founder

Terraseed Founder Maria Cebrian Fernandez on Updating the Old-Fashioned Supplement Industry

Introduction

Many have come to appreciate the health benefits of a vegan diet. However, vegans may also have trouble incorporating certain vitamins and minerals into their meals, such as vitamin B12 and calcium. As a result, vitamins and supplements can prove critical for maintaining a healthy vegan lifestyle.

Terraseed has developed an all-in-one multivitamin designed specifically to supplement vegan diets. The ingredients are all vegan-friendly, and the company has developed completely biodegradable bottles to promote a healthy environment. We reached out to co-founder and CEO Maria Cebrian Fernandez to hear more about the inspiration behind the company and the rewards of perseverance.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

In your own words, how would you describe your company?

Maria Cebrian Fernandez

We build the most ethical and sustainable supplements on earth! My company, Terraseed, creates vegan and sustainably sourced supplements packaged in the first-ever 100% biodegradable pill bottle.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

Maria Cebrian Fernandez

I am a third-time entrepreneur, and I have 13 years of experience in the digital and wellness industries. I sold my second company to the world’s leader, and now, I am set out to lead a sustainability revolution in the supplement industry. 

Years ago, I became vegan because I was very concerned with the environment, and soon after, I discovered I was lacking key nutrients, the same as 92% of vegans. So, I started taking six different supplements packaged in all this plastic and found out they weren’t even vegan and were sourced from who knows where. Then, I learned that every year, the US supplement industry creates 1.8 billion plastic pill bottles and kills 24 billion animals, damaging the most important ecosystems on our planet. It was appalling! I founded Terraseed to simplify and complete vegans’ nutritional needs with sustainable and ethical supplements that have no impact on the planet. 

We launched our first product, a multivitamin designed for vegans, a year ago. It wasn’t always an easy journey. We heard no after no after no, that an all-in-one, vegan formulation in a compostable pill bottle couldn’t be done. But perseverance is one of my main attributes (I am an ultra-distance mountain runner!). So, with a lot of determination and experimentation, we built a solution that is bringing a new level of innovation to the seriously old-fashioned supplement industry.

In January 2020, we were accepted into Techstars Boulder, the most prestigious Techstars chapter in the world. Only 1% of the companies that apply are accepted into the program, and we were one of the 11 companies that were part of the ‘21 program. Being part of the Techstars family has allowed us to build an extensive network of venture capitalists who are now following our progress and who are ready to invest in Terraseed when we raise the next financing round.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Maria Cebrian Fernandez

Our team of 10 has a proven history of building products in the wellness industry and shares a personal commitment to environmental justice. I am a third-time entrepreneur and a passionate vegan. In 2017, my company Aomm.tv, the leading Spanish-language online yoga and pilates platform, was successfully acquired by Gaia, the world’s conscious media leader. I then joined Gaia’s team and led the company’s international expansion across Spanish- and German-language markets.

My co-founder, Hava Horowitz, is highly skilled at understanding human problems and designing technical solutions to address them. She has seven years of experience in several industries, such as music technology, on-demand video services, cryptocurrency, and augmented reality. 

Terraseed’s COO, Alex Houghtalin, is currently completing an MBA focused on entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. She was the project director of strategy research at Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness.

The rest of the team includes:

  • Maria Lucas, head of product development. 
  • Gonzalo de Linos, head of acquisition.
  • Annie Robertson, head of community-driven growth. 
  • Carol Hall, head of financials. 
  • Ash Katter, e-commerce platform manager. 
  • Mitchell Rodehaver, director of product research. 
  • Mike Lewis, copywriter. 
  • Maria Fernanda Cuesta, designer. 
  • Alyx Citron, fulfillment operator and customer support.

Our advisors are: 

  • Julie Penner, founder of Soul of Startups and lead investor. 
  • Bill Capsalis, executive director at Naturally Boulder.
  • Asher Brown, founder of Pollution TV and Vegan Connector. 
  • Jaymi Bauer, CMO and co-chair at Vaquera Group. 
Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

You sold your previous company. How is this helping you with Terraseed?

