Shazi Visram: I Was Approached By My Dream Acquirer

by · May 13, 2013
 

Nicole Marie Richardson | Inc.com staff
May 13, 2013

The CEO of Happy Family talks about the recent acquisition by Danone, the company’s future, and what it means for her role.

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Following reports of the acquisition of Inc. 500 company Happy Family by Danone for hundreds of millions of dollars, Inc. Executive Editor Nicole Marie Richardson reached out to founder, CEO, and Chief Mom Shazi Visram to talk about the deal. Concerning handing over 90 percent in equity to the food giant, Visram says, “I am one Happy Mama.” Here’s what else she had to say about the deal, the future of Happy Family, and her role within the company.

Why was now the right time to consider an acquisition?
We were simply approached by our dream acquirer. We weren’t looking to sell, nor did we have to, but it was impossible not to be honored, flattered, and thrilled by the prospect of continuing our vision under the guidance of such a respected visionary company. Their R&D capabilities are world renown, and their people are as passionate as we are.

Were you considering other major partners or buyers?
Not really, although we have been approached many times. It has always been my intention to do what’s right for our brand, and with Danone I knew Happy Family will leave a lasting legacy for health and wellness in our country and prove to offer parents the most nutritious and personalized products for the specific needs of our babies’ growing bodies. No one I had ever spoken with could offer us that, regardless of the monetary situation.

How did the relationship with Danone come about?
We had an initial call in September on my mother’s birthday and we flirted with the idea of a partnership–it was like dating if you will. But after meeting their team in Amsterdam and understanding their commitment to optimizing nutrition for babies around the globe, I began to fall in love. They proposed in January, and then on May 12, 2013, Mother’s Day, we accepted. It was an auspicious sign for me as it was literally seven years to the day that we launched as a gift to moms, and we signed this deal. Maybe it will close on Father’s Day, who knows!

What made Danone a good fit for Happy Family?
They have a booming global infant nutrition business based on work from the world’s most innovative R&D facilities. They recognize that Jessica Rolph and I continue to be the natural leaders of our business and that our team and our passion is central to our success, so nothing will change. I will remain as CEO and chief mom. I will chair the new board. Jessica will continue as COO and also serve on the new board. Our team will remain and our passion and commitment to our mission will only be bolstered.

In the past, you shunned VC funding for fear that you would lose some control over your business. Is this a concern with this new deal?
Not at all. I shunned them for that reason and also because I never thought they would have much value to add. With Danone, I will still run the company based on my original mission and they will add tremendous value to further those goals of changing the way our children are fed through optional organic nutrition.

What was your previous knowledge of Danone?
The company is one that I have always deeply admired. The CEO is a visionary, and their efforts globally are social responsible in every way. The company had created a wonderful partnership with Stonyfield under the leadership of Gary Hirshberg, a man who has been my role model for 10 years and who is a friend and mentor to me.

What will this new partner allow Happy Family to do in terms of scaling?
We will have access to their R&D for new product development and will be able to expand our reach. Danone will offer continued growth capital to finance the business’s expansion as well as access to the world preeminent thinkers and leaders in the baby nutrition space.

Is there the potential of a 100 percent sale to Danone?
Anything is possible, but that is not something I foresee for our future. Happy Family will continue to be our baby.

What are the new growth targets for Happy Family?
We plan to hit $100 million this year and the future continues to be bright. I’d like to see Happy Family become the leading brand that focuses on the health and wellness of young families.

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