Seeking to Expand Your Celebrity Brand? CAA-Backed Caravan Can Help With That

Adding “entrepreneur” to one’s resume unsurprisingly tops the wish list of many Hollywood stars these days — and why not, when Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and Jay-Z are just a few megawatt names who have transformed the blend of celebrity partnership and business acumen into multibillion-dollar success stories?

Indeed, there’s no shortage these days of brand incubators seeking to align stars with innovative products, from El Segundo-based Beach House Group to Manhattan-based beauty incubator Maesa and Los Angeles-based A-Frame, which boasts such launches as Loved01 skincare with John Legend as the face of the brand.

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For stars seeking new opportunities and a streamlined process, another high-powered and inventive player in the brand-builder space is CAA-backed Caravan, a business incubator that specializes in matching start-up companies with high-wattage entertainers and athletes.

“As I had been developing new companies at CAA, it struck me that there had to be a faster, more scaled and more systemized way of doing this,” explains Michael Yanover, who has headed up new business development at CAA since 2003, overseeing high-profile launches that include Lady Gaga’s Haus Labs beauty line.

Michael Yanover - CAA - Head of Business Development
Michael Yanover, business development head at CAA

Yanover decided to get in touch with Leonard Brody, a venture capitalist and founder of Vancouver-based accelerator GrowLab. “We just started brainstorming around the notion of whether Vancouver would be a good home to develop a studio model of creating new companies, and whether we could see it having enough of a pipeline to create companies around a celebrity,” Yanover remembers. “The answer is yes, there is a pipeline. There is more than enough of a pipeline.” The result was a CAA-backed partnership in 2018, christened Caravan. In 2021, e-commerce investor Clearco and Caravan announced a $50 million fund to develop new companies; Yanover and Brody note the Clearco-Caravan deal remains intact but declined to confirm Caravan’s total capital funding as of 2024.

Leonard Brody - Caravan - Founder
Caravan’s Leonard Brody

“When we started this, the idea of celebrities building their own companies was still kind of early in the process, and it’s really evolved,” Brody notes. “Today, it’s in a much more sophisticated state than we could have imagined it then. The only thing I’d add to our origin story is that we’ve also evolved, in that we look at things from the market opportunity first. We are very focused on answering core questions, and this has always been the culture at Caravan from the beginning.”

The duo indeed decided that the smartest approach was to focus on the company and its purpose or product first. “We started to look at what’s missing in the world,” Brody says. “We examined why this company or this product needs to exist, and how can we make it 10 times better than what’s out there in the market because it’s got to stand alone as a company, as a product, and have an origin story and a reason for being. If not, it doesn’t matter what or who is attached to it.” He stresses that Caravan prioritizes research in developing its brands.

Fit52 - Carrie Underwood
Fit52 with Carrie Underwood

Yummers Pet Supply Co., a Del Mar, California-based company that specializes in nutritious gourmet foods for dogs and cats, is a perfect example, Yanover says. “I had been researching the pet market for a while and had been talking about doing something that was more for millennial men and women who were adopting pets instead of having children. That thought was born at about 2018, and we launched in September 2020. … The company really started getting going concurrent with the [COVID-19] pandemic, and the thesis of millennials [adopting pets more] just coincidentally took off as we were.”

Once the concept was solidified in 2022, Caravan recruited pet-care industry veteran Rebecca Frechette Rudisch as the company’s CEO. Coincidentally, while Queer Eye stars Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness had been separately hunkered down during the pandemic, the duo also had been looking into starting a like-minded brand that offered flavorful, healthy foods for their dogs and cats. For Caravan, that was an ideal background. “As you’re talking about celebrities and building companies, the world ‘authenticity’ comes up so many times, it could be a drinking game,” Brody jokes. “But in looking at why this person is a good fit and co-founder, the authenticity shows up. When you put your heart into it every day and you’re showing up at buyers’ meetings with retailers or you’re on X, formerly Twitter, talking about it, and you’re passionately involved and engaged in the issues, that I think is authenticity.”

Hanx 101 - Trivia Game
Hanx 101 Trivia

“I like to say that the DNA of the celebrity needs to be in the company, and the DNA of the company and the brand needs to be in the celebrity,” Yanover notes. In addition to the direct-to-consumer model Yanover and Brody note is key to every brand launch, today Yummers is also available at Petco and Pet Food Express. In October 2023, it expanded its product range to include a trio of freeze-dried prepared dog foods; each is sustainably made, uses ingredients sourced in the U.S. and can be purchased individually or as subscription bundles. “It’s kind of a remarkably high subscription [consumer base],” Yanover adds.

Other brands in the Caravan portfolio include Hai, which specializes in smart shower systems, and Love, Nala, a line of premium cat food, treats and supplements. Wellness platform fit52 launched in March 2020 with Carrie Underwood onboard as a co-founder, leading fitness routines alongside her longtime personal trainer, Eve Overland. In September 2022, Caravan’s BlueLine Studios launched Hanx101 Trivia, a multiplayer app created in collaboration with actor/director/producer Tom Hanks, a renowned trivia fan.

Underwood, Hanks and Porowoski are CAA clients, but Yanover and Brody insist that’s not a prerequisite. “The opportunities are so rich at CAA that we have plenty to keep ourselves busy, but we are not restricted to work with a [CAA] client,” Brody says.

“It’s not any different than CAA representing a corporate client and saying, ‘Hey, if a CAA personal client isn’t the right fit, but a UTA personal client is a better fit, go for the UTA personal client, and we’ll help you,'” agrees Yanover. “We want Caravan to win, and by whatever means they need to win, they should pursue it, and if that means a non-CAA client, fantastic. [A company] certainly would have access to all of our clients, but nothing should stop them from pursuing whatever makes sense.”

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