Meet Team Whipstitch
Michael Burgmaier is a Co-Founder and Managing Director with Whipstitch Capital. After a career in public policy and completing an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in 2001, he became a consultant at Bain & Company, Inc. Since early 2004, Mike has been active in the M&A and private equity/venture capital consumer space. In 2008, he was named as a “40 Under 40” leader in the Natural Products Industry by Natural Foods Merchandiser. In 2009, he partnered with Nick McCoy to lead the consumer practice at an investment bank and focused on the better-for-you/premium consumer space. In 2015, Mike and Nick joined forces to form Whipstitch Capital with the goal of creating the industry’s best investment bank exclusively focused on leading consumer companies in the healthy living industry. He often writes about, gives talks and is quoted on various investiture and acquisition-related topics.
Mike holds FINRA Series 7, 24, 63 and 79 licenses. Always doing too much, he attended graduate school twice and holds an MPP from Duke University and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, not to mention an undergraduate degree in Economics from Boston College. He works out of Yarmouth, Maine where he lives with his enthusiastically supportive partner Rachel, his three active children and their beaglador Morgan.
Mike is an avid bike rider (in his basement), former runner (oh those knees…), gym-goer, T-shirt wearer, massive Foo Fighters fan (Boston Calling 2020!) and semi-health food nut.
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Nick McCoy is a Co-Founder and Managing Director with Whipstitch Capital. In 2001, he co-founded an investment bank and in 2009, Mike Burgmaier joined Nick at that banks, where together they completed nearly forty transactions for clients such as Blake’s All Natural, KeVita, Cherrybrook Kitchen, Spindrift and Otter Creek Brewing Company. In October 2015, they formed Whipstitch Capital.
Nick holds FINRA Series 7, 24, 27, 63 and Series 79 licenses and is a Chartered Financial Analyst. He has an MBA from Wake Forest University and an undergraduate degree from the University of New Hampshire. He lives in the greater-Boston area with his very patient wife (who still finds him funny) and two great children.
Nick is an avid road cyclist and thinks it’s ok to cross country ski in below-zero temperatures. He’s a health-focused foodie, cooks frequently and has an extensive knowledge of wine and whiskey (just ask him).
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Tim Sousa is a Vice President with Whipstitch Capital. Tim joined Whipstitch from another investment bank where he worked directly with Nick McCoy and Mike Burgmaier for several years. He has played key roles in executing numerous M&A and private placement transactions in the branded consumer products industry for clients such as GoodBelly, Uncle Matt’s Organics, Yasso, Sqwincher, Brad’s Raw Foods and Scivation.
Tim first wet his toes in the consumer industry while working for Kamylon Capital, a $1.0 billion private equity fund. Tim enjoys spending time outdoors, especially at Earth’s ends, whether scuba diving or jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet. He is currently pursuing his PADI rescue diver certification.
He holds FINRA Series 62, 63 and 79 licenses and has an MBA and B.S. in Finance from Bentley University, where he was a NCAA student athlete. Tim lives in Boston with his wife (although had ambitions to move west…).
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Greg Ucich is a Vice President with Whipstitch Capital. In 2013, he joined Nick McCoy and Mike Burgmaier at a previous investment bank where he worked on numerous consumer products deals, including Blake’s All Natural Foods (sold to ConAgra Foods) and Spindrift (investments from Prolog Ventures, KarpReilly and VMG Partners). Shortly after Nick and Mike started Whipstitch, Greg hopped on board.
Greg enjoys golf (Mike always tries to get Greg on his best ball team), snowboarding and playing soccer. Greg holds FINRA Series 63, 79 and 82 licenses, is a Chartered Financial Analyst and has been a member of Big Brother Big Sister since 2012.
Although he has an undergraduate degree from the University of New Hampshire, Greg works and lives out of San Diego, CA with his wonderful wife and their pride and joy, Coley the cat.
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Dom Mangano is a Vice President with Whipstitch Capital. Prior to joining Whipstitch in 2017, he worked alongside a handful of the Whipstitch team members at another investment bank, where he worked on a variety of M&A and private placement food and beverage transactions.
His passion for the natural products industry extends beyond Whipstitch and is a result of reworking his diet while recovering from shoulder surgery a few years back. Both a sports and music enthusiast, outside of the office, Dom often can be found playing in a pickup basketball game or attending a concert for an up-and-coming artist here in Boston.
