So, for somebody listening that has no idea what SKU is. Can you give us just a brief overview on what it is?

Alyssa Padron:
So, SKU – the word itself. SKU stands for Stock Keeping Unit. 

But, it’s also the name of a CPG accelerator here in Austin. So, it’s been running here in Austin for going on nine years now. And, then within the last couple of years, that I was with SKU, we expanded up to Dallas, New York, and Minneapolis.

Alison Smith:
Okay, cool.

Karin Samelson:
Wow, that’s such fast growth.

Alison Smith:
Yeah, really. 

Can you name any brands that went through y ‘all’s accelerator program that people would know?

Alyssa Padron:
Our big, golden child is Epic Bar who ended up selling to General Mills several years back for something like $100,000,000. They never quite disclosed, but it was somewhere around those nice numbers for General Mills.

Alison Smith:
Wow.

Karin Samelson:
That’s enough.

Alison Smith:
Those are some big brands, yeah.

Alyssa Padron:
Definitely.

Alison Smith:
So, we’re curious if you noticed similarities in the brands that succeeded through you all’s accelerator program?

SKU’s Accelerator Program

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah. When I think about that, it’s less about the brands and more about the founders and their success with the program. So, there’s a lot of things that can help a brand succeed. 

But, the thing that I saw really consistently, specifically within SKU, is that the founders that were willing to show up, asking for the extra meetings with the mentors and were just really hungry for that knowledge and coachable at the same time, I feel like that’s probably the most important thing, those tended to succeed. 

And then of course, for the brand itself, it’s like. Alright, cool. Now, is it unique? Or, is it innovative? Because, it can’t just be a me-too product. 

In the world of food, the first thing that anyone will tell you is it has to taste good. 

Of course, you can have all of the marketing in the world and nobody will buy it if it doesn’t taste good.

Karin Samelson:
Yeah, so true. And, I think that’s such a good note for founders is to be flexible. Really, I think that it’s really hard sometimes to take advice and really take it in and try and implement it and not get caught up in your own ideas of what works and what doesn’t work. So, I think that’s awesome.

Alyssa Padron:
Yes, definitely.

Alison Smith:
Yeah, agreed. So, how do people apply and what’s the process for getting into SKU?

Behind The Scenes at SKU

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah, it’s a pretty intense process. At first, I was a bit blown away my first year coming into SKU. Because, we had something like 400 applications to go through. 

So, you’ll go through a pretty basic online application asking you about your product market fit, any financials that you can provide, just letting us get to know a little bit more about you as a founder in the brand. Then, we’ll pull all of that together, and we’ll have about 25 in-person interviews. 

And, that’s when you’ll come in and actually pitch your full deck to SKU. And, we’ll get to try out your products at that point and then from there we’ll narrow it down even further.

Alyssa Padron:
So, it’s definitely an in depth process. Truly, there’s a lot of information that we ended up asking for from the founders, but it’s a lot of fun. 

I tell people all the time now I work in CPG for the samples, because the best part of that was like, I’m getting everyone’s product in and getting to try stuff and sample things with all the mentors. 

So, it’s a bit of an intense process, but always ends up working out really nicely.

Karin Samelson:
400 different samples, wow. I love it. So, how many meetings, did you say 25?

Alyssa Padron:
25, yeah. Typically.

Karin Samelson:
Wow.

Alyssa Padron:
That will do over two days or so. Believe me, it’s a fun thing to schedule.

Alison Smith:
So, what kind of questions are you asking? And, what can someone expect or what should they be looking to do before they apply to SKU?

What to Expect When Applying to SKU

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah, okay. So, for specifically with SKU, because we end up taking an equity stake in each of the companies that’s involved, a lot of the questions that you’ll get asked are basically anything that an investor would ask you. 

Things related to your margins: your customer acquisition costs, lifetime value, basically them figuring out the house sustainable this businesses, if there’s some product market fit and if that’s already been market validated. 

And, a lot of the questions that you’ll see in the pitch are not just like, okay, cool, you have this like shiny gold product. 

It’s really getting into more of like, “Cool, you have this shiny product. Does this business have legs? Does this founder know what they’re doing? 

Or, at least have a team that can help them or is open to mentorship in whatever areas they need help in.”

Alison Smith:
And, is there minimums that you require?

Alyssa Padron:
For the equity stake, or for-

Alison Smith:
For revenue minimums, or anything?

