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Castanea’s Investment Team Has Started a New PE Firm

Called Stride Consumer Partners, the firm will make majority and minority investments in "passion brands."

The investment team from Castanea Partners has ventured out to start a new private equity firm called Stride Consumer Partners.

Stride will focus on “passion brands” in the beauty and personal care, food and beverage, outdoor and active lifestyle and multi-unit services industries, according to Steve Berg, partner at Stride.

Steve Berg
Steve Berg courtesy of Steve Berg

“Those brands that have a mutual love affair with that consumer, it’s not the brand they like, it’s the brand they love and can’t live without,” Berg said. “We’re only focusing on those areas of consumer where that passion is most vibrant.”

Stride plans to go “narrow but deep” in those categories, Berg said, and partner with founders and management teams.

Castanea had a solid track record in beauty for exiting brands to big strategic buyers. The firm sold Urban Decay to L’Oréal, Tatcha to Unilever, First Aid Beauty to Procter & Gamble and Drybar to Helen of Troy and WellBiz Brands.

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Berg said the team departed Castanea, which is not making any new investments, with the blessing of the firm’s founders. “They were incredibly gracious in giving us the choice of continuing on as Castanea or supporting us as we launched something new. We decided to launch Stride largely in Castanea’s image,” Berg said.

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“We felt that starting from scratch would be energizing,” Berg added. Former Castanea employees Mike Banu, Tim Burke, Tom First, Sharon Fox, Juan Marcos Hill, Colleen Love and Allyson Yorks have also joined Stride.

The firm has tapped L’Oréal veteran Nicole Fourgoux as an operating partner. Most recently, Fourgoux was general manager at It Cosmetics. She has also worked under Carol Hamilton in mergers and acquisitions, and helped integrate Carol’s Daughter into L’Oréal.

Nicole Fourgoux

“I really love the space of founder-led brands,” Fourgoux said. “It’s one of the most exciting places in beauty.”

“I’ve heard so many stories over these past 10 years of founders who felt like at a critical phase of their business they needed different kinds of advice and they wanted different sounding boards that had hands-on operating experience with strategics,” Fourgoux said, noting that she wanted to get involved earlier in brands’ life cycles.

Stride will look to invest in brands and businesses that are in “chapter three,” Berg said, meaning they’re beyond the venture capital stage. The firm will look for brands that have been able to drive repeat purchase. Investment sizes will vary, from around $15 million to more than $100 million per deal, with the possibility of further investment down the road, Berg said. The group will make both minority and majority investments in brands, and will look for companies who have a strong digital presence.

“You want to be where the customer wants to find you, and 15, 20 years ago, that was wholesale, but today, that’s omnichannel,” Berg said. “Whether it’s a digitally native brand that wants to compliment all of that brand awareness by also having some highly selective wholesale distribution, that can make a lot of sense.…We’ve helped folks really increase their direct to consumer capabilities and revenues, as well.”

In beauty, Fourgoux said Stride will look to invest across traditional categories and emerging ones. “For us, the guidance is really what are the brands that are exceptionally well crafted with a very strong relationship for the consumer,” Fourgoux said. “Right now we are more in the traditional segments but frankly, if there’s anything that stands out and that has opportunity to grow into a holistic beauty approach, it’s interesting to look at as well.”

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