Sundance sells Western-inspired clothing and jewelry to affluent women. Fast casual restaurant chain Veggie Grill touts a plant-based menu popular with vegans and omnivores alike. Online educator The Teaching Company offers course topics as varied as medieval Europe and black holes, giving lifelong learners a chance to broaden their knowledge.
The common threads in these seemingly disparate concepts may not be readily apparent. But look closely and the similarities become clear: They have each built a loyal customer base, strong repeat business and a brand sensibility that is hard to replicate. What they lacked was the capital and strategic direction to move beyond organic growth.
Enter Brentwood Associates. The Los Angeles-based private equity firm has made a science of spotting lesser-known consumer concepts with staying power and turning them into more profitable powerhouse brands, increasing demand with fine-tuned marketing and broader distribution.
Consider Chicago-based Paper Source, an upscale retail chain selling artisanal stationery products, gifts and novelty items. Brentwood purchased the company in 2007 when it had just 21 stores. It sold the business in September 2013 to Investcorp for undisclosed terms after expanding nationally to 73 locations and boosting the online business. During the firm’s six-year investment period, sales at Paper Source tripled and profitability increased tenfold.