He holds FINRA Series 63, 79 and 82 licenses and has an B.S. in Finance from the University of Connecticut.
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Sarika Pokala is an Analyst with Whipstitch Capital. Prior to joining Whipstitch, Sarika was a Summer Analyst at JP Morgan in the Specialty Finance team in New York. She also founded an event planning and waitstaff business that she managed in high school.
Outside of work, Sarika is an avid foodie who enjoys traveling the world, taking photos for the gram, and vlogging her adventures. Sarika is a vegetarian and loves to cook South Indian food. Her favorite dish is biryani. Sarika spends her weekends practicing Vinyasa yoga, reading books by Asian American authors, and mentoring high school and college students.
Sarika holds a BS in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University, where she was Co-President of a social impact oriented consulting club, Social Enterprise Group at Cornell (SEGC).
Tyler Coppola is an Analyst with Whipstitch Capital. Prior to joining Whipstitch, Tyler was a Senior Associate in both FTI Consulting and RSM’s Transaction Advisory Services practices. Tyler developed his passion for M&A at FTI Consulting by leading both buy-side and sell-side financial due diligence engagements.
Outside of work, Tyler enjoys traveling to new places, trying new restaurants and is on a never-ending quest to find Boston’s best old-fashioned (recommendations are welcome and encouraged). Tyler also is an outdoor enthusiast and, when possible, likes to spend his weekends skiing or hiking in the White Mountains (although he prefers the Rockies!).
Tyler holds the FINRA Series 79, 63, 82, is a licensed CPA and has a MS in Taxation and BS in Accounting from Bentley University, where he was an NCAA student athlete.
Tom MacLean is an Analyst with Whipstitch Capital. Prior to joining Whipstitch, Tom spent three years in credit research at Moody’s Investors Service, where he covered a portfolio of debt issuers in the technology and business services sectors. His experience covering the high yield and investment grade categories at Moody’s gave him a broad view of the credit markets and M&A landscape. In his free time, Tom is highly active and enjoys lifting weights, snowboarding and listening to hip-hop music. His interest in the consumer products industry comes from his involvement in competitive powerlifting – he’s always looking for an edge by consuming products with natural and clean ingredients.
Tom holds the FINRA 63, 79 and 82 licenses. He grew up in the Boston area and closely follows the Red Sox, Patriots, and UConn Huskies. He recently moved back to the area and is excited to continue to explore the local restaurants, bars, and parks. Tom was awarded a B.S. in Finance from the University of Connecticut (Go Huskies!), where he was an undergraduate portfolio manager for the school’s student managed fund.
Brendan is an analyst with Whipstitch Capital. Prior to joining the team, Brendan worked in Grant Thornton’s audit practice and Ernst and Young’s Transaction Advisory Services group. His experience providing financial due diligence services on a variety of transactions gave him a wide view of the M&A field from both the buy-side and sell-side perspectives.
Brendan is an outdoor enthusiast. He is an avid snowboarder, and if we let him out of the office, there is a good chance that you will find him at Loon Mountain during the winter months. When the weather warms up he enjoys fishing on the South Shore and golfing wherever he can find a tee time (and we let him out of the office!). His active lifestyle led to his interest in all things health and wellness related, particularly Whipstitch’s focus on the better-for-you consumer products sector.
Brendan holds the Series 63, 79 and 82, is a licensed CPA and received his BS in Accounting from the University of Maryland.
Kathy is Whipstitch Capital’s Director of Operations and has worked with Mike and Nick for eight years now – five years at a previous investment bank. Kathy even tolerated sharing an office with Mike once (where the phrase “it’s all about Mike” emerged…)! Her background includes three years at an integrative health and medicine journal where Kathy was the executive assistant to the CEO and Publisher. This experience led to her deep interest in the integrative medicine field – researching new methods for healing therapies, in addition to how and what we feed our bodies. A fairly new hobby is finding new ‘clean’ recipes that allow her to be gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free.
At Whipstitch Kathy assists the team with whatever they need – from event management to decorating the new office space and anything in between (snacks anyone?).
