Milk Bar’s First-Ever Funding Round Could Turn the Bakery’s Founder into the ‘Next Martha Stewart’
Christina Tosi spent nine years bootstrapping Milk Bar, turning the whimsical bakery she founded and its soon-to-be 14 locations to profitable growth without taking outside investment.
“I like to figure stuff out for myself,” she tells Fortune. “That’s the spirit I have in the kitchen, too. I like to make my own set of rules.”
On Wednesday, the company is announcing that it has closed its first-ever round of funding—a Series A in which RSE Ventures was the sole investor. The companies declined to reveal the size of the investment, but RSE Ventures co-founder and CEO Matt Higgins said that it represents a “significant minority interest in the company.”
Both Higgins and Tosi described Milk Bar—which has developed a cult following with a creative menu of crack pie, compost cookies, and cereal milk soft serve—as being at an inflection point.
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“It’s a tremendous opportunity for Milk Bar to evolve into a lifestyle brand, to take the brick and mortar and extend it,” Higgins says. “I see Christina as perhaps the next incarnation of Martha Stewart for this generation.”
Tosi connected with RSE Ventures through Momofuku founder David Chang. RSE is an investor in Momofuku, and Tosi started Momofuku’s dessert program before founding the company’s bakery, Milk Bar, in 2008. RSE’s other investments include Resy, VaynerMedia, and &Pizza.
“We tend to back founders who bring some magic to what they’re undertaking,” Higgins says.
Tosi says she wants to use the funding to bring Milk Bar to more people, which speaks to one of the reasons she got out of fine dining in the first place. “I loved those jobs,” says Tosi, who worked at restaurants such as Bouley and wd~50, “but when I got to the top, my voice and desire and drive in life was to reach more people and feed more people.”
The most obvious way the company will expand is by opening more locations, which Tosi says she’ll do in a very “thoughtful and individualist way.”
Higgins, who is also vice chairman of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, says that the team’s Hard Rock stadium will have a Milk Bar within eight months. He noted that Fuku, Chang’s fried chicken concept, launched in the stadium this season and is now its No. 1 selling brand, despite being the only Fuku in Miami. “Everything we do connects,” he says.
Higgins’s co-founder in RSE is Stephen Ross, the founder and chairman of real estate firm Related Companies—a connection that will be key in helping Tosi grow Milk Bar’s footprint.
Tosi says that Milk Bar’s expansion is about more than new stores. “It’s about finding more thoughtful, meaningful ways to reach people,” she says. That includes growing e-commerce and launching more cooking classes. The funding will also allow Tosi to hire employees with specific expertise rather than only utility players. “It gives us a greater opportunity to make decisions based on a strategy and not feel like we’re chasing after something,” she says.
It’s not just Tosi who is it an inflection point; so is the entire food service industry. She says that at a time when the viability of retail is being questioned and people believe the food world is over-saturated, “you have to be five to 10 steps ahead.”
“I’m very well studied in trends and where people are taking food and retail and industry,” she says. “It’s my job is to see those things and know those things, and figure out if I do something with them or nothing or a little bit of both.”