General Mills ramps up push to close the VC gap for WOC food disruptors

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

General Mills is investing $15m to close the venture capital gap faced by women of colour entrepreneurs. Pic: GettyImages/Luis Alvarez
General Mills is investing $15m to close the venture capital gap faced by women of colour entrepreneurs. Pic: GettyImages/Luis Alvarez

Related tags: General mills, 301 Inc, women empowerment, women of colour, Entrepreneurship, Venture capital, diversity and inclusion, Fearless Fund, Supply Change Capital

301 Inc – General Mills’ venture capital arm – is ploughing $15m into two early-stage women-led venture capital funds, which are on a mission to promote racial and gender equity and economic opportunities for women of colour (WOC) entrepreneurs.

In 2018, Fortune reported US companies raised £130 billion in venture capital (VC) funding. However, only 2.2% of that was allocated toward female-founded companies and less than 1% was designated for businesses founded by women of colour.

Fearless Fund was established to address that gap for WOC entrepreneurs. The Atlanta, Georgia-based firm was built by women of colour and invests in WOC-led businesses seeking pre-seed, seed level or series A financing.

Cooking up the next revolutionary brand

“Access to capital is one of the most prominent hurdles to women of colour reaching their potential as founders, despite having an excellent track record in building successful businesses built on great ideas,”​ said Arian Simone, general partner and cofounder of Fearless Fund.

“We are thrilled to grant General Mills investment dollars to women of colour who are looking to cook up the next revolutionary culinary brand.”

The second, Supply Change Capital, is a Latina powered venture firm founded by Noramay Cadena and Sayna Harris, who met at MIT in 2009. The firm invests at the intersection of food, culture and technology to catalyse early-stage sustainable businesses that are modernising the food system. Specifically, it invests in entrepreneurs who are often from overlooked or underinvested backgrounds in food and technology-focused venture capital.

“Food and food systems are at the heart of our culture and economy,”​ said Cadena.

“As the multicultural consumer population in the US grows, we are focused on unlocking change in the venture ecosystem to infuse women and people of colour with the capital they need to shape our future food landscape.

“We’re thrilled to have the support of General Mills in our network.”

Equity in food

The investment is aligned to Minnesota multinational’s ethos to use its scale and expertise to improve equity in food access and representation.

Since the reorganisation of its corporate venture capabilities into a Disruptive Growth organisation in 2021, approximately 80% of 301 Inc’s investment dollars have gone to minority-led or female-led food businesses, including Grub Market, Pet Plate and Everything Legendary.

In July 2021, 301 Inc’s Strategy and Growth unit was regrouped into a ‘disruptive growth’ team under the leadership of Doug Martin. The team was tasked to be laser-focused on long-term growth opportunities by combining the strength and capabilities of 301 Inc; Gworks (General Mills’ internal innovation incubator) and iSQUAD (the company’s innovation & core growth strategy consulting team).

“We experience firsthand the expertise and passion of the diverse and female founders within our 301 Inc portfolio, and yet there is a systemic gap for minority food entrepreneurs looking for early-stage venture capital funding,”​ said Doug Martin, chief brand and disruptive growth officer, General Mills.

“We’re excited to join forces with these amazing partners to uncover and accelerate more founders at earlier stages.

“Closing this gap means more great innovation in our food system – from new concepts to emerging food technologies – and more inclusive cycles of opportunity for entrepreneurs, companies and communities.”

At its core, General Mills is guided by its Accelerate strategy to drive shareholder value by building powerful household brands, such as Cheerios, Nature Valley, Blue Buffalo, Häagen-Dazs, Old El Paso, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker and Annie’s, among others. Headquartered in Minneapolis, it generated net sales of $18.1bn in 2021.

The manufacturer also committed to fostering job creation and economic development through supplier diversity. In 2021, it launched a sponsorship programme to fund and support diverse small businesses in attaining their Diverse Business Enterprise Certification.

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