Larissa Loden, Quebracho Empanadas Join Lunar Startups Next Cohort
Larissa Loden Inc., Black Tech Talent, Quebracho Empanadas, and BLCK Press are among the 15 high-growth startups selected for Lunar Startups’ fourth cohort, the St. Paul-based equity-focused accelerator announced Thursday.
“This cohort includes a mix of tech-enabled companies and our largest group of retail products to date,” said Danielle Steer, managing director of Lunar Startups. “We were blown away by the quality of applications we saw this year.”
Each startup will receive coaching, resources, pro-bono legal services, and a network of business experts over the next six months.
Lunar Startups was founded by Steer in 2018 with the goal of creating equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems by providing education, support, and connectivity for company founders who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), LGBTQ+, women, and non-binary. In November, Lunar Startups, which was initially created as a project of the Knight Foundation and the Glen Nelson Center at American Public Media (APM), spun off as an independent nonprofit under the name Lunar Inc.
Meet Lunar Startups’ fourth cohort, selected from a pool of 90 applicants:
- Black Tech Talent is increasing the representation of Black technologists in both corporate careers and entrepreneurship by curating a pipeline of job opportunities, education, community, and culturally specific content.
- BLCK Press creates a community for independent journalists and provides diverse news to the public.
- Cake Plus-Size Resale provides sustainable, affordable, plus-size fashion and body-positive community for plus-size shoppers who have often been left out of the fun of thrifting.
- Larissa Loden Inc. is a jewelry company that cares and swears.
- Lip Esteem a plant-based, gluten, and cruelty-free lipstick and lip care line that is changing the world, one tube at a time.
- Moody’s Ice Cream makes the world’s most feel-good food, helping you feel better for real with adaptogens, herbalist flavors, and functional ingredients that turn up your body’s superpowers.
- Mx Apparel Design produces bold gender-neutral clothing made in sizes S-3X.
- Silk Road Wellness makes Halal-friendly natural skincare and wellness products.
- Shotcaller is a social gaming company that delivers real-time, interactive content to fans watching sports.
- Sole Safe provides real-time, intelligent appraisal and insurance specifically designed for sneakers.
- Sweet Troo Vi creates deliciously kind, authentic Liege waffles and luxury sweetness.
- Taking Stock Foods produces certified organic chicken bone broth for home consumers that’s so tasty that it’s good enough to drink.
- Teqnizan Inc. is revolutionizing smart jewelry with Bluetooth audio earrings.
- TAKA LLC is a high-intensity soccer training app that donates a portion of its profits to underserved communities around the world who use soccer for good.
- Quebracho Empanadas is a St. Paul-based empanada manufacturing company that brings authentic, healthy, and easy-to-prepare meals to grocery store freezers.
The participating founders have lofty expectations for how Lunar Startups can help them overcome barriers and help take their businesses to the next level.
“I think Lunar is going to be an amazing experience to get Quebracho to the next level,” said Belén Rodríguez, founder of Quebracho Empanadas. When the pandemic hit, Rodríguez went from selling her empanadas at farmers markets and fairs to selling frozen empanadas wholesale in grocery stores. “Since the pandemic, we’ve had to restructure our company entirely. And we don’t know what we don’t know, so we’re excited about being able to connect with these resources and grow in ways we can’t even imagine right now.”
BLCK Press founder Georgia Fort hopes the accelerator will open some doors.
“Black female founders receive less than 1 percent of venture capital investment. So I have a lot of barriers to overcome,” Fort said. “I hope that Lunar Startups will help me expand my network and connect to resources that will help me build a solid and sustainable foundation for BLCK Press.”
Quebracho Empanadas was founded in 2018 but switched business models this year, and BLCK Press launched last summer. But some startups in this year’s cohort are more established. Larissa Loden, for example, founded her handmade jewelry business Larissa Loden Inc. in 2005, has eight employees, and sells to boutiques nationwide and direct-to-consumer. The business’ Instagram account currently has more than 22,000 followers.
“Even though I have been around the block a couple of times, I noticed that Lunar could really help me,” Loden said. “Especially with the scaling of Larissa Loden. I want Larissa Loden to be what Kendra Scott is to the South—but a little bit more edgy and Midwest. There aren’t a ton of big Midwest brands in the fashion space, so I’m just going to make space for myself. To do that, I need mentorship and a network. Lunar Startups seemed like the perfect match for me to help fill in my personal gaps so I can achieve my goal.”
Steer recognizes that Loden’s business isn’t the typical cohort member: “Larissa is adored and has been around for a few years. But she’s just getting started in terms of how she wants to scale the company. One of the considerations we make when selecting finalists is the jobs they would create locally, at scale. Larissa has the potential to be a nationally recognized, nine-figure brand creating significant jobs in our region. We want to be her partners in getting her there.”
Cohort 4 brings Lunar’s total startup portfolio to 45 companies. To date, Lunar’s companies have created 89 new jobs, earned nearly $10 million in revenue, and raised more than $3 million in capital.
Lunar Startups Cohort 4 programming starts now and will run through September 2021.
Another Twin Cities startup accelerator, the social enterprise-focused Finnovation Lab, is gearing up for its fourth cohort too. Applications for the Finnovation Lab Fellowship Program open April 15 and run through May 15. For more details or to apply, visit finn-lab.com.