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WHO WE ARE

ENTREPRENEURS. OPERATORS. INVESTORS.

Sonoma Brands is a specialist growth equity firm exclusively dedicated to disruptive, high-growth consumer brands. We seek to partner with passionate entrepreneurs and founders ushering in the new wave of bold, innovative products. As experienced entrepreneurs and brand builders with in-house value add resources and deep industry relationships, we believe we can guide emerging brands towards breakout growth.

Rooted in rich culinary tradition, we aspire to weave the values and principles of our home – Sonoma, California – into our mission and establish Sonoma as the premier destination for CPG innovation and entrepreneurship.

 

Team

Operating Partners

Portfolio

A BETTER-FOR-YOU APPETITE.

Press

"Sonoma Brands Sees Management Additions"

"Sonoma Brands hails 'explosive' growth trajectory at SmashMallow"

"SmashMallow Closes Funding Round from ACG, Launches Low-Sugar Gummies"

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hello@sonomabrands.com
117 W. Napa St. Suite C
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 656-2015

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JON SEBASTIANI, FOUNDER & MANAGING PARTNER

Jon founded Sonoma Brands in January 2016 and leads all aspects of the Firm’s investment strategy and portfolio company management. Jon serves on the Boards of SmashMallow, Dang Foods, True Botanicals, and Vintage Wine Estates.

Prior to founding Sonoma Brands, Jon was the Founder & CEO of KRAVE Pure Foods (“KRAVE”). Jon has always been an avid runner, and when he was training for the New York City Marathon in 2009, he realized the opportunity to turn a commonly used training food into something truly special. With encouragement from his mentor and business school professor, Steve Blank, Jon founded KRAVE with the intent on making jerky that tastes good without chemicals and additives. KRAVE went on to become one of the fastest growing CPGs in the country, culminating in the acquisition by The Hershey Company in 2015. Prior to KRAVE, Jon was the President of Viansa, a successful destination winery in the Napa and Sonoma valleys.

Jon received his B.S. in Economics from Santa Clara University and his dual M.B.A from the Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley and Columbia Business School.

BRIAN NICHOLSON, MANAGING DIRECTOR

Brian joined Sonoma Brands in 2018, bringing eight years of experience as a growth investor in leading eCommerce, Digital Media and Direct-to-Consumer businesses. At Sonoma Brands, Brian is focused on sourcing, executing and leading growth-stage investments in emerging consumer brands. Brian serves on the Boards of Yumble and True Botanicals (Observer).

Prior to joining Sonoma Brands, Brian spent over 5 years at Stripes Group, a leading growth equity firm in New York City, where he directly sourced and led growth investments in companies including Refinery29, Reformation, The Black Tux and Pond5. With these investments, Brian served as a Board Director or Observer and supported management in areas such as teambuilding, business development and strategic planning. Additionally, Brian has helped lead growth investments in disruptive consumer brands like Daily Harvest and ClassPass.

Previously, Brian founded a direct-to-consumer apparel brand and spent several years in the Technology Investment Banking Group at JMP Securities in San Francisco. Brian received a B.A. (Honors) from Brown University.

KEVIN MURPHY, MANAGING DIRECTOR

Kevin joined Sonoma Brands in January 2019 to focus on sourcing, executing and leading investments and to assist in the management and oversight of the firm. Kevin currently sits on the boards of Sonoma Brands’ portfolio companies Hum Nutrition, Smashmallow and True Botanicals (observer).

Prior to joining Sonoma Brands, Kevin worked from 2005 (year of founding) to 2018 at Encore Consumer Capital, a consumer products-focused private equity firm. At Encore Kevin played a key role on investments in the food, beverage and pet categories across three investment funds. He was responsible for the firm’s beauty and personal care investment initiative, with investments from that effort including Tarte Cosmetics and Supergoop!.

Prior to Encore, Kevin was with Genstar Capital for four years. He began his career with PricewaterhouseCoopers in the Boston office before relocating to San Francisco.

Kevin received his undergraduate degree from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and his M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley.

SHAHIR AMIN, VICE PRESIDENT & CHIEF COMPLIANCE OFFICER

Shahir joined Sonoma Brands in 2017 and currently serves as a Vice President on the Investment Team and Chief Compliance Officer for the Firm. Shahir is actively involved in all aspects of the investment process, including sourcing, diligence, execution, and portfolio management. As the Firm’s CCO, Shahir is also responsible for all aspects of accounting, tax, reporting, compliance, operations, and investor relations. Shahir currently serves on the Boards of SmashMallow and Dang Foods (Observer).