In Kathy’s spare time, she enjoys spending time outside with her family, whether it is exploring the countryside on her new road bike, kayaking, swimming, yoga or traveling our beautiful country. Oh, and also visiting as many farmers markets in season as she can.
Supported by the Stitching Crew
Whipstitch Capital’s core team is supported by the Stitching Crew, a number of industry experts across food, beverage, personal care, VMS, contract manufacturing, operations, distribution, sales and marketing, brand building, consumer insights, trends analysis and more. The Crew consists of some of the “better-for-you” industry’s greatest minds and leaders.
Mr. Antonelli joined the American Flatbread Co. in April 2019 and currently serves in an Executive Leadership role focusing on top line sales growth. From 2009 to 2019 Mr. Antonelli served as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Galaxy Nutritional Foods. A successful sale of Galaxy Nutritional Foods was executed in January 2018 to Greenspace Brands. Previously, he was Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and President of Distribution for United Natural Foods from December 2005 to August 2008. Mr. Antonelli served as a member of the Board of Directors at United Natural Foods from December 2003 to August 2008. The majority of his professional career was dedicated to United Natural Foods (Nasdaq: UNFI), the nation’s largest natural products distributor at over $20 billion in annual sales, serving as President of both Eastern and Western Regions, Director of Sales since its inception from 1996 through 2001 and Director of Sales for Cornucopia Natural Foods, the Company’s predecessor, from 1985 through 1996. From 1982 through 1985, Mr. Antonelli was Director of Operations for Harvest Provision, a division of Bread and Circus that was acquired by Cornucopia Natural Foods in 1985. From 2001 to 2002, Mr. Antonelli was President of Fairfield Farms Kitchens, a Massachusetts-based custom-food manufacturer where Mr. Antonelli’s responsibilities included oversight of a 250,000 square foot manufacturing facility, the acquisition and integration of an integrated food company and the development and launch of three new organic product lines. Mr. Antonelli has served on the Board of Directors of Zevia Beverage Company, the Natural Cooperative Grocers Association, Mary’s Gone Crackers, New England Natural Bakers, Healthy Living Markets, Homefree Brands, and UNFI.
As a consultant since 1998, Bob Burke provides assistance in bringing natural, organic and specialty products to market across most classes of trade. This includes work in strategic planning, growth strategies, writing sales, marketing and business plans, budgeting, pricing, building distribution, broker selection and management, organizational development, strategic options, financing, branding, trade spending management and assistance around M&A, due diligence and venture strategy groups. He is also the co-author and co-publisher of the Natural Products Field Manual, Ninth Edition. Prior to consulting, Bob was with Stonyfield Farm Yogurt for 11 years as Vice President, Sales & Corporate Development and Vice President, Marketing & Sales. He has held marketing positions with Colombo, Inc. and Sperry Top-Sider. He received an MBA from Babson College.
Clients: Have had the privilege of working with and learning from exciting companies such as: Annie’s Homegrown, Oregon Chai, Snyder’s of Hanover, UNFI, Kraft Foods, Bayer Consumer Care Division, ConAgra, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Kettle Cuisine, Small Planet Foods, New Hope Natural Media, Bushes Beans, Equal Exchange, Stirrings, Immaculate Baking, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Dancing Deer Bakery, The Natural Dentist, Rice Select, EcoFish, PMO Wildwood, S.C. Johnson, Blake’s All Natural Foods, Megafood, Mighty Leaf Tea, Lesser Evil Snack Co., Theo Chocolate, The Jane Goodall Institute, Kashi, Project 7, Vermont Butter and Cheese, Yoghund, Bord Bia, American Halal, Orgain, Turtle Island, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bausch + Lomb, Boehringer Ingleheim, Harbar LLC, Rhino Foods, Popcorn Indiana, Stonehouse 27, The ProBar, Hail Merry, Mamma Chia, 479 Popcorn, Heel USA, Nature’s Path, Pfizer, Dave’s Gourmet, Sopexa USA, Mavea, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, Bob’s Red Mill, New England Natural Bakers, Quantum Health, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Califia Farms, Salem Baking, Taza Chocolate, Integria, Traders Point Creamery, NutPods, Glanbia Ingredients, Valio, Fazer Chocolate, Cali’Flour, Curaleaf CBD, Fora Foods, Mason Dixie Biscuit, Vive Organics, and others.