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah. So, we typically look for about $100,000 in annual revenue. And, that’s kind of our minimum threshold. So, we’ll still take other things into consideration. 

If for some reason you just blew that number out of the water increase sales or if you have a ton of social media following, that’s also something that we’re looking at. 

Just different things that are indicators of market validation. And, the only program that differs is our DFW program. That one, we’re looking at a minimum of a million in revenue. 

So, these are definitely later stage companies that don’t need as much hand-holding, but definitely still needs some of the resources and tools that we can offer to help get them to the next level.

Alison Smith:
Very cool. So, younger brands should still try and apply?

Alyssa Padron:
Absolutely, everyone because people always will reach out and they’re like, “[inaudible 00:07:43] is too small. We’re doing maybe 25K.” 

I’m like, “Apply anyway. Absolutely the best thing that you can do.” In my opinion, the CPG scene in Austin is so small. Really, the best thing you can do is just put your name out there, get your brand in front of the people at SKU, in front of the mentors and investors there. 

And then, maybe 2021 isn’t year, but you come back and apply the year after that. 

And, we have some really tangible ways to measure your growth from one year to the next. More than anything else, that’s a great opportunity for us to continue to learn more about you as a brand.

Alison Smith:
Very cool. And, something in particular that you just said beyond revenue growth and beyond the capabilities of a founder or their team is the social proof and having a good social following and an avid following that shows that you have built community. 

I think that, that’s a really good note that even if your revenue isn’t quite there, as long as you are pulling levers and building community, that, that’s almost just as important.

Alyssa Padron:
Absolutely, we just want to see that there are consumers out there that are hungry for whatever it is you have, even if it’s not food. Yeah.

Karin Samelson:
Yes, totally. 

Now, if you could give any piece of advice to a CPG founder looking to apply for that program, what would it be?

Alyssa Padron:
Okay, keep an open mind? Definitely keep an open mind. I think the worst thing that you can project as an accelerator is trying to make it seem like you know it all. We definitely want founders that are confident in their business. 

We definitely want founders that know their stuff, but it seems like it’s a waste of the mentorship and all of the time and energy that we’re putting into a company. 

An accelerator that chooses a brand for their program is doing so because they believe in the product, believe in the founder. And, they think that the accelerator has something to offer that the founder or brand is missing.

Alyssa Padron:
It may be as simple as just like ooh, maybe you need some extra call-outs on your packaging and it would be a little bit more clear or maybe you’ve got everything else in place and just need the access to capital, that we can help you with. 

Whatever it is, just keep an open mind, know that we are here to help and just stay as coachable and humble as you can.

Karin Samelson:
Okay, cool. And with that mentorship, is it along every single facet of the business.

Alyssa Padron:
Really, it is. We put together a team of probably five or six mentors that have all different sorts of backgrounds. 

So, if our founder has a marketing background, we probably won’t end up putting a marketing person on their team, but we’ll make sure they have someone that’s really strong in finance, really strong in trade spend, really strong in supply chain and things like that. 

So, you really get a bit of an outsourced C-suite of people that can help you out with really every aspect of your business throughout the duration of the job.

Karin Samelson:
Oh, that’s so amazing. I think the work that SKU does is so impressive. So, thank you for being a part of that for so long.

Alyssa Padron:
Oh, my gosh. It was so fun.

I again, didn’t realize how quickly we’re going to grow, while I was there and then I turned around after two years and I was like, “We have 4X this program.” Okay, cool.

Karin Samelson:
That’s amazing. And, there was a team of what? Three?

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah, just the three of us.

More on The Ronin Society

Karin Samelson:
Wow, that’s so cool. I know that they’re most likely missing you. So, now that we’ve talked a little bit about SKU and your background there, um, we’d love to talk about your new venture. So, you are at The Ronin Society. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah, so The Ronin Society was actually a bit unknown to me until a couple months back. In the beginning, I saw that they had sponsored Naturally Austin and you always trying to be one to like, keep my pulse on the things in the CPG world. And, I was like, “Who are these guys? All right, let’s go see.” 

So, we work primarily in financial strategy, but they take a really unique approach to working with small market business owners, that really drew me to them. Well, I was poking around on their site and I was like, “It kind of looks like they’re running an accelerator. 

And, they are not truly running an accelerator.” But the way that they have the process tiered out, you go through a couple of months of financial visibility and then go on to professional management structure. 

And, then all of that kind of gets you to your growth story.