Maria Cebrian Fernandez

I have experienced the full cycle of building a company from the ground up, growing it, and then selling it to the industry’s leader. All the knowledge and experience I gained during this process is now applicable to my new company, Terraseed. However, I consider myself an eternal learner who constantly wants to learn and is never tired. This is probably the most important skill that is required in the tech and consumer packaged goods field, which is always changing.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Maria Cebrian Fernandez

The supplement industry is a $54 billion market, and several other vegan supplements have entered the market in the past years, such as Future Kind, Hippo7, wholier, and Ritual. However, none of these brands are bringing true innovation. They are stuck in plastic, like the rest of this industry, they don’t target the vegan consumer specifically, and ethics and sustainability do not read at the cores of their missions. 

Terraseed stands out in the market as:

  • The only supplement with minimal impact on the planet. 
  • The only brand using 100% biodegradable packaging.
  • One of the only brands that uses ingredients that are ethically sourced, without harming any animals or natural ecosystems to create our products.
  • The most complete supplement for vegans. 
  • The most mission-driven company in the market. This has allowed us to engage our core vegan audience with a powerful brand that resonates with their values and lifestyle.
Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Maria Cebrian Fernandez

We intend to use the net proceeds of this offering for working capital and general corporate purposes, which includes 25% toward marketing and content creation, 30% toward research and development and new product development, 37.5% toward building the team, and 7.5% toward Wefunder fees. The goal is to have more than $110,000 in MMR by December 2022.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

Maria Cebrian Fernandez

We have a great product-market fit (93% of our customers renew after the first bottle), we have the right team, and our customer acquisition cost to lifetime value ratio is remarkable (1:7), so we are ready to scale. Our subscription model will allow us to grow fast with our first product and then dominate the vegan supplement market with a range of nutritional products designed for specific needs, such as prenatal, kids, women, and athletes. After dominating the vegan market, we will move into other audiences who are on different stages of the vegan journey: mostly plant-based, flexitarian, vegetarian, meat reducers, etc. And finally, we will enter the mainstream supplement market with our ethical and sustainable products.

Vegans are committed, easy to reach, and a very active community. Our engine of growth is based on using grassroots and word-of-mouth marketing strategies to acquire our customers through an ambassador and member-get-member program. Our customers feel 100% aligned with our mission and values, and they are very active ambassadors who share Terraseed among their communities. 

Raising our seed round through equity crowdfunding is the perfect financing vehicle, as it allows us to get the support of this community, which is extremely active when it comes to helping vegan companies. Equity crowdfunding not only helps us raise funds but also helps us promote our product among our target vegan and eco-friendly audience. 

To establish the company’s valuation, which is $6 million, we analyzed two years of data about investment transactions and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the supplement, e-commerce, and consumer packaged goods spaces. The average valuation of a company our size is $8.9 million. We decided to go a little lower to gain traction faster and attract the non-institutional investors within our community.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Maria Cebrian Fernandez

Yes, the goal for the company is to reach more than $20 million in yearly revenue by 2025. The supplement industry is thriving, with a total market of $54 billion in 2020, and has specific tailwinds that are supportive of M&A beyond the general environment. The industry has very positive growth drivers, especially after the COVID pandemic, and is fairly fragmented. There have been several large deals in the last two years, and there have been smaller deals as well, as private equity has a growing influence in the supplement industry.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

As a woman, have you encountered difficulties working on your company? What advice would you give to women founders?

Maria Cebrian Fernandez

Yes, definitively. Women entrepreneurs still face many challenges that make it difficult. Barriers such as limited funding, gender biases, and limited government support have kept women out of entrepreneurship for decades. We have to demonstrate that we can be as successful in business as men! If you’re facing challenges in your entrepreneurship journey, you’re not alone. My advice is that you always believe in yourself and don’t let anyone look down on you. Use your strengths as a womansuch as resilience, care and kindness, passion, assertiveness, action-mindedness, and problem-solving skillsto build an amazing business. Embrace your female qualities, and use them to your advantage.

We look forward to seeing where Maria and her team take the company. Terraseed is currently raising on Wefunder.

23
About: Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Léa is passionate about impact investing and sustainability. Prior to KingsCrowd, she worked for Stanford’s accelerator, StartX, helping to select the most promising entrepreneurs. She also led the first award-winning study on the Malawian startup ecosystem. In her free-time, she volunteers to help entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Brazil and Colombia. Léa holds a degree in Anthropology from France and is currently enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program.

View Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau's founders