He currently serves as an outside director for EcoFish, Saffron Road, Halsa Foods, Cali’Flour Foods, Uncle Matt’s Organics and King Arthur Flour. He serves on the advisory boards of The Chaat Co., Wildgood, Noops and Soapbox Soaps. He is a former director of Orgain, Stonyfield Farm, Equal Exchange, Stirrings, Wildwood, Nutrabella, Farmwise, MegaFood and the Specialty Food Association. He is on the Selection Committee at Nutrition Capital Network. He serves on the admissions committee of the Specialty Food Association. He also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Nutrition Business Journal. He serves as a Beachheads Advisor with New Zealand Trade & Enterprise. He is on the board of the Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute, a 501(c)(3) organization. He is also on the board of advisors of the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Bob was named one of the “Top 25 Business Builders of the Natural Products Industry for the last 25 years” by Natural Foods Merchandiser Magazine. He was also named an inaugural Senior Fellow at Food Sol, within the Lewis Institute at Babson College.
He has been qualified as an expert witness in federal court on the subject of the sales and marketing of natural, organic and specialty products.
Bob has delivered presentations, seminars and moderated panels at leading trade shows and conferences such as Natural Products Expo East & West, The Specialty Food Association’s Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows, OTA’s “All Things Organic Trade Show and Conference”, Naturally Good Business Summit in Sydney, Natural Good Expo trade show in Sydney, Australia, Nutrition Capital Network, International Keynote speaker at Innovest in Auckland, New Zealand, Natural Products Europe in London, Bord Bia in Dublin, Canadian Consulates in Boston and Chicago, Quebec Delegation in Boston, Kosherfest in New York, The Soyfoods Conference, Agrifood Trade Services in Nova Scotia, Saskatoon and Quebec, the CHFA Expo East in Toronto, BevNet Live, Project NOSH and their Boot Camps in New York and Santa Monica, the Global Access Advisors conference in Melbourne, Australia, the National Health Store Conference in London, and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise educational programs throughout New Zealand. He is also a presenter and panelist at the Hirshberg Entrepreneurial Institute Boot Camp in Auckland and Boulder. He authored the Specialty Food Association’s White Paper on Trade Promotion. Also interviewed on the Product Launch Rebel Podcast and the BevNet’s Taste Radio Podcast both found on iTunes.
He also runs full day seminars and networking events on “Becoming a more Effective Sales Manager in the Natural and Specialty Channel”, “Financing your Natural and Specialty Products Company” and “Making Your Supply Chain a Business Strength”. For complete info, please visit www.naturalconsulting.com.
Bob lives in Andover, MA with his wife, Kathy and four children: Conor, Caitlin, Devin and Rory spoiled dog.
Managing Partner, GrowthWays Partners, LLC
Michael Bush founded GrowthWays Partners to provide strategic advisory services to investors, management teams and related stakeholders to optimize the enterprise value of companies in the natural products industry.
Michael has more than 25 years of experience leading venture-backed businesses in the natural products, healthcare and bioinformatics industries. As president and CEO of probiotic innovator Ganeden, Michael grew the market of the company’s patented ingredient to over 65 countries and more than 1,000 SKUS, culminating with the 2017 merger with Kerry, Inc. Additionally, he founded a national business growth consultancy firm, co-founded a national biomedical services firm and led acquisitions and merger activities for a global medical services company.
Bush has received numerous awards for his business leadership, including Crain’s Cleveland Business 40 Most Influential People Under 40, four-time Weatherhead 100 winner as well as multiple innovation awards.
Michael is a board member for several for and not-for-profit organizations, including Executive Board President of the International Probiotics Association (IPA). Michael is passionate about the natural products industry and speaks frequently at industry events including BevNet, Natural Products Expo and Supply Side. He holds degrees in Biomedical Technology and Business Administration.
Robert U. Craven, CEO Findaway Ventures
As a purpose-driven CEO, Robert Craven is well-known for building award-winning, high integrity products, brands and businesses and for being deeply focused on making a difference in the lives of other people.
He served as the CEO of MegaFood from 2011 through 2018. During a period in which the company tripled its sales, Robert also earned a reputation as a master builder of exceptional corporate culture, leading MegaFood to B Corp status and to the ‘Top 20 Best Companies to Work For in New Hampshire.’