Alyssa Padron:
So, it’s really not just getting all of your financials in order. But, making sure that they can kind of like translate that data to the entrepreneurs in a way that they understand. 

In a way, that they can manipulate and deal with and work with on their own and using all of that data to help them make decisions that are the best for them as people and as business owners, which I thought was really unique. And, it’s been a really cool thing to be a part of.

Alison Smith:

Next, can you give us a real world example of when or how important that is for a brand to understand their financials?

Alyssa Padron:
Okay, yeah. So, I think one of the things that comes to mind is I… I’ve been kind of the shadowing client meetings the last couple of weeks, to get kind of onboarded and get a feel for everything. 

Today, I think one of the conversations that sticks out to me was a client that we had that has just experienced exponential growth. For her, she has just exploded beyond where she thought she was going to be. 

So, she’s hitting numbers at year three that she thought she wasn’t going to get to until year five. 

And, so while all of this growth is super exciting, she has some really nice systems in place to manage all of the new hiring that’s going on. 

Together, she was sitting there in this meeting and she was just like, “I don’t know, I just… All of these things are good.”

Alyssa Padron:
It just feels like a lot, all at once. I wonder if I’m ready to go ahead and step away from the business. Here are the things that I’m kind of looking for to be offloaded, things like that. 

I’m sitting there and I’m shadowing, I haven’t said anything, but…

In my mind, I’m just like, “It seems like she wants a COO and not a CEO. I feel like she still wants some creative control here.”

 And, the strategist that was working with her said exactly what I was thinking. And, and basically was like, “Yeah. I think there’s a lot of growth that’s been happening in the last couple of years. 

It’s been happening really quickly. I think you need a COO and not necessarily a CEO.” And that interaction was just such a cool thing to see, because it was definitely a really personal moment for her, thinking about her role in the business and how much she wanted to be involved, going forward.

Alyssa Padron:
But, all of that came from a place of being really confident in how everything was being run currently. 

She was confident enough in her business and where it was going, its growth, up to that point and moving forward that she felt like she could step away in that moment. 

Again, she still wanted a bit of creative control. So, maybe it wouldn’t be completely stepping away from the business. 

But, having the strategist there that has been working with her for two years now has seen all of this growth has crunched all the numbers, knows exactly what she can and can’t afford, seeing him walk her through that, was really cool and really meaningful. 

And, that was the thing that made me realize, I think, the most over the last couple of weeks, like, “Oh man, this is… What Ronin does is not necessarily just financial strategy. 

It’s not just like, here’s a model, it’s beautiful, good luck deciphering it and excel. It’s really teaching you, how to utilize these things, how to make it matter and make sense to you.”

Alison Smith:
That’s amazing. I’m just so curious if you have, with all your experience, if you see that trend with CPG founders, not being as great in operations, just I feel like operations people are just one of a kind, they’re like a gold mine.

Alyssa Padron:
I feel that. There’s a lot of, I don’t know. I felt this way when I was in SKU as well, that I felt like my like personal responsibility throughout the process is obviously yes, connect them to all these people, get their supply chain in order, make sure that they are a really successful brand. 

But, I think a lot of the thing that pulls me towards supporting founders and supporting entrepreneurs, is that a lot of these people don’t see themselves as CEOs. 

A lot of the smaller startups are just constantly grinding and just so stuck in that day-to-day. It’s really hard for them to see themselves in a position or leadership, in a position of control or not necessarily control, but in a position of leadership that they feel confident in. 

And, so part of the process of SKU and also the Ronin Society is making sure that people are able to feel really confident in what they know about their business to feel more of that C-suite vibes .

Alison Smith:
Yeah, so true. I feel like there, I mean, we wanted to actually ask you about how important mentorship is, and I think this is a good segue because it’s hard to understand that you are a leader and there should just be a course for you to take on how to be a good leader. 

I know you’re a big part of mentorship in the past two roles that you played.

So, how important is mentorship for CPG founders?

Alyssa Padron:
So important. I can’t shout it loud enough. I think even outside of CPG, mentorship is hugely important. It’s a big thing for someone to be able to step out of themselves and be like, “Okay, here’s what I’m doing. I know it’s not perfect. I know it could be better. How can I get there? 

Really it comes from a place of vulnerability, right? 

Being able to open yourself up to someone and say like, “Here’s all the nitty gritty of the business. Where can I improve? What would you do? What advice can you provide on these specific experiences? 

