Debbie Wildrick – Chief Strategy Officer
Debbie is a channel and distribution expert with a background in executive level business management, sales, and marketing. She has extensive background in the consumer packaged goods industry with over 30 years' experience.
Her early career included various sales and management positions including Tropicana Juices (Pepsico) and Sundance Juice Sparklers (Stroh). Debbie transitioned to the retailer side of the industry where at 7-Eleven, Inc. she became Senior Director for Vault and Proprietary Beverages responsible for $3.3 Billion or 40% of all merchandise sales for over 5500 stores. In addition, during her tenure, she was the Director for Snacks and Grocery products. Debbie followed her passion for the industry and became the General Manager for retail sales for The FRS Company. She has since spent a number of years both consulting and in key management positions with start-up brands. She most recently was the CEO of Bazi, Inc., a public nutritional shot company. Overall, her diverse background includes a combination of retailer and packaged goods experience, something very unique to most people in the industry. She has experience with all channels of trade and specializes in main stream retail and business strategy and execution.
Wildrick has served as an Executive Committee Chair of the Network of Executive Women for ten years. She is also a regular panelist, speaker and columnist. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas and the Cornell Food Executive Program.
Craig Fortin – President & COO
Combining a passion for operational excellence with an entrepreneurial drive, Craig’s career highlights include reorganizing, co-founding, building and leading both early-stage/start-ups and business units with Fortune 100 companies over the past 25 years.
After spending 10+ years in transaction services & technology field, Craig shifted his energies to food & beverage manufacturing with tenures at Brad’s Raw Foods as the Director of Operations where he successfully overhauled the company culture and operational processes which increased operational capacities by 130% while cutting material waste, overtime and ingredient costs by an average of 28%. In 2007, Craig led the creation of Skinny Water as the VP of Manufacturing & Operations responsible for the company’s product development, flavor systems, manufacturing, supply chain and logistics that fueled Skinny Water’s dynamic growth as a leading beverage brand. Prior to joining Skinny Water, he co-founded Mediaguide, a business intelligence company, as a joint venture with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) leading the design, development, roll-out and ongoing operations of nationwide broadcast monitoring system technology. In 1996, Craig founded and managed Universal Merchant Services as a business unit of AT&T Universal Card Services. Leveraging AT&T’s global telecommunications infrastructure and the banking relationships of Universal Cards, he rapidly grew the business unit into a profitable transaction services company which was eventually sold to Citigroup and rebranded as Citi Merchant Services in 1998. Craig earned his BA in Business Administration & Economics from Gordon College and holds a Masters Certification in Project Management from Villanova University.
James Arsenault – Chief Financial Officer
Jim has over 20 years of experience as a corporate CFO/Controller for public and private companies and has focused on the beverage industry the past 10. His main focus has been in the start-up and emerging growth companies where he was recently the VP of Finance for Bai Brands and prior to that was the CFO for Skinny Water, a publicly traded company.
In both companies Jim played an active role assisting the retail and distributor growth, while overseeing all aspects of the accounting function and administrative infrastructure.
Previously, he worked in the private sector for Tom James Company, a luxury apparel manufacturer, retailer and distributor. Jim spent a majority of his career in mergers and acquisitions for the company, serving as CFO during the start-up phase for various acquisitions.
Jim holds a BA in Accounting from Bryant University and received his Masters in Business Administration from Anna Maria College. His wealth of hands-on management experience adds tremendous value to MetaBrand’s younger brands seeking financial guidance and expertise.
MetaBrand Senior Advisors
Ivan Abrams – Senior Advisor
Ivan is a highly successful banker and entrepreneur, with over 20 years of management and leadership experience. During his career, he has built his private firm, Abrams & Company, Inc., into the leading source of working capital financing, and expert advisory support, to the food and beverage, and wine and spirits industries.
He has been actively involved in the sourcing, structuring and funding of numerous LBOs, and turnarounds, and frequently advises clients on a myriad of complex operational, and strategic, matters.
Ivan’s work, in conjunction with the businesses he finances, is far reaching, and has included managing board meetings, reviewing incoming equity and convertible instruments, identifying and vetting board members, analyzing co-packing and distribution agreements, and benchmarking slotting, promotional and other marketing spends.
Ivan maintains a keen awareness of what emerging brands need to do, in order to achieve both, maximum growth, and sustainable increases in their valuations. One of his firm’s more successful clients projects to reach annual sales of $40MM in 2016, while another, earlier stage brand, has already increased its valuation by more than 70%, in just over one year.
Ivan is a frequent public speaker, having served as both a guest lecturer at New York University, and as an expert, for the Department of Commerce. Ivan was also one of the featured speakers at the 2016, Bank of America, Natural Food Symposium. He has been interviewed by major news organizations and trade journals such as Bloomberg, Crain’s and the Secured Lender, and has served as a Senior Adviser to the Bareburger Group. He conducted his studies at the Annenberg School, and is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.
Armin Prast – Senior Advisor
Armin Prahst, B.Sc.(U. of Guelph), M.Sc.(U.BC) Food Science. Armin is a seasoned professional with a passion for the food and health care industry with a focus on fruits and botanical extract formulations and accumulated over 25 years of practical and academic experience in the field.
Since 2002 he is President of Spagomed Laboratories, Richmond, B.C. where he manages all aspects of the company and developed all herbal extraction procedures (over 200) most notably several unique fermentation extraction procedures. Spagomed was one of North Americas first companies to utilize Wolfberry (Goji) in a variety of products. Armin’s also operates his own consulting business out of his home in Vancouver, BC.