Meghan is the Co-Founder & CEO of White Leaf Provisions, a regeneratively farmed, organic, GMO-free family food line. As a result of living abroad for many years, she became acutely aware of the high standards that the European Union holds for food, products, and their ingredients. The birth of her son, Keegan, sparked a desire to find good quality ingredients for his food, as well as an awareness of the impact that farming those ingredients had on the planet he would inherit. She started White Leaf Provisions in 2016 with a love of biodynamic and organic products, and the desire to share this love with others.
Why is White Leaf Provisions the right idea—and what made you take the leap with it?
When our son was born, we were impressed with the quantity of organic and GMO-free products that were available but didn’t see much that really connected the products to the farms, the source of the ingredients. The lack of biodynamic and regeneratively farmed snack options for babies and children, so readily available in Europe, seemed to be nonexistent in the North American market. We knew we wanted to create an authentic brand that spoke to this gap in the market and offered parents total peace of mind when purchasing food for their kids.
Do you feel like your experience as a female founder has differed to that of a male, for example when pitching? If so, in what ways?
Yes, most definitely. I have always considered myself a mom first. Keith, my husband and co-founder, and I realized when we became parents, that we played the biggest role in shaping our child’s eating habits. Investors, financial institutions, and industry professionals have all doubted that parents would be interested in our mission and vision, and doubted I had the capability to run a national consumer packaged goods (CPG) business. However, not only do I have unique insight as a parent, but also I am the daughter of two entrepreneurs. My mother created the products in our kitchen and my father ran the business side of things. They worked from home, so I literally grew up in the business. Entrepreneurship is in my blood, but I believe a lot of investors see me as a “mom” and don’t think about what I bring to the table by way of background and experience, or who I have in my network to help move the company forward. Now we have national distribution in retail locations and online through various channels including Thrive Market, Amazon, Kroger, and VitaCost, with the anticipated roll out to Whole Foods Market (over 360 stores) in Q1 2020.
What have been your proudest accomplishments at White Leaf Provisions so far?
Seeing our products distributed nationally. We started this business at our kitchen table, dreaming of the day when we could say we were in a certain store, but when that day actually came, it was better than we could have expected. It is a sense of accomplishment that only entrepreneurs know. It is not just about having your product on the shelf, it’s looking back and seeing how far you’ve come: all the integral steps, trials and tribulations, tears, and elation. It’s reliving every emotion and every memory, and it’s the moment that the first store buyer sees your passion, and when parents express their gratitude on a daily basis.
What has been the greatest challenge you have faced around fundraising so far?
Fundraising is a daunting task as you are at your most vulnerable, expressing your passion, pitching your vision, and crossing your fingers that someone else sees what you see. We have been incredibly fortunate to date in that our current investors share our vision. One of our investors had been importing biodynamic products for their children and would even fly over to Europe with an empty suitcase to bring products back! They jumped at the chance to invest with us because they understood the need for this product in the US. We pride ourselves on showcasing farming practices that help to heal the planet that our kids will inherit. Our biggest challenge is finding investors that see the potential of our brand and want to be a part of the conversation around bringing real change to the US “foodscape”.
Tell us about a time that being a female founder gave you an advantage or unique insight that might not have been obvious.
Being a female founder, I have been able to tap into networks with some amazing like-minded, equally stubborn and passionate female professionals out there. All of us may be on separate paths but are united by the same drive and desire to overcome the same roadblocks as we grow. It may sound clichéd, but being a mother is the biggest driving force in wanting to make a real impact on the planet.
US venture capital investment in female founders hit an all-time high in 2019, with 11.5% of all VC investment going into female-founded and mixed-gender teams. While this represents only 11.5% of all venture capital investment, it’s an increase from 10.6% last year. Why do you think these numbers are increasing now?
More women are speaking out and bringing attention to the comparative lack of investments in female-founded companies, and more women in powerful positions are stepping up and investing in other women. Women have been underrepresented in certain vertices for far too long, and I feel that with the broader gender equality conversation happening so visibly across society today, each industry is beginning to wake up and take note.
Why was it important to you to make investment opportunities in startups such as yours accessible to SeedInvest’s users? Why is democratizing access to VC important more broadly?
We knew SeedInvest had an impeccable reputation and that accessing SeedInvest’s large accredited user base would allow us to reach more qualified investors, many of whom we would never otherwise have the opportunity to pitch to, faster.
Tell us about a time when you dealt with imposter syndrome, either yours or your friends’, your team’s, mentees’ etc. What advice do you have to help overcome this?
I unfortunately suffer from this a lot, particularly around our fundraises. I believe it stems from being told “no” more times than yes; you naturally begin to question yourself, you question everything. I have the most amazing business partner, who also happens to be my husband, who steers the ship with me. His guidance and support is unmatched. I do a lot of yoga and have begun to meditate, which has really allowed me to reflect and take stock of our journey, which for the most part has been exceptionally positive. Our products have won multiple industry awards and have garnered national distribution with some key industry players in a relatively short amount of time. I focus on the wins and it helps calibrate me.
What are your top tips for a successful pitch? What advice do you have for someone, particularly women, trying to start their own company?
Never ignore your instincts and stay true to what you want! I say this quite often to women who ask me this question–your intuition is powerful and paying attention to it has served me incredibly well thus far. Heed the advice of others, but always trust your instinct as more often than not, it is correct. Starting a business is a marathon, not a sprint, and there will be times you will want to quit, but just keep your head down and focus on your end goal, taking it day by day!
This post was written by Alice Hankin on March 26, 2020
Female Founder Series: Meghan Rowe of White Leaf Provisions