Center Stage with CohnReznick: Rellevant Partners
As the independent sponsor community is growing in size and relevance, sponsors face a variety of unique challenges related to sourcing transactions, raising capital, and maximizing the value of their investments. At CohnReznick, we’ve noticed that successful independent sponsors meet unique challenges with unique solutions, and we’ve invited members of the independent sponsor community to take Center Stage to share their achievements, contributions, and unique approaches to achieving their goals.
This month we’re featuring Jessica Kates and Janice Meyer, co-founders and Managing Partners of Rellevant Partners.
ABOUT RELLEVANT PARTNERS
Years in business
- 1 year + 2 months
Number of investments
- One, with two additional transactions in process
Typical size of investments
- $5 million to $25 million
- Restaurant, ResTech (restaurant technology), food and beverage
Q&A WITH JESSICA AND JANICE
What motivated you to strike out on your own as independent sponsors?
Both of us have decades of experience analyzing, evaluating, and investing in the restaurant and related industries. That experience combined with our investment instincts, track record, and broad network of talented executives who we can draw on for specific expertise gave us the conviction that we could successfully build our own company. We were also thrilled to establish one of the few female-founded private equity firms in the U.S. and help blaze that trail for others.
What advice do you have for those who are just getting started?
Starting a company can be difficult in any business. Our advice is to develop a detailed business plan and strategy for each phase of development. Try to anticipate obstacles in advance and how to deal with them. Draw on the expertise of the people you know – it is amazing how many will want to help you. Speak to everyone who wants to speak to you – in any conversation you always learn something, and they can be great networking opportunities when you are starting out.
To date, what has been one of your greatest breakthrough moments?
When the volume of inbound calls began to overtake our outbound calls.
When compared to other investors, what do you consider your key differentiators?
Our tenure in the industry has allowed us the ability to source deals in a proprietary fashion, allowing us to steer clear of competitive processes and the corresponding bidding pressures. We have both investing and operating experience, allowing us to understand the pressures faced by the entrepreneurs we work with and guide them through rough times, as we have during this current unprecedented period. We do not take a one-size-fits-all approach but rather match company structure and entrepreneurs with the right mentors and partners to foster a winning team dynamic.
What are some of the best reasons that capital providers should be attracted to you?
We invest in what we know. Our experience has afforded us a very discriminating lens, allowing us to identify successful concepts early in their development, when valuations are still attractive. That combined with our resources and proven network of senior industry executives gives us the ability to mitigate risk and drive unparalleled results for entrepreneurs and capital providers.
What are your greatest challenges right now?
The travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19 have been challenging for us in the restaurant space. While we are still able to meet with management teams via technology, we perform extremely detailed concept due diligence, which includes multiple visits to store locations, notably without the management. The inability to do that has caused us to walk away from some investment opportunities with which we might have otherwise moved forward. In our view, without eating the food multiple times and assessing the operating model and store locations, it is virtually impossible to gain that deep understanding you need to confidently move forward and invest.
What are some of the things you love about being an independent sponsor?
We love the flexibility it provides us and the ability to constantly meet new people interested in investing in these industries. We also love not being under pressure to make investments based solely on an expected time frame. We invest in what we believe and what we think has long-term potential. Just as a restaurant operator should not compromise on a location simply to meet a unit opening goal, we never want to compromise on the quality of an investment because we need to get a deal done.
Favorite ice cream flavor
- Jessica: Pralines & Cream (Haagen-Dazs)
- Janice: It’s ice cream – any flavor
- Jessica: Chocolate-covered raisins
- Janice: Dry roasted unsalted cashews
Name of your first or current pet
- Jessica: Gracie (dog)
- Janice: Thor (dog)
- Jessica: “The Silence of the Lambs”
Best business book
- Jessica: “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell
- Janice: “Barbarians at the Gate” by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
Best vacation spot
- Jessica: Santorini, Greece
- We don’t play favorites!
Favorite charitable organization
- Jessica: PupStarz Rescue
- Janice: The Windward School
Favorite beverage (adult or otherwise)
- Jessica: Nesquik chocolate milk
- Janice: Water
Most surprising thing about you that nobody would guess
- We are both NYC marathon finishers.