He was voted one of the ‘Top Conscious Business Leaders’ of 2018 by Conscious Company Media. In 2014, the Nutrition Business Journal awarded him its Business Achievement Award for Management after he successfully led MegaFood’s sale to Pharmavite.
Prior to becoming CEO of MegaFood, Robert partnered with natural products industry pioneer Jethren Phillips, founder of Spectrum Organic Products, to successfully build a high-growth organic ingredients business. Earlier in his career, Robert was the CEO of whole food supplement company Garden of Life. During his tenure, Garden of Life was recognized with the Nutrition Business Journal’s Gold Award for growth in mid-size companies for ‘03 and ’04, and was #14 on the 2005 Inc. 500 list of Fastest Growing Private Companies. He has also worked for The Hackett Group, Boston Scientific and Procter & Gamble.
Robert is the CEO of Findaway Adventures; the company exists to improve the world by providing more opportunity for young, change-the-world companies and their founders. They bring money, strategy, and retail expertise to help accelerate young, impactful, consumer packaged goods companies. The company takes equity stakes in partner companies, helping them bridge the gap between friends & family money and next level capital.
You can follow Robert’s journey as he blogs regularly on medium.com/@RobertUCraven and shares extensively on Twitter, @RobertUCraven.
Co-Founder & Chairman, Purely Righteous Brands
Fleishman has created and grown some of the world’s largest and most successful brands during his 20-year career – launching 1,500+ items across 17 food and beverage categories into 12 countries – focusing primarily on the “natural green space.”
In 2016, Fleishman co-founded Foodstirs Modern Baking with Galit Laibow and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Prior to starting Foodstirs, Fleishman co-founded Modern Alkeme superherb beverage company with Real Housewife of NYC, Jules Wainstein and industry leader Larry Praeger.
He currently serves as chairman & Co-founder of Purely Righteous Brands (PRB), a boutique advisory firm dedicated to fostering the growth of green space companies some of whom include Bonafide Provisions, Once Upon a Farm, Hail Merry, REBBL, Chameleon Cold-Brew, and GT’s Kombucha. Under PRB, Fleishman has served as chief marketing & strategy officer of Suja, the #1 cold-pressured fresh juice brand in the US where he led business strategy, marketing, innovation, and retail customer development.
Prior career highlights include serving as chief marketing officer for Sambazon, the maker of fresh amazon superfood-based beverages; CMO for Coca-Cola’s FUZE & Energy portfolio; and for more than 14 years as an executive marketer at Kashi/Bear Naked and Kelloggs.
In 2016, Fleishman was named to Forbes List of Top Consumer Catalysts. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Demeter Biodynamic, Nuun, 4th & Heart, Temple Beverage Co., Modern Alkeme, and Foodstirs.
President – Client Growth Solutions, SPINS
Anu Goel is Executive Vice President at SPINS, the single source for cross-channel retail analytics, consulting services, digital solutions, and health & wellness expertise for the Natural, Organic, and Specialty Products Industries. In this role, Anu leads SPINS’ consulting practice, consumer insights team, and ﬁnancial partners group.
Prior to joining SPINS, Anu held leadership positions at Brand Equity Ventures, McKinsey & Company, and Beam, Inc. He has over 20 years’ experience building winning strategies that help brands and retailers succeed. He holds Bachelor’s degrees in economics and engineering from The University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s of Business Administration from Harvard Business School
Principal, Campo Verde Solutions
Kim is the founder of Campo Verde Solutions, a consulting firm to the organic and natural food industry with a primary focus on private label programs. In this role Kim provides expertise in product development, growing innovative private label programs, sales management, marketing, and packaging.
Kim has over 20 years of product development and private label expertise honing her craft in companies such as Trader Joe’s (nearly 17 years) and Whole Foods (4 years). As the Coordinator of Buying at Trader Joe’s, she opened Trader Joe’s East resourcing all perishable items from local East Coast Vendors. At Whole Foods, she introduced hundreds of items to help Whole Foods expand their natural and organic private label set into unique, value-added items. Her expertise for developing innovative and unique private label programs and staying on top of product development trends have gained her respect in the retail food industry.
