A fast-growing Richmond pet supply company got itself a treat.
TDBBS, better known as Best Bully Sticks, last week sold a stake of itself to New York private equity firm Culbro LLC.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Best Bully Sticks founder and chief executive Avrum Elmakis remains majority owner of the company that he has grown to 60 employees and almost $20 million in annual revenue.
“It allows me to fuel additional growth and work more toward continuing to professionalize the business,” he said. That includes adding employees at the management ranks, instituting more automation and machinery, and expanding to a larger facility.
The company manufactures and sells dog treats, including the popular Bully Stick.
Elmakis hired local investment banking firm Marriott & Co. to handle the inquiries. Justin Marriott, Bryan Burden and Matt Improta worked the deal. Richmond law firm Williams Mullen and attorneys Greg Bishop, Will Rabke, Larry Parker and Conrad Garcia also worked the deal.
Elmakis said he sat down with 13 separate private equity firms.
He said he decided on Culbro in part because of its experience with the consumer products industry. Culbro was founded by a family that owned General Cigar for more than 40 years before selling its stake to Swedish Match, which now runs the company out of Richmond.
“As we move the company forward, I think that experience is going to be hugely valuable to us,” Elmakis said.
David Danziger, managing member at Culbro, said the firm took a “significant minority,” in Best Bully.
Culbro wasn’t exactly sure what a bully stick was going into the process, but it liked what it saw.
“There’s a huge market in natural pet chews and treats,” Danziger said. “It’s really just an emerging area.”
“We did definitely investigate what a bully stick was and had our own little giggle about it.”
Danziger said Culbro would also help advise Elmakis as he grows the company that he started with his wife, Lauren, in 2007.
“For an entrepreneur like Avrum, who’s done it all himself, what we provide is a sounding board – someone to bounce ideas off of. I think every entrepreneur needs give and take and the ability to refine his thoughts.”
The deal with Culbro was about six months in the making, said Marriott & Co. director Justin Marriott. Best Bully signed a letter of intent with Culbro about 60 days ago.
“It’s the most interest I’ve ever received in a company I’ve represented,” Marriott said.
Best Bully was one of four local companies named to the Inc. 500 last year after revenue growth of almost 1,000 percent between 2008 and 2011.
Elmakis said his company will look to add 10 to 15 employees this year and is targeting up to 150 employees over the next five to seven years.
The company is also moving to a larger facility for the second time in two years. Last month it signed a lease on a 90,000-square-foot warehouse near Richmond International Airport.
All that growth – tens of millions in revenue and private equity firms knocking at the door – weren’t necessarily in Elmakis’s original business plan.
“I never thought in a million years we’d be where we’re at,” he said.
Marriott did it again. Congrats.