Hello friendly faces! It’s that time of the week! We’re back with a new CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom spotlight brought to you in part by Mary Gifford of Gifford Law. This week’s Meet a Mom interview is with a brand new resident to Glencoe, new mama to baby Stella and big brother Frankie, Head of New Business for MightyNest and Venture Partner with LongJump, Rebecca Kahnweiler!
Rebecca dives into her background in entrepreneurship, how she manages both jobs, favorite local stomping grounds, and details about the venture capital world as it relates to LongJump. We’re super excited to introduce you to the world of venture capitalism, not only for any of you who are interested in becoming involved in this type of investing, but for those founders out there looking for a boost. Please help me welcome Rebecca Kahnweiler!
Please introduce yourself. Where are you from originally? What city do you live in now? What brought you here?
Hello! My name is Rebecca Sholiton Kahnweiler. I have spent the majority of my career starting businesses or working with other entrepreneurs, including a professional development network for women on the rise in corporate america (Bonfire), a venture-backed prepared foods business with a D2C and retail brand (Wise Apple), and a Peru-based consultancy focused on accelerating female-led businesses through partnerships with international aid organizations (Sector3).
I was born in Evanston, grew up in Inverness (NW Suburbs) and now call Glencoe home. Living in Chicago was not necessarily my plan, but after spending over a decade living in Texas and then Peru, I found my way back home to attend graduate school at Northwestern.
My husband, Alex, and I just moved to Glencoe from Wicker Park in September just before welcoming our second child.
You’re a mama, tell us about your kiddos!
We have two kids: Frank and Stella. Frank (Frankie) is almost 3 years old and Stella is just shy of 8 weeks old. We also have a 1-year old Bernedoodle puppy named Betty. Our house is very busy!
Any fun facts about you?
Fun fact: We recently discovered that our kids were accidentally named after the famous artist Frank Stella. It is fun to have an adopted namesake for them both.
We love local recs. What are your favorite local places to spend with the family?
My husband grew up going to Homer’s and we’ve adopted it as a special treat. We also love going to Hecky’s in Evanston, which was a favorite of my parents from over 30 years ago! I personally love going to Victor Hlavacek’s greenhouse to look at the plants. Their greenhouse is one of the most peaceful places I’ve been and the babies love it, too!
You’ve spent the majority of your career as an entrepreneur. And as if having two wee ones isn’t enough, you’ve currently got two sturdy endeavors. First up, please tell us about MightyNest, a company based in Skokie.
From home essentials to wellness products to pet care, MightyNest sells over 2,000 high-quality sustainable products that help make a positive impact on you, your home and the planet. Our team evaluates every item’s ingredients, materials and waste impact so you can make informed decisions about what you’re buying. We carry some of your favorite sustainable brands (think Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation, Stasher & more) and lots you haven’t yet discovered.
I lead New Business initiatives, so I help launch new physical and digital products. I’ve been working with the team since December 2020.
Next up, please tell us about Chicago-based venture capital fund LongJump for which you are a Venture Partner. What is LongJump and what do you do?
LongJump is a first-check, founder-led fund, designed to invest in the next generation of founders. We provide capital, connections, and community to help founders take the leap towards building fast-growing, scalable businesses. We are building LongJump to help founders of all backgrounds, all races, all genders, and all socio-economic conditions to get their start.
As a Venture Partner with LongJump, I help evaluate potential investments and work with our portfolio company founders.
Amazing and rewarding work! How do you have time to work two jobs that at first glance appear to both be full-time endeavors?
It might be hard to believe, but all of the LongJump partners work on the fund part-time…read: nights and weekends. We are all dedicated to operating and growing businesses as well as investing in other founders. The team is really good at communicating when their focus can be on LJ and when it needs to be elsewhere (family, business, health, etc.).
The mission is very cool. It might be a local fund but the mission and who it serves could be felt globally! How does this fund work?
As we look around at the startup community, we see disparity. Because while the passion, grit, and focus it takes to turn a business into something great is evenly distributed, capital and connections are not. And we want to change that.
The population of founders in Chicago (and everywhere else, too) should mirror the community around them. But we don’t see that. Instead we see deep bias towards certain people, certain industries, and certain backgrounds — none of which are predictive of success. And we see this opportunity gap widening over time, creating a chasm that prevents many from starting companies and getting them to the next level.
That’s why we’re creating LongJump. To help founders of all backgrounds, all races, all genders, and all socio-economic conditions to get their start.
Specifically what type of companies does LongJump invest in?
LongJump invests in companies that are tech-focused, based in Chicago and have at least one founder from an underrepresented community. We invest $100,000 into each company and offer access to our network of 190+ general and limited partners.
What does the process of obtaining a loan for founders just starting out look like?
We have a standard deal for all of our investments. When we make an offer to invest, we make an offer to take an equity position in the company versus loaning capital.
Our process is rather different from your typical venture fund – we accept applications, not pitch decks. You do not need a referral or introduction to be considered for a LongJump investment. Instead, companies complete an application.
Our application helps us learn the basics about you, your business, your team, and your progress to date. Our promise to you is that we will review every application and even if we don’t move your company forward to an interview, you will get specific feedback from us as to why.
Can you share with us a few local examples of businesses that you’ve funded that have returned investments for you?
Since launching in 2021, LongJump has made 15 investments totaling $1.5M of capital deployed. We are proud to have all of our investments here: https://longjump.vc/companies
How does one become an investor?
Starting to invest in start-ups is becoming more accessible. Chicago now has a few angel investment groups that allow you to learn about investing with small amounts (as little as $1,000 per investment). Any Accredited Investor can apply and learn the process of angel investing alongside other investors.
Two groups that I’m active with are:
The Josephine Collective
Chicago Early Growth Ventures
As a brand new mama with a toddler and two jobs, how do you manage it all and keep some sanity?
What are your most proud professional and personal accomplishments?
I started a business in Peru when I was 28 – it was the beginning of my love for entrepreneurship and working with female founders. That business still operates today and exists to fuel women business owners across Peru.
Being able to start investing in other founders was a personal goal for me when I started my first business. Spending time with entrepreneurs feeds me professionally and personally – I think it’s a perfect mix of my personal values and professional goals.
That certainly is a great accomplishment. What is the best way to reach you for more information?
[email protected] or [email protected]
About Our Meet a Mom Sponsor
A very heartfelt thank you to CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Firm (wills and trusts). Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities! Learn more about Mary by visiting her Meet a Mom spotlight here! Contact Mary directly here: [email protected].