A gay-run organic chicken business scooped $500,000 in investment money on last Tuesday’s episode of CNBC’s docu-series Texas Investors Club.
The lesbian owners of the food start-up, Hip Chick Farms, have told Fortune – that despite recently raising some $2million in seed funding, they were still nervous about appearing on the TV show – which features Matthew McConaughey’s brother, Mike ‘Rooster’ McConaughey, and Wayne ‘Butch’ Gilliam.
‘We couldn’t be more progressive, left, “California-y” people, and they’re West Texas,’ said Jennifer Johnson, who runs Hip Chick with wife Serafina Palandech
However, a demonstration of how mass-produced chicken nuggets are prepared helped secure them the money.
The women showed how chicken carcasses are blended into a ‘pink slime’, which is blended with starch and re-shapeed into nuggets for frying. By contrast, Hip Chick Farms uses prime chicken cuts.
‘It’s chef-driven, has a lot of flavor, and we take a lot of care in how it’s made,’ said Palandech to CNBC.
Hip Chick Farms was founded in 2013. Johnson and Palandech say they were frustrated by how chicken products were being prepared and decided to launch a frozen chicken range that only used quality, sustainable ingredients.
The two women have been married seven years and are based at their own farm in Sebastopol, California. Palandech runs the day-to-day business side of things, while Johnson – a chef who was cooked for President Obama in the past – concentrates on the food.
They were partly motivated to produced good food for their young daughter, Rubyrose.
On the CNBC show, the women sought $500,000 for a 20% stake in their company. McConaughey and Gilliam were initially nervous about investing in a company that had reported at $700,000 loss in one of its trading years but were won over by the women’s belief in their products.
They rewarded them with a $500,000 investment for a 35% stake.
‘I think it’s a good product, and I think it really does matter how they process their chickens,’ said Gilliam said. ‘If people know about it, they’ll buy their product over the other ones.’
They’re not the only ones to show belief in the company, which has recently closed a $2 million Series A investment round with Advantage Capital Partners.
They’ve also landed a major contract with the Orinda Union School District in California.
‘We want every kid in America to have access to the best clean food, but what we’re doing is not cheap; it’s difficult, and it’s expensive, and it’s artisan,’ says Palandech.
‘When we started we were making batches of 100 pounds, now we make batches of 40,000pounds. There’s a huge difference in the economies of scale and the costing that goes along with that.’
Start-ups with female founders are significantly less successful in finding funding than those businesses with male founders – and lesbian-founded businesses are less successful than those founded by gay men.
‘We’re rewriting lesbian–owned company history here,’ Johnson told Fortune.
Palendech says that despite their reservations, they found they quickly found common ground with Texas investors McConaughey and Gilliam.
‘Regardless of whether you’re a lesbian couple from Northern California or a traditional family from Midland-Texas, everyone wants the best for their kids,’ says Palandech.
‘That was the common language that we all spoke. It was all about love for our kids, and wanting them to be healthy and make good choices.’
They say that the $500,000 and $2million in funding will help will help grow the business, fund infrastructure upgrades, marketing efforts and additional staffing.
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