MCLEAN, VA. — Frozen foods startup 8 Myles has raised $1.05 million in seed funding to expand operations and hire a full-time sales and marketing manager.
The company markets and distributes a line of frozen macaroni and cheese meals featuring whole grain elbow pasta tossed in cheese sauce and topped with a breadcrumb crust. Described as “clean comfort food,” the products are sold in hundreds of retailers across the country, including Sprouts Farmers Market, Whole Foods Market and Target stores. Myles Powell, founder and chief executive officer, said the brand is planning a significant retail expansion this year.
Last fall, Mr. Powell pitched to the panel of investors on the set of the reality series “Shark Tank.” He did not secure a deal during the untelevised segment; however, he said the opportunity was “a really valuable experience” that “catapulted me in the right direction.”
“At the time I didn’t have a team; I didn’t have a co-founder,” Mr. Powell said. “It was a wakeup call that I had to make some changes” in the business.
Zhanna Godkin, who previously led operations at Outstanding Foods, joined 8 Myles in November as co-founder and operations director.
“We want to continue building the team, even outside of our first full-time hire,” Mr. Powell said. “Maybe it’s another fractional role, maybe another intern.”
Mr. Powell described a difficult fundraising environment for early-stage consumer products brands, particularly those led by entrepreneurs of color, noting less than 2% of venture capital dollars support Black-owned businesses like his.
“I want to do what I can to help increase awareness of other Black founders, minority founders and women founders in general, to give them a chance to get in front of the people who write the checks,” Mr. Powell said. “The hardest part is getting access and getting the conversation.”
Participants in the seed round were Andreessen Horowitz’s a16z Talent x Opportunity Initiative, Virginia Venture Partners, The Enterprise Center, gener8tor’s Bronze Valley Investment Accelerator, Kompass Ventures and various angel investors.“Going from a full-time civil engineering student to a full-time entrepreneur, 8 Myles founder Myles Powell was a go-getter from the start,” said Tom Weithman, Virginia Innovation Partnership Corp.’s chief investment officer and managing director of Virginia Venture Partners. “After being featured on Food Network’s ‘America’s Best Cook,’ he decided he was ready to take this passion for food to the next level. Powell’s impressive work ethic paired with a true passion paves way for an extremely successful company, and we are excited to see where 8 Myles continues to grow from here.”