A lot of the value of the mentorship and I think a little bit more about SKU in the sense of, is a lot of these people have been in the industry for, I shouldn’t say longer than I have been alive, but a very long time.

Alyssa Padron:
Have been there, done that. 

Their purpose in their mentorship is basically to be like, “Okay, cool. Here’s all of the pitfalls that people fall into. 

Here’s how to make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes that maybe they did in their past or that others have as well. 

But, I think one of the things that I’m starting to see more and more, I got the opportunity to work with a lot of college students, a lot of UT students, through SKU and I was like, “I want to hang out with these guys. I want to learn more about how they think about the world, how they see the CPG market in a completely different way.” 

And so, I think there’s also kind of a flip side of mentorship is like, find mentors that have been there, done that have all of the experience.

Alyssa Padron:
So, you can kind of like get those little nuggets of wisdom from, but also have someone that you meet with that maybe isn’t as formal of a mentor-mentee relationship, but someone that you know is going to bring a bit of diversity of thought to your business and how you’re doing things. 

Maybe they’ll tell you what the heck is happening on TikTok. And, you can learn more about the digital space there. I think that, again…

So much of mentorship is not just the advice part of it, but just bringing diversity of thought to what you’re doing.

Alison Smith:
That’s very well said, I’ve never heard anyone extend mentorship in that way. And, I think that’s so true. And, if someone could come and teach me what TikTok is and how to use it, that would be awesome.

Karin Samelson:
Right?

Alison Smith:
Yeah.

Karin Samelson:
I think that’s such a good point. Now, I feel like I’m connecting that with another Umai Podcast guest. Her name was Emily Hoyle and she was an intern at Sweet Leaf Tea. 

And, she and her fellow interns were driving these marketing initiatives that I know were impressing, the marketing staff at Sweet Leaf. 

She was telling us, these young kids that come in with grand ideas and obviously not everything is going to hit, but I love that piece of advice to look to all sorts of people for feedback on your brand and what’s working and what’s not working and what they like and what they don’t like. 

So, very cool.

Alison Smith:
Agreed, yeah. And, even beyond mentorship, you’re saying with Sweat Leaf, hire young employees that know how to do field marketing and things better than you would ever know how to do. I’d say, that’s pretty cool.

Alyssa Padron:
Definitely, I had taken on a part-time role for another CPG in town doing a bit of admin, some operations, a bit of marketing. 

It’s just like super startup where I basically just got to have my hands in everything. 

I was stepping away as I was getting into my new role at Ronin and our one requirement was, we need to find someone that knows TikTok. So, we have started expanding on our TikTok influencer strategy. 

I was just like, yeah, it took me two days to figure out how to message someone on TikTok. I know there’s people out there that can do this much better and faster than I can.

Karin Samelson:
Yeah, including my 11 year old nephew, I’m sure.

Alison Smith:
I was going to say, there’s so many 11 year olds who have 3,000,000 followers. That’s amazing.

Alyssa Padron:
Crazy.

Alison Smith:
Amazing.

Karin Samelson:
So, moving into the CPG industry in particular.

So, correct me if I’m wrong, is the Ronin Society specifically for the consumer goods industry?

Alyssa Padron:
Correct, it’s a segment of the businesses they work with. So, they work with not just CPG, but also eCommerce and professional services, as well as a few retail stores, that will probably be a focus when retail is a thing again. But yeah, they focus… CPG is just part of what they focus on.

2020 Trends

Karin Samelson:
Cool, great. Well, you’re still in it. And, you still have your finger on the pulse in that industry. So, are there any current product or market trends that you’re seeing right now that you’d like to talk about?

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah. I just really need keto to go away. 

It is killing my holiday dinner vibes. I just wanted to make like a cool cornbread and there’s just not any good keto breads substitutes. I don’t know, maybe that’s my soapbox. Maybe, that’s the hill I die on. 

Also, I think there’s just healthier ways of dieting and relating to food, but that’s a whole separate issue. Yeah. So, there’s some of these like more faddish ones that I see coming in and out. 

I really like seeing CBD on the rise. 

I feel like we have finally hit a point where consumers are starting to understand the difference between a high quality CBD that can give you third-party lab testing and understanding of the terpene, versus just like a $20 bottle you buy on Amazon.

Alyssa Padron:

The biggest thing that I think about overall from a very macro level is just, push for consumer transparency. 

This goes all the way up to the policy level, with the changes to the nutrition labels, not too long ago. 

