As part of our Active Intros series, we speak to a different member of the Active team to find out what’s keeping them busy, which consumer trend they’re most excited about and the one brand they couldn’t live without. This month we chatted with one of our Partners, Janice Cargo.
Janice has been at Active since 2015, joining the team when it was just four people. She has spent her whole career working with consumer brands, first at Merrill Lynch and then at Change Capital Partners. At Active, Janice has led several of our investments and exits and sits on the board of The Fold, Caravan, Facetheory and Northern Monk.
Tell us about your career so far and what led you to join Active.
The common thread throughout my whole career has been working with consumer brands. I started in investment banking at Merrill Lynch, initially in New York and then in London when I was asked to move as they were setting up their first Consumer & Retail team. I spent five years advising global clients before joining Change Capital Partners, a consumer and retail-focused fund backed by the family behind the French supermarket chain Carrefour. It was a small and nimble team, and we invested in some exciting retail businesses like Jil Sander and Republic and I led the sale of several businesses too.
After nearly ten years at Change Capital Partners, I took some time out while staying involved in one of Change’s portfolio businesses. I had my son about a year later and then in late 2014, I met the Active team, which at the time was only four people. I loved what they were doing in the consumer brand space, and I joined initially part-time whilst my son was very young (which was almost unheard of in the industry at the time!) before becoming full-time. Since then, I’ve been involved with lots of our businesses including Rapha, WhoCanFixMyCar and Secret Cinema and I currently sit on the board of The Fold London, Caravan, Facetheory and Northern Monk. Over my nine years at Active, the team has grown to 12 people across our growth and early-stage funds.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My days are made up of a mix of meeting founders of new companies we are looking at, executing investments, and supporting our portfolio businesses. I also spend a considerable amount of time working with our businesses when they are thinking about exits to find the best new partner for them. Having built up a network over the past 25 years in the space I also regularly meet with other investors, strategic advisors, business leaders and founders across the consumer world.
What consumer trend excites you most right now?
Consumers today are savvier than ever before and their relentless appetite to search for authenticity and relevancy in brands really excites me. They are actively seeking out brands that are aligned with their values and stand for something and this provides a huge opportunity for challenger brands to take real market share. Gone are the days when big brands dominated.
What’s your top advice for founders when raising capital?
Start early and make sure you find an investor who is aligned with your values and vision for the business. Partnering with an investor is like entering a marriage, you want to make sure that they are there through all the ups and the downs and will provide the level of support you are looking for.
What do you love most about your job?
Having spent 25 years working with founders building consumer brands, there is nothing more exciting than supporting founders to achieve their ambitions and goals. It’s also hugely satisfying when we work with a founder for a long period of time and then find a perfect partner to support it in its next phase of growth.
Name one brand you couldn’t live without
My Remarkable. It’s revolutionised my admin by keeping everything in one place, plus I don’t need to print anything so it’s good for the environment.
I’m actually not a huge podcast listener. But I do love Ted Talks and documentaries. One Ted Talk that I often recommend to founders is “3 ways to measure your adaptability” which came out pre-covid and was really put to the test when covid hit!
More recently I loved the BBC Series called Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland. It was a unique insight into ordinary people’s lives through the troubles which was harrowing but equally showed the resilience of the Northern Irish folk. Having grown up in Northern Ireland during this time I could relate to many of the experiences.
Top book recommendation
The Power of Geography by Tim Marshall. It’s a fascinating read about how 10 maps from around the world have shaped a country’s history and its place in the future world.