Health supplement startup Life Equals is the latest firm to outgrow the entrepreneurial hamlet known as the Kansas City Startup Village.
Thanks to a growing team, the Lenexa-based company — which sells vitamins and supplement products — is ditching its quaint 900-square-foot office in the village to create a spacious 3,700-square-foot event space in the West Bottoms. The larger space will help accommodate more team members and space for merchandising, Life Equals CEO Kyle FitzGerald said.
In addition to the new office, the company recently closed a seed round of $780,000 and snagged a partnership deal with Whole Foods. Investors in the round included the Mid-America Angels and Scott Henderson, the former eight-year president and COO of 5-Hour Energy.
FitzGerald said he’s thankful for the support the KCSV was able to provide him.
“Community is a backbone to success,” FitzGerald said. “Integrating into the community helps you find talent, partnership and allows you to share your story. Startups each have a mountain they have to climb, and to have more people climbing with you is extremely valuable.”
Founded in 2011, Life Equals created a “superfood shot” that’s complete with half of your daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Life Equals also previously was a member of the now defunct SparkLabs Accelerator program.
Life Equals’ first superfood shot product “Balance” launched in September, and it is currently sold in 34 Kansas City locations and online. In 2017, the firm will expand its reach across the Rocky Mountain region via its relationship with Whole Foods, while maintaining its presence in Kansas City.
FitzGerald was motivated to launch his firm because of negative trends in the American diet. He said that most diseases are preventable and that people’s poor diets tend to cause their ailments. As such, he wanted to find a way for people to easily get their fruits and vegetables.
“A lot of diets are built around what you have to stop, for example, you have to stop eating Oreos,” FitzGerald said. “But, our philosophy is to add in the good and contribute to the work you’re already doing and as you add more good stuff in, it’ll push the bad stuff out.”
Although the full time Life Equals team may be small, FitzGerald said the firm has more than 20 part-time employees. Combine that with the fact that the firm regularly stores merchandise in stock, things were getting a little snug at KCSV.
Life Equals is one of several firms that have outgrown or left the startup village, which was the first neighborhood to nab Google Fiber and consequently attract dozens of startups to the area. Since the village’s inception in 2012, 18 of the 51 participating startups have “graduated,” or outgrown, the village, said KCSV co-leader Matthew Marcus.
Marcus said that the village’s goal is to help the local economy, and he’s happy to see startups grow bigger than the village.
“The community part of the village is fun, but without entrepreneurs building businesses, what’s the point?” Marcus said. “The type of graduates that we love the most are the ones that outgrow the village, and hopefully they stay in Kansas City. It’s gratifying to see.”