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SKU, an accelerator for consumer packaged goods, is planning to run three cohorts to support up-and-coming brands in 2023.
On Wednesday, the accelerator announced that it has opened applications for 2023, and shared that its programming for the year will include three tracks that reflect growing categories in CPG. Each track will be based in Austin, which has become a hub for CPG brands right alongside the growth of SKU.
SKU’s 2023 tracks are as follows (Exact dates will be announced later):
- Food & Beverage (Spring 2023): This program is accepting companies can be from a wide range of areas in the food and beverage space, such as snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, frozen goods and more.
- Women’s & BIPOC Owned (Summer 2023): Women and BIPOC-founded brands are welcome to apply from a wide range of categories, ranging from beauty to beverages.
- Petcare (Fall 2023): This track is open to companies in the petcare space that specialize in apparel, supplies, toys and food.
Austin-based SKU was founded in 2011 by lawyer Shari Wynne Ressler and serial entrepreneur Clayton Christopher, who is the founder of Sweet Leaf Tea and Deep Eddy Vodka. The accelerator has worked with more than 100 brands, including EPIC Provisions, Siete, DUDE Wipes and Seaweed Bath Co.
“SKU is on a mission to connect founders to CPG resources so they can create the household brands of tomorrow. Our 2023 track schedule is a shining example of that,” says Emily Kealey, Managing Director of SKU, in a statement. “Through our mentors, partners and sponsors, our unique ecosystem gives us the opportunity to accelerate these founders so they can make lasting change in the CPG industry.”
During the accelerator, brand leaders take part in a curriculum that covers the areas of growing a brand, including mission and vision, branding, channel strategy, supply chain and innovation.
The accelerator also provides support by connecting founders to a community of mentors that include successful CPG leaders and founders, subject-matter experts and investors. Mentors include the inventor of the pumpkin scone, the director of emerging brands for 7-Eleven and the founder of Vital Farms.
Each founder is surrounded by a handpicked team of mentors who are focused on helping them to scale their brand, and serve as guides through the program. SKU said it is currently scheduling interviews with leaders that are interested in becoming mentors.
“SKU accelerated us in all aspects of our business,” said Laurel Orley, a SKU alum who is cofounder and Crunch Executive Officer of Daily Crunch Snacks. “Looking back at our brand positioning, it’s night and day compared to where we were before after going through SKU. There was so much about our brand in the market that I wasn’t aware of and now I have a clear sense of how to move forward and succeed.”
Founders can find an application here.
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The job market continues to hum.
The labor market continued to show strength to start 2023, as the monthly jobs report posted big numbers.
Key data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report:
- Unemployment fell to 3.4%, ticking down from 3.5% in December to remain at historic lows.
- The economy added jobs to the tune of 517,000, which bested the 2022 average of 401,000.
- Average hourly wages rose by $0.10, marking year-over-year growth of 4.4%.
The Current’s view: The labor market continues to be an economic outlier. While there are signs of consumer pullback and belt-tightening among tech companies and retailers after months of high inflation, the job picture remains bright. While tech companies and some retailers are cutting back markedly, there are few signs of the widespread “pain” that economists predicted in this indicator of the economy.
What brands and retailers are thinking: Jobs are a major indicator of demand, and the labor market continues to hum along. That means the consumer pullback is tied to choices about discretionary spending and holding off on certain purchases in the face of high prices, moreso than being unable to afford items altogether.
What the Fed is thinking: Here’s more evidence that a soft landing might be possible. The Fed has been raising interest rates to bring down inflation. There is risk that this will slow down the economy, including employment. There was some slowing in job growth in December, but this report indicates labor market softening still hasn’t happened for a sustained period, even as inflation is cooling. After the central bank scaled back its latest interest rate hike to 0.25% on Wednesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said he sees a “path” to bringing down inflation without a significant rise in unemployment. Here’s one more piece of data to bolster that belief.
Keep in mind: The labor market is still out of balance between supply and demand. This report shows a big rise in jobs and the labor force participation rate remaining the same. Job openings actually increased in December, the Labor Department found. So there a still the case. Eventually, it will likely have to come into balance. But given the unpredictability of this economic era, it’s tough to know when, or even how.