There’s something that Marissa Epstein, who’s the Director of the Nutrition Institute over at UT said in a SKU class that just like always sticks with me. It’s just like, 

“Consumers are only getting smarter… 

If there are things that you don’t want people to see in your ingredient list, do not put it in your product. There’s just no hiding anything anymore. 

People are always wanting to do more research, have more understanding of the products that they’re buying, not just what they’re putting in their body, but is it sourced ethically? 

…Is it sourced sustainably?” 

So, I have stopped buying any new clothes this year. And, I have sworn off fast fashion.

Alyssa Padron:
And so, I had planned to thrift a bit throughout the year and just ended up not meeting any new clubs this year, which worked out nicely. 

But, I think that kind of higher level of consciousness around the things that we consume is definitely not going anywhere. 

That’s definitely something that we’ll continue to try and kind of trickle down, throughout the rest of the market and to all consumers.

Alison Smith:
Wow. So true. Ha, I just have a quick antidote. 

I was at the store the other day and I was looking in the steak section and the steak said, keto on it. And, it was just kinda like, “Well, yeah. Well, yes, it’s just meat.”

Alyssa Padron:
When gluten-free became a thing, they were labeling grapes as gluten free and-

Alison Smith:
Yeah, I mean that’s marketing. Okay. But yeah, no, I would like to talk more about the consciousness of the consumer.

Karin Samelson:
Yeah, I think consumer transparency and especially when we’re in Austin and there’s so many better for you CPG brands, it’s really important to do your best. 

But, I also think that there is this conversation about inclusivity and price point really, and availability to the masses. 

I just feel so strongly when brands can acknowledge that and have systems in place that make their product more readily available to a very wide range of audiences in specialty and in conventional grocery stores. 

So, I think that, that’s something interesting that we can all really work towards and focus on in the future. So, what would be your best advice for a small to medium sized business owners, especially from what you learned from SKU, working with so many of them?

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah, okay. 

Ask for help. 

I think there’s a concept called, is it hustle core? Maybe it’s hustle another word, but it’s basically this concept that you just like have to be on your grind and always just tough it out and do the thing, working these 14 hour days. 

I just don’t think that’s glamorous at all or necessarily admirable. I think that, again, kind of going back to thinking about the founders and kind of having empathy for their emotional state throughout all of this, it’s very difficult to kind of find that inner strength and that inner confidence.

Alyssa Padron:

I think that one of the biggest things that you can do is just ask for help where you need it, especially here in Austin. 

There’s so many treasure troves of resources for budding entrepreneurs and not necessarily just practical resources, but looking for ways to connect with other entrepreneurs, specifically solo-preneurs are a big segment that I think about a lot. 

Just finding ways to connect with people over similar issues that you’re having, whether you are a SaaS company or a CPG, there’s definitely things to be learned on either side. 

So, connecting with founders that are kind of in your stage, no matter the industry, and then asking for help as far as utilizing your network to ask for more practical or tactical things. 

And then, that last key component is just mentorship and mentorship.

Karin Samelson:
Awesome, love it! 

So, what would be some free resources that you could think of,  whether it’s messaging somebody on LinkedIn or joining a Facebook group? 

And, what would be some of your advice to how to connect with those folks?

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah. So, for CPG here in Austin, there’s tons of groups. SKU, every so often will host an event that’s open to the public. Usually some sort of town hall that’ll take place once a month on any particular topic, as it relates to CPG. 

Naturally, Naturally Austin is obviously a huge player in our industry that has all sorts of really cool webinars and networking events. 

And, I also really just like Wake Up! CPG. 

It’s a networking group hosted by Mark Nathan that’s… I have always found it a really good place specifically to seek out other founders in this space.

Alyssa Padron:
In addition, I find that it’s one of the spaces where there’s a little bit less of the service providers and not that, that’s a bad thing, but it’s a really cool for people to connect there. Then, outside of Austin there’s… 

Naturally Austin is just kind of the Austin branch of the larger natural network. 

There’s also a site called Startup CPG that hosts all sorts of networking events, pitch competitions, they just hosted a virtual pitch competition the other day. And then again, just the larger industry publications, NOSH, BevNET, things like that, staying on top of all of those elevator talks.

Alison Smith:
So is that, I’m guessing that’s where you stay on top of your networking news. 

And, are there any certain CPG entrepreneurs that you follow and anyone in particular that mentors you that we should be checking out?

