Wildwonder, a brand of sparkling health beverages that combines probiotics, prebiotics, and functional herbs with all-natural fruit, recently closed a seed funding round of $2.1 million. Based in the San Francisco area, wildwonder describes itself as offering “delicious ready-to-drink beverages that marry Asian herbal wisdom and gut-healing superfoods with a California fresh palate.”
Launched in March 2020, wildwonder immediately encountered a market being transformed by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The startup responded to those challenges by concentrating on building its national retail-based market, which is now in more than 500 outlets, including Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Amazon. Meanwhile, wildwonder’s direct-to-consumer sales continued to grow, according to its founder, Rosa Li.
“Despite launching in a pandemic, wildwonder has delivered such strong margins that our seed round was oversubscribed,” Li noted, adding that, prior to beginning the search for investors, “I was told that fundraising would not be possible because we lost all of our food service business. But we were tenacious in building retail and our DTC channel. It is so validating to see this funding interest, and we are excited to continue our expansion.”
Bronze Valley is among the investors subscribed to wildwonder’s successful seed round. A Birmingham-based nonprofit launched in 2017, Bronze Valley continues to expand its portfolio of investments in innovative women- and minority-owned ventures, in terms of both geography and the types of companies for which it provides capital.
“Wildwonder epitomizes the qualities you want to see in entrepreneurs,” said Neill S. Wright, president and CEO of Bronze Valley. “Rosa Li and the wildwonder team have been resourceful, resilient, and highly adaptable to both immediate and longer-term market changes. This is a promising addition to the Bronze Valley portfolio.”
Response to shifting behaviors during the pandemic led wildwonder to begin making its products available in new slim cans. Besides its tested popularity among key consumers, the new container reflects the company’s commitment to sustainability by reducing its environmental footprint.
Founder Li said the success of wildwonder goes beyond the company’s bottom line. In keeping with the Bronze Valley mission, wildwonder is adding to the growing number of success stories being authored by diverse founders and the individuals and organizations committed to supporting their growth. Pointing out that women of color continue to receive less than one percent of total venture funding, Li said she hopes to inspire other BIPOC and female founders.
“When we launched,” said Li, “the RTD beverage category was among the hardest hit by the pandemic. The adversity spawned creativity, which lead to increased distribution and new partnerships. I want other female founders to know that it’s possible to succeed, even when the odds are against you.”
Bronze Valley is a nonprofit, 501(c)4 community development financial institution (CDFI). It is the only CDFI in Alabama focused on venture capital.