Prior to joining Sonoma Brands, Shahir was a member of the Private Investments team at UNC Management Company (“UNCMC”). While at UNCMC, Shahir focused on illiquid asset classes, including Private Equity. Prior to UNCMC, Shahir was an Analyst at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. Shahir received a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

JOSHUA ROMBACH, SENIOR ASSOCIATE

Josh joined Sonoma Brands in 2017 as an Associate. Josh is actively involved in all aspects of the investment process, including sourcing, diligence, execution, and portfolio management.

Prior to joining Sonoma Brands, Josh was an Associate at BlackRock Private Equity Partners, a $24 billion AUM private equity solutions platform. While at BlackRock Private Equity Partners, Josh was involved in all aspects of due diligence and played a role in deploying capital across the Consumer, Healthcare, Telecom & Technology sectors. Josh also participated in the team’s fund of funds investing practice, covering everything from venture through buyout strategies, and provided post-investment support and monitoring for both portfolio companies and fund investments. Josh received a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a focus in Economics from Middlebury College.

KELSEY MINIGAN, CHIEF OF STAFF

Kelsey joined Sonoma Brands in February 2016 and currently serves as the firm’s Chief of Staff. As a Sonoma native, Kelsey truly defines & represents Sonoma Brands as a community pillar and is motivated to firmly establish her hometown as a hub of entrepreneurship. Kelsey plays a cross-functional role in the efforts of the Sonoma Brands team and is known around the office as the “Air Traffic Controller”.

Prior to Sonoma Brands, Kelsey was with Yelp as an Account Executive, working with small business owners to drive meaningful growth, and prior to that was with the Luxury Suite & Group Sales team at the San Francisco Giants.

Kelsey received a BA in Environmental Studies at The University of California, Santa Barbara.

WILL GUIDARA, OPERATING PARTNER

Will Guidara is the former co-owner of Make It Nice, a hospitality group that includes Eleven Madison Park, the NoMad restaurants, and Made Nice. Under Will’s leadership Eleven Madison Park received numerous accolades, including four stars from the New York Times, three Michelin stars, and in 2017 was given the highest ranking on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. At The NoMad New York, Guidara and business partner Daniel Humm received a three-star review from The New York Times, one Michelin star, and a James Beard Foundation award.

Will is also the co-founder of the Welcome Conference, an annual hospitality-driven event, and the author of four cookbooks.

Will has been immersed in the restaurant industry since the age of thirteen and is a graduate of the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. Will began his dining room training at Spago Beverly Hills and attended culinary school in the north of Spain.

KEITH LEVY, OPERATING PARTNER

Keith Levy is a highly successful CPG executive with a career spanning more than 3 decades. Most recently he led the successful creation of the Mars Wrigley’s Global Business Development division. Levy led the multi-billion-dollar strategic investment in KIND Snacks as well as smaller early stage capital deployment initiatives designed to form unique partnerships and marry entrepreneurial capabilities with scale capabilities of a large strategic, CPG investor.

Prior to this, he was President of Royal Canin USA based in St. Charles, MO, a leading global manufacturer of premium dog and cat nutrition, and the largest business in the Royal Canin global network.

Prior to Mars and Royal Canin, Mr. Levy enjoyed a successful 24-year career at Anheuser-Busch, Inc. in a variety of executive roles including Vice President of Sales, Vice President of Brand Management and Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer.

JESSE DERRIS, OPERATING PARTNER

Jesse Derris is the founder and CEO of Derris, a brand consultancy with offices in New York and London. He is also the founder and managing member of Amity Supply, which invests in and supports early-stage consumer brands, and an advisor-in-residence to the Columbia University Entrepreneurship Program. He is an investor in and has advised brands including Everlane, Glossier, Harry’s, Hims, Oscar and Warby Parker.

Derris started his career in politics, working on various campaigns as a spokesman, and is a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He is married to Jordana Kier, the founder of LOLA, a women’s reproductive health brand. They live in New York with their daughter, Rose.

SMASHMALLOW

Founded in 2016 as Sonoma Brands’ second incubated concept, SmashMallow is redefining permissible indulgence and striving to build America’s next iconic confectionary company. Made with organic and simple ingredients, it’s a guilt-free, every-day, any-time of day treat for your taste buds.

