North Castle Partners' Alison Minter

Alison shares that the sale of SmartyPants Vitamins to Unilever is “one of the experiences I’m most proud of on the investing side.”


In what North Castle Partners Alison Minter tells Women’s PE Briefs is “an extraordinary outcome for the founders, the management team and investors,” portfolio company SmartyPants Vitamins – whose co-founders and co-CEOs are Courtney Nichols Gould and husband Gordon Gould – is set to be acquired by Unilever. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but Alison said she is “very proud of what the team has accomplished” and called her 5-year journey with the company “one of the experiences I’m most proud of on the investing side.”

Based in Los Angeles, SmartyPants is a U.S. vitamin, mineral and supplement company that was founded in 2011. The company’s products can be found in more than 30,000 stores, including Costco, Target, Walmart and Whole Foods. SmartyPants works with non-GMO certified ingredients and a range of sustainably sourced bio-available nutrients. The products are free of synthetic colors, artificial flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. In a statement, Courtney and Gordon said that from the beginning SmartyPants “has been about family, authenticity and a core commitment to our collective well-being.” Unilever’s president of health and wellbeing, Peter Ter Kulve, also in a statement, said that SmartyPants “complements Unilever’s portfolio of brands in the functional nutrition and supplement segment.” Alison said Unilever is “the right home for the business,” given its focus on bringing healthy products “to more people in a unique way” and where Courtney and Gordon are in building the brand. “It really is a perfect match,” she said. Unilever, said Alison, was always an “aspirational” landing spot for SmartyPants so it was pleasing when the corporation emerged as “the lead horse.”

SmartyPants raised $2.59 million through crowdfunding investment platform CircleUp in 2013. Alison then led North Castle into the company in 2015, telling Women’s PE Briefs at the time that SmartyPants was “one of the most attractive businesses we have seen in the nutritional supplement industry.” Alison said the fact that Unilever acquired SmartyPants “validates” what she said five years ago. The amount invested by North Castle in 2015 was not disclosed, but Crunchbase said it was $12.6 million. Alison said North Castle has subsequently invested more in the company, but she would not say how much. The company has grown by “many multiples” since North Castle invested, Alison said. “SmartyPants is a very unique business and brand and an outcome like this speaks for itself,” she said.

Alison earlier this year backed Sparx Hockey, which makes an automated skate sharpener. Her investments also include Mack Weldon, VitaCup, Full Swing, ProSupps, HydroMassage, Sprout Foods and Maya Kaimal Foods, LLC, an Indian food company founded by Maya Kaimal. Alison is a past speaker at the Women’s Alternative Investment Summit and earlier this year took part in a Perspectives Webinar.

North Castle last year closed its seventh fund at $400 million.

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