Among her skills are product sourcing, pricing negotiations, logistics, regulatory issues, marketing, packaging, and many other aspects surrounding development of products and programs. She is fluent in French and Spanish. Kim holds an AB degree from Occidental College, an MBA in marketing from CSULA, and has experience in both the North American and international food industry arenas. Kim is a dedicated “foodie” who makes food her work and her hobby!
She resides with her family in the Boston area.
CEO, The Tecnica Group
Chris Licata is the CEO of The Tecnica Group, the West Lebanon, NH-based US subsidiary distributing the winter sports and outdoor brands Nordica, Tecnica, Blizzard, and Rollerblade. Prior to joining The Tecnica Group, Chris was the President & CEO of Blake’s All Natural Foods, a Concord, NH-based Organic and Natural food manufacturer. Chris became CEO of Blake’s in 2006 and grew the business from a small, regional New England brand to a national brand selling to more than 10,000 retailers in 50 states. Under Chris’s leadership, Blake’s earned consistent recognition as the fastest-growing brand in the Natural Foods category. The growth and success of Blake’s ultimately led to the acquisition of Blake’s by ConAgra Foods, one of the largest food companies in the world. In 2014, Chris was named the NH Small Business Person of the Year by The United States Small Business Administration.
Prior to joining Blake’s, Chris spent his previous 20 years in the ski, outdoor, and action sports industry, holding several leadership positions such as President of Tecnica/Blizzard, President of Dynastar/Lange/Look, and Vice President of Salomon North America. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Snowsports Industries of America, the ski and snowboard industry’s governing body.
Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in Management from Western New England University, where he was a four-year member of the varsity lacrosse team. In his free time Chris is an avid and mildly obsessive skier, snowboarder, and year-round surfer. He is a Leadership Coach with Velocity Performance and Victory Academy, organizations focused on working with college athletes and athletic directors to build the next generation of leaders. He is also an active board member to several other companies and enjoys working with other entrepreneurs as they scale their businesses. Chris is also involved in the lacrosse community, serving as a founding member, director and coach of the Hopkinton Lacrosse Club. He is also a coach with the New Hampshire Tomahawks, an elite showcase and development lacrosse program.
Chris lives in Hopkinton, NH with his wife Amy and his daughters Blake and Lucy.
- Jill McIntosh currently serves as CEO of JVM Ventures, LLC , Director on the Board of Whisps Acquisition Corp., and as Senior Consultant at Simpactful.
- Jill served as an executive for The Kroger Co. from 2003 to 2019. While at Kroger she held numerous and diverse leadership positions for the company. Her most recent assignment as Vice President, Digital was launching Kroger’s first international endeavor, offering Kroger’s brands on Alibaba’s Tmall Global platform. Before that she was Vice President of Natural Foods Merchandising where she was responsible for sales of Simple Truth and National Brands of natural and organic products throughout the Kroger family of stores. Before that position, she held the position of Vice President , Human Resources for Fred Meyer Stores, the largest division of Kroger located in Portland, Oregon. Before that she held the position of Senior Director of Human Resources & Labor Relations for Kroger Corporate Brands & Manufacturing at General Office in Cincinnati. Before that she was Head of Money Services for Kroger Personal Finance, a financial services joint venture that she helped launch when she was Corporate Counsel. Jill joined Kroger in 2003 when she accepted her role in the law department. As Corporate Counsel she had legal responsibilities for several business units and retail divisions which led to opportunities outside the law department. Prior to joining Kroger she was a corporate attorney at Keating, Muething and Klekamp (Cincinnati) and Fuller and Henry (Toledo).
- Jill currently serves as Executive Co-Chair of the Cincinnati Chapter of Network of Executive Women, and on the Board of Directors for Xavier University, Williams College of Business, Food Advisory Board for MidOcean Partners and ProKids of Hamilton County (court appointed special advocates). Jill has also served as a board member of the YWCA of Greater Portland, BRIDGES for a Just Community (Cincinnati), Southwest Ohio Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel (Cincinnati), and Vice Chair of the Corporate Counsel Committee of the Cincinnati Bar.
