New investment vehicle Inkuberra has signed its first deal, investing in start-up food retailer Planet Chocolate for an undisclosed sum.
Inkuberra was founded in November last year by Simon McNamara, former chief executive of Boost Juice Bars and a founding shareholder in burger chain Grill’d, along with DC Strategy chief Rod Young and marketing strategist Antony Morell.
The purpose of the business is to invest in early stage retail and food retail ventures with high growth potential.
Planet Chocolate, founded by brothers Greg and Darren Factor in 2005, has five stores in Victorian shopping centres – two company-owned outlets and three franchises.
According to McNamara, Planet Chocolate is an ideal investment because it displays proof-of-concept and will be an attractive option for prospective franchisees.
“The chocolate, coffee and dessert sales mix is a fusion of stable categories that are a growing constant within shopping centres,” McNamara says.
“We think that they’re in a unique space, we think there’s an opportunity to dial that up and increase turnovers.”
Greg Factor says McNamara approached him and his brother at a networking event, which ultimately led to McNamara’s partnership proposal.
“When someone like Simon McNamara says that to you, you jump at the opportunity … we worked for a couple of months with Inkuberra before deciding to get the guys on as equity partners,” Factor says.
“It will be an ongoing relationship. Inkuberra is very hands-on with everything – they’re certainly not a silent partner who just comes along and pays for everything.
“Inkuberra will not be directly involved in the day-to-day running of the business but will help us to assess the bigger picture and be actively involved in deciding where the business is going.”
Inkuberra has developed a 12-month plan aimed at increasing turnover across Planet Chocolate outlets and refining the operating model into something it can significantly scale.
According to Inkuberra director Anthony Morell that will involve evolving the brand, product mix and service experience to broaden appeal and “hopefully generate a more tribal following”.
“In parallel to a general tune-up of the existing business we are currently working on a revised model that we aim to pilot at a new outlet midway through this year,” Morell says.
According to McNamara the first focus for both businesses will be on branding, including a refurbishment of Planet Chocolate’s flagship store at Southland Shopping Centre.
McNamara says he is not concerned by consumers’ increasing awareness around healthy eating, saying Planet Chocolate products will be marketed as small treats – including chocolate shots – rather than overindulgent eating.
“A lot of the products are designed to be consumed then and there at the vendor… it’s a fresh product to have then and there,” he says.
With regard to the kind of person Planet Chocolate will look for in a franchisee Factor and McNamara says ideal candidates don’t need to come from a food retail background.
“We’re more looking for extroverts because the brand will be very, very cheeky. There’ll be stuff that you haven’t seen before, particularly in shopping centres, such as the promotion of body chocolate,” McNamara says.
“You don’t want to be a shy person in one of these franchises because the marketing will challenge people to their limits in terms of whether they feel comfortable with certain ideas.”