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah. I feel like all of the CPG entrepreneurs that I… I don’t know, I think I categorize them in a couple of different ways. There’s kind of the big ones here in Austin, which are obviously you’ve got our Kendra Scott and Clayton Christopher, and that’s kind of what we’re all aspiring to in the level of success. 

But, a lot of the ones that come to mind when I think about who’s doing some really cool stuff here in Austin are the founders that have a little bit smaller of companies, but are just doing something really cool and exciting.

Alyssa Padron:
Rebekah Jensen, with Sanara Skincare has put together this beautiful just small line of body care. 

She’s got bath bombs and bath oils. 

But the thing that super resonates with me about it is she is also Mexican-American and is using these Aztec indigenous herbs, just exactly things that my grandma would put into tea, she’s put in this beautiful bath bomb and it’s just got beautiful branding. 

And, this girl is a hustler. She has built this brand from the ground up, with no CPG experience, limited mentorship and she’s just gone on and created something really, really beautiful. 

I think that’s… When I think about the people that inspire me, the people that I want to learn from, that’s the kind of people that I think about.

Karin Samelson:
Incredible, I’ve heard of her skincare line but I need to learn a lot more about it, because I had no idea that they were… That she was using super authentic to her ancestry kind of ingredients in her products that you don’t usually see in a bath bomb. Right? 

You’re seeing glitter and all sorts of stuff and lavender, but that’s very cool. 

On that note. 

Are you seeing, are you seeing that kind of trends? 

I know a huge shakeup across the world this year has been really focused on inclusivity. And, are you seeing that in the CPG space? I know Austin isn’t the most diverse city in the world. It’s really not diverse at all. So, what are you seeing in Austin?

What’s Going on in Austin?

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah. So, in Austin there’s been a few initiatives that I think are pushing things in the right direction. I think about, obviously Beam coming together to support female entrepreneurs has been particularly exciting. 

When I think of the LatinX businesses that I want to support, obviously I have intentionally shifted my Instagram feed away from influencers, living in California whose lives I will never live to trying to support as many LatinX artists and makers as possible. 

They’re not all Austin-based. 

One LatinX-owned business that I super love to support here in Austin is actually, not necessarily in the CPG space, she’s in the retail, but her name is Mary Jae… 

and, it’s a LatinXo and quiero CBD store that has just created this just beautiful assortment and environment that’s super welcoming to everyone.

Alyssa Padron:
I think of that as like one of the most inclusive places, that you can shop at here in Austin. Unfortunately, this is part of the problem I think, is I wish that I could come up with more brands that felt this way. I think one of the bigger examples is obviously CFA. 

They’ve done an amazing job, staying really close to their roots as a family, staying really close to the Mexican heritage and being able to use that, all of those colors and patterns and kind of vibes, in their marketing and in their branding in a really wonderful way. 

But yeah, unfortunately I wish there were more, and I think that’s part of the problem to be solved.

Alison Smith:
Totally.

Karin Samelson:
Yeah.

Alison Smith:
And I totally agree. I’m so happy that, in the past year we’ve seen a change to more authentic influencers versus the other that you mentioned, but I did want to ask you… 

…how we, agencies, how CPG leaders, how other programs can work to ensure that inclusivity and equality.

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah. That’s a big one. I won’t get in to the slightly disappointing statistics. So just like how underfunded, BIPOC-

Alison Smith:
Actually, if you have them on you, we would love to hear them.

Alyssa Padron:
I unfortunately don’t. I would know. That the one that comes to mind is a little bit more specific when it comes to investing. 

It’s something that less than two percent of all investment comes from BIPOC investors. 

And so it’s a bit of this chicken and egg situation where it’s like, okay, well, people, we know that people have implicit bias, unconscious bias. People tend to invest in people like them. Right? 

So the lack of funding from underestimated founders comes from a lack of BIPOC and female investors.

Alyssa Padron:
Okay. Well, how do you get these people to be investors? They run a successful business. Then, exit. They want to give back. Well, how do they run a successful business? They need the funding. 

So, it just kind of goes on and on and back and forth. 

And yeah, I think that there’s… I hate to harp on Austin, but I think especially here, there’s a lot of feeling that we want to do good and it’s difficult to measure that action. 

Everyone knows intrinsically, they want to do something to help. 

Underestimated founders don’t need advice. They need funding. It’s so simple. I was listening to a panel the other day on underrepresented founders and how to get funding. 

