The Zell Founders Fund, a student-led venture fund in the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan, announced today that it has made a $100,000 investment in MINDWELL, a plant-based jerky company. The funds will be used to expand the business through investments in working capital and marketing.
Founded in early 2017 by Allyson Stewart, MBA ’17, and Bridget Henley, MPH ’17, MINDWELL’s mission is to create plant-based foods that are better for people and the planet. After working in the vegan culinary world in Chicago, Bridget decided to go to school for nutrition science, but she still wanted to share her passion for plant-based cooking. In business school, Ally was constantly on the road and stranded without healthy vegetarian snacks. They both wanted to start a business that did something good for the planet, so they founded MINDWELL. Together, the duo specializes in making high-protein plant-based jerky with no artificial flavors or ingredients. Plant-based protein has the added benefit of being better for the planet: legumes create up to 250 times less carbon emissions per gram of protein than beef or lamb. MINDWELL’s products are currently available in the Midwest in Plum Market, Dollop Coffee, and in Chicago Equinox locations at Wellness Grub cafes. The company is growing rapidly and has plans to launch in a large regional grocery chain this fall.
“In addition to MINDWELL’s impressive management team, the Founders Fund was drawn to this deal because of the growing market for healthy foods,” said Wiles Kase, MBA ’18, who co-led the Founders Fund due diligence team for this deal with Scott Collins, MBA ’18. “MINDWELL’s key differentiators—plant-based, high-protein, and convenient—are the drivers that are shaping many new food brands, and ones that legacy players in the space are trying to crack the code on. MINDWELL is making some really exciting progress, and we have every confidence that Allyson and Bridget will grow the company into a force to be reckoned with.”
The Zell Founders Fund is a $10 million seed fund that seeks out extraordinary Michigan Ross students and recent alumni whose ventures need funding to move from idea to profitability, and is led by the students who represent the top talent from the Zell Lurie Institute’s other established student-led funds.
“The Founders Fund has been a critical resource providing not only access to capital, but access to a network of support that has helped transform the business from idea to a fast-growing food startup with significant regional traction,” said Allyson Stewart. “I look forward to being a part of the Founders Fund and ZLI community as the company continues to grow.”
“MINDWELL is a great example of a company that has made the most of the resources and connections that University of Michigan provides its entrepreneurs,” said Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute. “We hope that this Founders Fund investment will help them realize their goal of becoming a national brand, and that they’ll continue to reap the benefits of being part of our entrepreneurial community.”