- Jill was recognized as a Top Woman in Grocery, Senior Level Executive by Progressive Grocer and as a Women of Influence in the Food Industry by Shelby Publishing Co. and its Griffin Report of the Northeast publication. Jill also received an Emerging Business Award from Lead Magazine for leading the tremendous growth of Kroger’s Natural Foods. Jill has spoken at numerous industry events including Network of Executive Women, Expo West -New Hope Media, BevNET and guest speaker on the Dr. Oz Show. She was the visionary of Kroger Town Hall at Expo West, First Pitch for Emerging Brands, Kroger Natural Foods Innovation Summits and introduced the concept of Kroger Wellness Your Way Festival.
Nancy Pak, Consumer Products & Naturals Industry Expert
Nancy Pak is a strategic and entrepreneurial CEO with U.S. and international general management and marketing experience for leading global brands. She has over 20 years of experience across multiple countries and business settings in highly-competitive retail environments. Nancy’s experience in strategic planning, market and channel expansion, brand positioning, innovation and integrated marketing communications in the naturals industry and mass market consumer products informs all her work. Nancy is a passionate, agile leader with a growth mindset who thrives on building highly effective teams and developing and mentoring the next generation of leaders.
Most recently, Nancy was the Vice President & General Manager (CEO equivalent) of Tom’s of Maine Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Colgate Palmolive, based in Kennebunk Maine. Nancy led this full end-to-end naturals personal care company across commercial functions and manufacturing with P&L ownership. She has a strong record of executing change management initiatives, organizational restructuring, and new product launches that delivered significant sales, market share, and profitability growth.
During her tenure at Tom’s, Nancy positioned the business for robust, sustainable growth by driving distribution expansion across brick and mortar and e-commerce channels in the U.S. and Canada; attaining greater operational effectiveness and efficiency, and by nurturing and strengthening the successful and productive culture that was the founders’ legacy. Nancy championed several important initiatives at Tom’s including donating 10% of profits to sustainability and educational initiatives, and supporting employees’ benefit of 5% paid time off to volunteer.
In March 2019, Nancy enabled Tom’s of Maine to become a Certified B Corporation, one of a select number of natural oral and personal care brands to achieve this certification.
Nancy started her professional career at Colgate Palmolive and held progressive roles within the Company in Marketing, across the U.S., Greater Asia and Europe. She lived in Bangkok, Thailand and Warsaw, Poland with her family while working for Colgate. Nancy was the winner of the Colgate Chairman’s Global Annual You Can Make A Difference Award in 2013 and was part of a team at Colgate that received a patent for a children’s manual toothbrush.
In addition to her work in consumer products, Nancy has devoted much of her free time to activities that strengthen communities. She was elected Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for the American School of Warsaw (2014 – 2015); is a founder of the not-for-profit education and mentoring organization Minds Matter; and collaborated closely with the CEO of the United Way of York County, Maine to move forward philanthropic community initiatives.
Nancy earned an MBA in Marketing from Columbia Business School in New York, a BA in Political Science from Columbia University, and completed an Executive Certificate in Global Leadership in 2011 from the Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College.
Nancy, her husband Jim, and their kids Cece and Ryan, live in the Portland, Maine area. They enjoy beach walks with their Boston Terrier Manny, being on Sebago Lake and traveling the world to experience new cultures and people.
FOUNDER, IGNITE SALES MANAGEMENT
Kent’s experience spans from category management to channels strategy to trade optimization to customer management to retail execution and more. A “category captain” in the natural/organic space, his final role at General Mills was directing the sales operations, trade marketing, and category management for the Small Planet Foods organic division.
In 2007, Kent created IGNITE to take advantage of what he saw as the most significant white space in the emerging food & beverage industry: strategic sales management. During his tenure with Small Planet Foods, he witnessed many brands who needed more than what was at that time offered. What was missing was a more holistic view of growth and the strategy that drives it – focused on sales, but including all aspects of brand and product development. IGNITE’s partnership model of shared goals amplifies the power of this broad strategic vision.
After building IGNITE for nine years that ended with 40+ sales professionals, Kent sold the business (using Whipstitch) to the largest food broker in the U.S., Acosta Sales and Marketing.
Managing Director – Financial and Strategic Partners
Edricco Reina is Managing Director of Financial and Strategic Partners Group at SPINS. SPINS is the only source for cross channel retailer analytics; health & wellness expertise; industry leading consulting services; consumer insights; and digital applications for brands, consumers and retailers. In this role, Edricco leads engagements with Private Equity, Investment Banks, CPG M&A, Consultants and Third-party strategic partners.