And there’s all these investors and investors are like, “Oh, we’ll just give them some pro-bono time or just mentor them.” And I’m like, “Invest.”

Alison Smith:
Money.

Alyssa Padron:
“No, invest. That’s the answer.” I hated that’s the answer-

Alison Smith:
I love that you made that connection that’s yeah-

Brand Love for Golde + BLM Ripple Effect

Karin Samelson:
That completely brings to mind the founder of Golde, Trinity, she was in Vogue and I think Forbes as well, where she was talking about, she was denied investment so many times from so many people. 

And then the Black Lives Matter movement exploded this year. 

All of a sudden it was coming in hot, super hot. And it was just a really sad or reminder that we have so much further to go, but at the very least we’re moving in the right direction.

Alyssa Padron:
Absolutely. Yeah. And I think one of the things to remember is, if you are an investor consciously invest in people of color… If you’re not, if you’re a service provider, consider how accessible you are, consider how people are, how you’re able to give access to your resources, on either a pro bono basis. 

I know that y’all have put together this absolutely wonderful program that’s super accessible for people. I’ve been pushing people you all swipe, so I hope that turns out well for you all. Yeah. 

And then, if you’re a consumer just buy POC-owned products, think about the people that you are purchasing from – go and do that research. Learn more about the people that you are supporting when buying your products.

Alyssa Padron:
I think that there’s a fair amount of that going on and kind of the greater collective of boycotting brands. There’s a whole list of places that I don’t shop anymore, because I don’t love where they put their money. I don’t want my money going those places. 

So, shopping with your dollars as a consumer is definitely a way that you can help move all of us forward.

Karin Samelson:
Absolutely. That’s such great advice.

Alison Smith:
Yeah. It’s easy to forget how much power you have as a consumer. So I love that you said that and I would also like to get your list of places you no longer shop at.

Karin Samelson:
Yeah. I’ll take that list too. Bringing it back to… I know you mentioned it before and I didn’t say anything, but MaryJae, I have purchased so many things from that store and that woman, is her name Mary?

Alyssa Padron:
Her name, Mary is her mother. Her name is Jae.

Karin Samelson:
Doesn’t that work out beautifully for them? Oh my gosh. She is so nice. Oh my gosh. When they first opened, I was in the store a few times. 

We were at Black Sheep Lodge going in the store and she was just the most helpful, non-judgemental, especially…

When you go into shops like that, sometimes they can be a little bit holier than now, but the nicest person. 

So, Austinites go shop there. It’s the holidays.

Alyssa Padron:
Absolutely. I just went and did a little one-on-one sneak preview shopping session with just Jae and I in the store, which was amazing. 

Got this like super cute little goodie bag and I made this Instagram post about it. Because I was just like, “Go support this woman and she’s doing cool stuff.” 

And, then I wrote this whole thing out and I was like, “This looks super sponsored and it’s totally not, but I wish that it was.” But yeah, just a thing that I like felt really passionately about was supporting her and just everything that she stands for in that store.

Grow Gardenio

Karin Samelson:
Very cool. On that note, are there other CPG entrepreneurs that really inspire you similar to Jae?

Alyssa Padron:
It’s going to sound really lame and a little sappy, but my partner, I data founder in the scene and his commitment and ambition and drive and just seeing his bigger vision for not just what his company can do now, not just like cool, run it, get acquired in a couple years. 

He has such a passionate vision for where the business will take him and how it will impact the world. 

Honestly, dating him has been one of the things that’s made me realize in myself like, “Oh man, I have power to change these things. 

Even though I’m not an investor, I’m just a consumer. I can vote with my dollars to support the people that I want to. I can stand for systems that support food, justice and equality for all.”

Alyssa Padron:
He’s been really instrumental in kind of, not just learning about all of the unfortunate inequities of the world, but really helping me feel like I actually have a pretty powerful part in being able to make that change. Yeah.

Karin Samelson:
Wow. Well, what’s his name? What’s his business?

Alison Smith:
Yeah, plug him.

Alyssa Padron:
Roman Gonzalez, he’s the founder of Gardenio, which is a membership-based club. 

Okay, are you familiar?

Karin Samelson:
Yes.

Alison Smith:
Yeah, we saw him-

Karin Samelson:
We’ve had a call with him too.

Alison Smith:
Yeah, and we saw him pitch his brand. And, I think he won – he was amazing.

Karin Samelson:
Wait.

