Don Bugito was a cohort six participant in The Accelerator at ICA in 2020 and receive a growth capital investment of $200K from ICA’s Growth Fund in 2020.
Don Bugito is the perfect illustration of who ICA exists for and what’s possible when small businesses are able to find the right support system. In 2010, Monica Martinez had a vision for a highly sustainable, insect-based snack company that honors the indigenous, pre-Hispanic culinary traditions of Mexico. Over the course of the next decade, Monica got the company off the ground mostly with her own funds and worked as the sole employee of Don Bugito.
But when she was ready to expand her farming operations in order to move production in-house and add new products, she knew she needed additional support. Monica found ICA after working with La Cocina, a San Francisco-based culinary business incubator and ICA partner, and in 2020, Monica participated in ICA’s flagship program for growth-stage companies, The Accelerator.
At the culminating pitch event, Monica impressed the judges—including ICA’s investment team—and secured a $200K growth equity investment in Don Bugito from ICA’s Growth Fund. The infusion of capital has enabled Monica to create additional full-time jobs within the company, as well as lay the groundwork for expansion.
Below, Monica discusses how she navigated the challenges of the pandemic, and how participating in The Accelerator and receiving an investment from ICA has supercharged her plans for 2021 and beyond.
How did the Accelerator prepare Don Bugito for ICA’s eventual investment?
At the beginning, I thought The Accelerator would be challenging, because everything had to be online due to COVID. But the structure of the program was great; we met once a week, so it was still possible for me to run the business.
ICA helped me straighten out the business and our finances, and then draft a very clear strategy and growth plan. They also provided a ton of support with building a strong pitch that had clearly defined goals.
The pitch event was virtual this year. How did you prepare for it?
I was nervous, of course—especially because I was presenting, literally, to a camera. So that was very different. But regardless, you always feel vulnerable presenting something—it’s your baby. Talking about it in front of people, trying to explain the potential that you see, trying to convey that big idea—that’s always challenging. And it’s especially so when you’re putting yourself out there saying, “I need support. I can’t do this on my own. This is the potential that I see, and I hope you see it too.”
Immediately after I finished presenting, I knew I was in a great spot—investment or no investment—because I had clear next steps for growing the business. Either way, I felt very accomplished. But getting the investment was, of course, amazing—I had the plans in place, and now I had the capital.
What are some of the most significant changes ICA’s investment has made possible for Don Bugito?
I was able to hire two full-time employees and offer some benefits—in other words, real, good jobs.
We’ve also gained a couple new clients for our existing products and are in the process of growing our insect farm and scaling it up. We’ve participated in some national tradeshows as well, which was possible thanks to the infusion of capital, and we’ve resumed talks with our largest distributor.
How do you envision ICA’s investment continuing to help Don Bugito grow in 2021 and beyond?
We’re in the process of launching two new agricultural products—a non-GMO, organic, insect-based plant food that protects plants from being attacked by other insects, as well as organic chicken feed designed for people raising chicken in their backyards.
During COVID, we didn’t receive anything from the government in terms of truly meaningful support. So, to have ICA invest in us and support us in so many other ways—that is huge. Because it’s not just about business; it’s people being in your corner who truly understand and believe in what you’re doing.
Learn more about Don Bugito at donbugito.com.