Hard to imagine as it is, just a short decade ago, supermarkets didn’t have entire sections dedicated to kombucha. Fitbits weren’t available. Today, wellness is a $3 trillion industry and Well+Good, a media company, has been tracking its expansion since 2010, highlighting health and wellness products and services to its readers through its publication and events.
Partners Alexia Brue and Melisse Gelula began the company largely to “create jobs for ourselves that we really loved.” In June 2018, Well+Good was acquired by the media brand Leaf Group for $10 million up front, plus additional incentive-based payments up to $9 million through 2020.
The partners still jointly run Well+Good, while adding other Leaf Group properties to their oversight. Brue is now general manager and SVP for Leaf Group, overseeing the company’s fitness and wellness vertical, and Gelula is SVP focused on brand extensions such as cookbooks. Recently, Brue talked to Chief Executive about the decision to sell, finding a buyer and going back to being an employee.
Why did you want to sell?
We were growing but there were bigger advertisers we wanted to work with who were looking for more scale. We thought we could be much more effective in the current media climate if we had the right larger partner, who would also bring us economies of scale. So, over the last two years, we started to really think about finding the right partner who would allow us to keep our voice and be our authentic self.
How did you go about finding a buyer?
We just really prioritized meeting with tons of people in media. It’s always great to share best practices and know what’s going on in the landscape. And once we got to a certain point in terms of our size and being in the media hub of New York, people started reaching out.
How did the deal come about?
Organically—we started doing an audience development partnership with one of Leaf Group’s sites and got to know them through that. The relationship sort of grew from there, and we realized that we had complementary skills, audiences and ways of monetizing.
What made you sure Leaf Group was the right fit?
We really did our diligence in making sure we felt like this was a team that we’d be able to work with successfully. They are an entrepreneurially minded company. Pre-acquisition, they said that they let their group leaders make decisions and move quickly, and we’ve really found that to be the case. We act independently, with some oversight and guidance, so I feel like I’m able to do my job, but with a lot more support.
It’s still our same team that’s running it day to day. Such a huge part of it was keeping the Well+Good culture intact and making sure that no jobs were lost, and that our team had even more opportunities now, which was really exciting to us. Because we certainly had other companies who were interested in us over the last couple of years but would not have kept the whole team intact.
Are you concerned at all about staying on at a company you no longer fully control?
Like you, I’ve heard my fair share of horror stories, but I think we’re all invested in the same outcome. They really want to see our success because it’s one and the same, right? We’re really growing their media business.
Our lawyer said throughout the transaction, “The earn-out in any transaction is consideration not compensation.” It’s a really helpful framework to look at things because that price is being paid over time, but I really feel like we’re very aligned in terms of business goals. Melisse and I both feel like the whole wellness revolution that’s happening in this country is really just in its infancy. We’re really just getting started.