Alison Smith:
He did an elevator pitch.

Karin Samelson:
Do you remember it at the Naturally Austin event? Not the Pitch Slam where it was at Austin Eastciders?

Alison Smith:
Yes, yeah.

Karin Samelson:
Do you remember that? And it was like, Oh gosh, I’m so embarrassed to not remember his name who owns the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban. It was one of Mark Cuban’s investor guys from work and he was there and they were like, “Who wants to pitch their brand?” 

And, he raised his hand out of nowhere and pitched his brand. We were just like-

Alison Smith:
Yeah. “Who was that? He did amazing.”

Karin Samelson:
He’s ready.

Alison Smith:
Yeah.

Karin Samelson:
Yeah, very cool.

Alison Smith:
We loved his concept and everything.

Alyssa Padron:
I don’t know if you can see it over here. I’ve got a whole bunch of plants in this window sill. Those are all my Gardenio plants. 

Admittedly, I’m much better at growing houseplants and it’s pretty embarrassing that my herbs don’t grow as well as they should considering I’m dating the founder of this guy that lets you grow your own herbs. But the fact that they are not dead is proof that anyone can do it, follow along with the herb, they got you.

Karin Samelson:
Tell us a little bit more about Gardenio.

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah. So, I have been lucky enough to kind of get such an inside view of the business, and kind of what they do. You sign up for your first box and you get three plants.

They send you everything you need, you get not just seeds, but a live plant, all of the soil, the pots, the right kind of mulch for your plant and the environment that it’s going to be in. 

You get a care guide for each of your plants and then you log them in the app.

Then, go and mend your plans different things, which I always find helpful. Because I’m like, “Oh no, I can’t kill Jenny. No man, I got to water her.”

The app is great and it helps you follow along. You’ll get little notifications. It’ll be like, “Hey, it’s going to freeze outside. You might want to bring your plants inside or put like some sort of plant jacket over it.” And, then every three months after that you’ll get an additional plant.

Alyssa Padron:
If your plant dies any time within the first three months that you get it, basically no questions asked other than, unless you just completely neglected it, I’ll send you a new plant, which is very exciting.

He studied philosophy at Brown. And, so, he has this whole concept of like reframing death and being able to do that through plants and just kind of being, “Yeah. It died. That happens sometimes it doesn’t mean give up, it means grow another one.”

Karin Samelson:
Whoa.

Alison Smith:
Man.

Karin Samelson:
That’s so cool.

Alison Smith:
Yeah. I feel like I would be his worst customer sending me new plants all the time.

Alyssa Padron:
That’s the thing. Those are the people that he loves.

Alison Smith:
Okay good.

Alyssa Padron:
He loves a good challenge.

Alison Smith:
So cool. Very cool.

Karin Samelson:
And, another Latinx-founded Austin CPG company. So check them out too.

Alyssa Padron:
Absolutely.

Karin Samelson:
Very cool.

Alison Smith:
Definitely. Well, Alyssa, this is a lot of fun.

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah.

Karin Samelson:
Thank you for joining us.

Alison Smith:
Yeah. Is there any way that anyone can reach out to you? Do you want to leave anyone with a link or your Instagram or anything?

Alyssa Padron:
Yeah, so I am super excited!

A lot of my role at SKU was not just kind of running the program, but also being able to build a nice little community around that.

So, I’m still working on building communities over at Ronin. We’re going to be hosting monthly workshops. We’re going to start an intro to finance for business owners, free workshop.

It’s going to run every month, starting in 2021. So, you can check out theroninsociety.com, head over to the workshop’s tab and yeah, feel free to drop me a line.

Because, I love chatting with new people. I’m so happy to share resources, to connect people with whatever it is they need. You can reach me at a.padron that’s P-A-D-R-O-N @theroninsociety.com.

Alison Smith:
Awesome. Thanks again, Alyssa.

Alyssa Padron:
Absolutely.

Alison Smith:
We’ll talk soon.

Karin Samelson:
Thanks Alyssa.

Alyssa Padron:
Thank you, all.

Narrator:
Umai Social Circle is a CPG agency driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind the scene insights, chats with industry leaders or whatever else we learn along the way. 

Follow us on Instagram @umaimarketing or check out our website, umaimarketing.com. Catch you back here soon.

1 thought on “#9: Accelerator Programs, Mentorship, & 2020 Trends with Alyssa Padron of The Ronin Society

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