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MEDLIE

Founded in 2016 as Sonoma Brands’ first incubated concept, Medlie is revolutionizing how consumers eat their vegetables.  With category pioneering Veggie Drinks, Veggie Shots, and Veggie Mashes, Medlie truly redefines “Veggies for Real Life.”

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DANG

Founded in 2012, and based in Berkeley, CA, Dang Foods was Sonoma Brands’ first external investment. Dang is an innovative plant-based snacking company, offering high fiber, low sugar coconut, onion and sticky-rice snacks that will have you saying “Dang! That’s good!”

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KRAVE JERKY

Founded by Sonoma Brands’ Founder & Managing Partner Jon Sebastiani in 2009, KRAVE Pure Foods represents a protein renaissance. High quality ingredients and culinary flavor profiles appeal to men, women and children – the everyday jerky lovers looking for something elevated and to the discerning palates of today’s foodie-savvy, health conscious gourmands.

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GUAYAKI

Founded in 1996 in Sebastopol, CA, Guayaki is an organic beverage company specializing in yerba mate products including RTD yerba mate, loose-leaf yerba mate, and energy shots. Guayaki is not only making organic, fair-trade yerba mate the mainstream energy source of choice, but also proving that a company can be profitable while operating sustainably.

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TRUE BOTANICALS

Founded in 2015 in Mill Valley, CA, True Botanicals is a prestige personal care brand that has established itself as the authority for nontoxic skincare. As the first personal care brand that’s entirely MADE SAFE™, True Botanicals’ products are made with ingredients certified-nontoxic for humans and the environment. With an uncompromising commitment to both safe ingredients and superior efficacy, True Botanicals is dedicated to delivering results without toxins.

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PECKISH

Founded in 2018 as Sonoma Brands’ third incubated concept, PECKISH is a fresh health & wellness snacking platform that will “hero” the egg in many convenient and ready-to-eat formats. With whole protein, clean ingredients and exploratory flavors, PECKISH is a brand the entire family can feel great about enjoying!

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HU

Hu is brand built around a simple ethos of helping consumers “Get Back to Human” with a back-to-basics approach in creating products that are uncompromising in both quality and taste. Hu’s core line of paleo and vegan chocolate bars are an embodiment of the Hu philosophy that consumers trust – organic & fair-trade cacao, completely free from dairy, refined sugars, emulsifiers, gluten and GMOs – and are absolutely, unbelievably delicious.

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YUMBLE

Launched in 2016 in New York City, Yumble is a direct-to-consumer kids meal delivery service offering a menu of convenient & healthy prepared meals for kids 12 months to 12 years. Yumble was born out of the Founders’ challenge of providing real, healthy food for their three picky kids, solving an everyday problem for parents everywhere.

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VINTAGE WINE ESTATES

Based in Santa Rosa, CA, VWE is a privately held wine & spirits company. VWE has a well balanced portfolio of assets, including winery estates, 30+ wine and spirits brands, and a bottling facility in Northern California. Vintage Wine Estates’ portfolio appeals to a broad consumer base that traverses the wine-drinking landscape and encompasses a wide array of wine styles and sales channels. Cheers!

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HUM Nutrition

Founded in 2012 and based in Los Angeles, California, HUM is the first company to successfully bridge beauty and wellness, inviting everyone from everywhere to start within. As the leading nutrition brand in prestige beauty, its mission is to help every consumer look and feel their best with vitamins and supplements that add joy to every routine.

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Milk Bar

Founded in 2008 by James Beard award-winning pastry chef Christina Tosi, Milk Bar is a critically acclaimed bakery known for its familiar yet unexpected desserts including: the Compost Cookie®, layer cakes with unfrosted sides, Cereal Milk™ Soft Serve, Milk Bar Pie.

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Beekeeper’s Naturals

Beekeeper’s Naturals is a Los Angeles, CA based wellness company obsessed with crafting sustainable and effective health solutions using the hive superfoods (bee products like royal jelly and propolis). The Company is committed to providing the most potent nutraceutical solutions to modern health issues—from brain fog to stress support to immunity.

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Work With Us

Have a great idea or product and want to share it with the world? We love partnering with makers. Drop us a line at hello@sonomabrands.com and tell us your story.

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