Sarah Bradley calls starting Kainos Capital one of the most difficult, but successful feats of her career. Kainos was formed in 2012, and Bradley oversees investor relations and fundraising in addition to being on her firm’s investment committee.
Bradley has over 20 years of investment banking and private equity experience in the food and consumer sectors. Before starting Kainos, she was with HM Capital for one year, and also worked as a managing director at Investcorp and Deutsche Bank’s financial sponsors and consumer groups. The investment banker began her career in the mergers and acquisitions group at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.
While at HM Capital, Bradley says she was offered other opportunities to join more established firms. Instead, she chose to launch Kainos, along with two other co-founders, Andrew Rosen and Robert Sperry. “When we founded Kainos, it was a very tough fundraising environment,” Bradley recalls. “It wasn’t easy.”
But it was rewarding. In 2013, Dallas-based Kainos raised its first fund for $420 million. Then, in October 2016, the private equity firm closed its second fund for $895 million. This newest fund will target investment opportunities in the food and beverage and consumer goods sectors, and aims to increase the size of Kainos’ transactions. The firm’s typical investment ranges between $50 million and $150 million in equity.
Driven by large conglomerate with limited organic opportunities, interest in food and beverage acquisitions is currently surging. Recent examples include Hormel Foods Corp. (NYSE: HRL) agreement to buy deli meats producer Columbus Manufacturing Inc. from Arbor Investments for $850 million, and Unilever’s pending purchase of Starbucks Corp.’s (Nasdaq: SBUX) Tazo tea brand for $384 million. “The large public food companies are starved for growth,” notes Bradley.
This has worked to Kainos’ advantage, and the PE firm has been capitalizing on the sector’s abundant M&A activity. In 2016, Kainos-backed Kettle Cuisine bought soup distributor Del Monaco Foods, and the PE firm also sold animal nutrition company Milk Specialties Global to American Securities. Then, this past year, Kainos purchased Country Fresh, a provider of fresh cut fruits and vegetables. Other previous investments include: Slim-Fast Foods Co., Florida Food Products Inc., Sturm Foods Inc. and Ghirardelli Chocolate Co.
To succeed in M&A, Bradley encourages other women not to shy away from challenges. “You have to be an independent thinker,” she professes. “Men and women are different thinkers. I always tell women to take on risks as well as challenges.”
And Bradley notes that women tend to share certain characteristics that work to their advantage. “Women in general are loyal,” she says. “We run through walls for the people we work with.”
Thanks to recent advancements in technology, Bradley says that sustaining a financial services career and caring for a family is no longer as big a challenge as it used to be. “Women,” she says, “who need more flexible hours and to work from home, are finding better options these days. It’s a hard job. It’s a lot of hours, but it’s still possible to have that career path and have a family.”
A member of the Women’s Association of Venture and Equity’s (WAVE) New York Steering Committee, Bradley also belongs to the Private Equity Women Investor Network (PEWin). The latter is a networking organization for senior women leaders in private equity with over 400 members worldwide.
Bradley received a B.A. in Business Administration and a Master of Professional Accounting, both from the University of Texas at Austin. She is also a certified public accountant.