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Utah's Brandless ready to grow e-commerce biz with $118M in new funding

Cydni Tetro, CEO and founder of ForgeDX, poses at the company’s office in Salt Lake City on Jan. 18, 2019. The company announced a whopping $118 million equity/debt financing round on Wednesday.

Cydni Tetro, CEO and founder of ForgeDX, poses at the company’s office in Salt Lake City on Jan. 18, 2019. The company announced a whopping $118 million equity/debt financing round on Wednesday. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — E-commerce company Brandless is new to Utah, but it didn't take long for the online personal products retailer to bust its first big move as a Beehive business, announcing a whopping $118 million equity/debt financing round on Wednesday.

Brandless came to the state via a 2020 acquisition by Provo-headquartered investment firm Clarke Capital Partners that wasted no time in recruiting veteran Utah entrepreneur Cydni Tetro to fill the CEO position this past January. Tetro's first order of business was shepherding a monster funding effort, one that Brandless says may be one of the biggest rounds ever for a privately held company led by a woman.

Tetro said the money will back a dual-threat growth strategy that includes an aggressive acquisition schedule and leveraging the influence of loyal, enthusiastic and potentially cash-incentivized Brandless customers in the social media realm.

"We're heavily focused on two core things," Tetro said. "Acquiring mission-driven, like-minded brands and investing in our social commerce platform.

"This has been a really fun company to help build and things are moving so incredibly fast. Our acquisition schedule is about a company a month. That is only possible when you have great opportunity and great infrastructure."

Clarke Capital managing partner and CEO James Clarke said Tetro's proven leadership was a great match for Brandless' customer-driven expansion plans.

"We have millions of customers, thousands of new product requests, hundreds of products and categories, and dozens of marketplace partners," Clarke said. "And now, with Cydni and her proven leadership, we have an unprecedented ability to realize this transformative multichannel vision," Clarke said in a statement. "We are committed to making it easy for people to make good choices when it comes to their health and well-being. Our acquisitions of better-for-you, digitally-native brands will expand our footprint."

Brandless, which began life as a Bay Area startup in 2016, describes its niche as "better for you" products that include organic, non-toxic cleaning supplies and "cruelty-free and clean personal care products," along with a selection of small housewares. Tetro said acquisitions are likely to include new, partner companies as well as products that will be folded into the Brandless label.

The company said the funding will also back efforts to activate Brandless' customer base by giving individuals the opportunity to become social influencers who "can advocate for their favorite products and monetize their social presence." Brandless says its customer community has "long led product development and validation, and launching this influence-as-a-service to make each member a force for good furthers the company's focus on collaboration over control, quality over packaging, and people over promotion."

Besides having launched and run a passel of tech startups and consulted for companies such as Microsoft, Target and Disney, Tetro is also the co-founder of the long-running Utah-based advocacy group, Women Tech Council.

Tetro said social media tools have created new opportunities for companies to energize their customers as ambassadors and she sees loyal users of Brandless products as a group ready to promote products they believe are having positive impacts on their families, their communities and the planet.

"Brandless is transforming commerce by creating influence-as-a-service and democratizing access to better-for-you products," Tetro said in a statement. "By uniting brands with a mission and micro-influencers through technology, we're creating a platform that makes everyone mission driven and empowers them to be a force for good."

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