SPINS Financial and Strategic Partners Group is the premier solutions and insights group for the Natural Products Industry. We work with leading investors and partners to bring the best of SPINS in support of their investment thesis, merger & acquisition strategies, capital raises, portfolio support and to develop strategic partnerships.
Prior to joining SPINS, Edricco held leadership positions at Nielsen, Anderson Merchandisers and New Market Capital Group. He brings 20 years of experience building winning business divisions and is passionate about supporting brands and retailers to attain their strategic business goals. He holds a MBA from Elmhurst College and B.A. in Corporate Finance and Commercial Law from Western Michigan University. Edricco lives in the greater Chicago area with his wife, 3 kids and mini goldendoodle.
SPINS is a passionate advocate of brands and retailers that promote healthy living. As the leading provider of retail consumer insights, analytics reporting, and consulting services for the Natural, Organic, and Specialty Products Industries, its business offerings are helping retailers in this high growth area to connect people with the brands that they need and love. Learn more at www.spins.com.
Founder, The Tim Sperry Group
Tim Sperry started The Tim Sperry Group in 2006, following a twenty-year career in Purchasing Leadership at Whole Foods Market, offering his services to companies who sell products in the Natural, Organic and Specialty Marketplace.
His consultancy includes the following services:
- Taking new products to market and strategies for staying in the market.
- Natural/Specialty channel navigation strategies with a focus on Whole Foods Market
- Additional services include navigation strategies for foreign companies seeking entrance into the US market
- Product review and branding strategies
- Category reviews and sales strategies.
- Market overviews and opportunities for Private Equity firms
Tim began his career in the natural foods industry in 1982. During his tenure with Whole Foods Market, Tim led the Grocery Team in one of the largest regions of the company. He participated in the expansion of WFM into Washington, D.C. and New York City, as well as London. Tim was also a key participant in the development of National Purchasing at Whole Foods.
Clients of The Tim Sperry Group have included the following companies or brands: All-Terrain, Annie’s, Against the Grain, Angie’s, Applegate Farms, Bausch & Lomb, Blake’s All Natural Foods, Bigelow Tea, Bord Bia (Irish Food Promotion Board), Café Blue Coffee (Jamaica), CEI (portfolio companies Putney Pasta and Rustic Crust), Consul-General of Canada/AAFC, Deep River Snacks, Divina/Food Match, Earth Friendly Products, Feel Good Foods, Foods from Britain, Home Market Foods, Global Organics, Go Picnic, Golazo, Hampstead Tea (UK), If You Care, Integria (Australia), Kettle Cuisine, Laurel Hill Foods, Lightlife Foods, Lucini Italia, Megafood, Native Alimentos (Brazil), Nelsons, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Q-bel Foods, Quebec Delegation, Peter Rabbit Organics (UK), Phin&Phebes, Pure Juice, Purity Organics, Richelieu Foods, Roots Hummus, Royal Pacific/Ginger People, San-J, Seventh Generation, SC Johnson, Schlotterbeck&Foss, Snyder’s of Hanover, Sol Cuisine, Source Atlantique, Stirrings, Susie’s Supper Club, Thai Taste, ThinkThin LLC, True Yogurt, UNFI, unReal Candy, Vitasoy and White Cloud Nutrition (New Zealand).
He is currently an outside director for Phin & Phebe’s Ice Cream, Old Lyme Gourmet dba/Deep River Snacks and Feel Good Foods. He currently serves as an advisory board member to Back to Nature (PE backed), New England Natural Bakers (ESOP) and Galaxy Nutritional Foods (PE backed).
Founder & CEO, Emerging Brand Strategies, LLC
Jeanne Varley is Founder & CEO of Emerging Brand Strategies, LLC. The company provides consulting services in business and financial planning as well as launch and growth strategies to start up and emerging brands in the beverage and consumer goods segments. She started the company after a long career in beverages including senior level roles with Diageo, Constellation Brands, Beverage Marketing Corporation, and FIJI Water. When not advising startup companies, she can be found trying to keep up with her young daughter or enjoying time at the beach with her husband where they live in South Florida. She holds an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Economics from LeMoyne College.