We serve as a catalyst to accelerate growth and wealth creation. To help businesses flourish on every level — from global capital access and business consulting to brand planning, design and innovation. We build holistic organizations from ideation to maturity, to create experiences for our clients that people crave and yearn to build relationships with.
Our expansive wisdom and passion for cultivating businesses grows out of our own experience as founders, inventors, and entrepreneurs of successful organizations. As angels, VCs, funds, operators, strategic planners, creatives, and innovators, we empower companies with high growth potential. We know how to identify limitations and solve challenges through creative business solutions and design thinking. This deep knowledge benefits our clients since we know how to help them become more agile and intelligent, expand their brand equity, enter powerful networks, and understand how to use capital as fuel. We are a bridge into many worlds and believe success is possible with wisdom, openness and the right people in place.
We collaborate with our clients on a host of multi-disciplinary offerings to build businesses that people yearn to experience.
Experience, knowledge, and effective team members are complemented by capital access to achieve a purpose. We believe capital is fuel. But, winning capital can be quite an odyssey. Having the right existing relationships and knowing where to look is more than half the battle.
Powerful ideas are identified by their concise, expert communication and unquestionable need. We also know how to light the way by creating optimal growth and powerful opportunities through our broad network. Truly, great people make great business.
Great storytelling is successful when a solid strategic foundation is in place for all creative content to flourish. Weaving brand planning, writing and design together, we help our clients create consistent, powerful stories that bring brands to life for the long-term and guide them in the short-term.
R. Adam Smith is an experienced investor, advisor, and builder of tens of startup, venture and private equity-backed companies in the U.S., and abroad, since the mid-1990s. Adam is an expert in the branded space with a focus on all matters related to the consumer, including luxury, accessories, retail, apparel, beauty, art and design, digital & media, food & beverages, wellness, real estate and wealth management. Through private equity partnerships he has led and/or sponsored since 2002, Adam has invested in over a dozen privately-held companies (including seven acquisitions) with a combined $600 million in sales and over $250 million of contributed equity invested capital, while also forming and serving on the Board of Directors, or Advisory Boards, of each company.
In 2002, Adam founded Circle Peak Capital LLC, a private investment merchant banking partnership based in NYC he still manages today and which has served tens of limited partners with over $50 million of invested capital. Earlier in his career, Adam served as a principal at two leading private equity firms based in New York City, Caxton-Iseman Capital, an affiliate of Caxton Associates, one of the world’s legendary alternative investment organizations (founded 1993), and Castle Harlan, Inc. (founded 1987) each holding over $2 billion in aggregate managed equity capital. Adam was the first employee and instrumental in the success of a global emerging markets (half a billion) dollar hedge fund formed in 1996, Columbus Advisors LLC by the heads of Merrill Lynch emerging markets. Adam started his career on Wall Street in 1993, holding positions at top firms including Salomon Brothers Inc., J.P. Morgan, and Lehman Brothers Inc. After Salomon Brothers, Adam earned an MBA in 1998 with high honors (Beta Gamma Sigma) from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University (CBSGSB), and a BA cum laude in International Relations and Economics from Boston University.
Adam is an active alumnus of CBSGSB, a founding board member of the CBSGSB Private Equity Advisory Board, and a founder in 1996 of the school’s now legendary Investment Management Conference. In addition to his role as Founder and CEO of his three primary holdings, Circle Peak Capital LLC, Big Sky Partners LLC, and Family Office Private Advisors LLC, Adam is involved in several companies, including a special advisor to Rocket Dog Holdings LLC (since 2006), Stride Capital LLC (since 2010), and was recently appointed to the Advisory Board of the NY Tech Fashion Lab, a collaboration with the Partnership Fund for New York City and leading fashion organizations.
Adam is married with two boys, and is active in the arts, design, and is an avid collector. Adam has been a host, patron and / or sponsor of numerous arts related events including the International Fine Art and Antique Show, Weill Carnegie Recital Hall, The Avenue Show, and has been an amateur classical pianist since the age of 5. Adam is an active philanthropist, active in the Museum of Arts and Design, Tanenbaum Center, Leukemia Fighters at Weill Cornell College, and recently joined the Board of Directors of the Original Music Workshop (National Sawdust) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”
- Steven BaillieInternational Creative, Branding & Disruptive Retail
Steven Baillie is a multifaceted creative director who excels both in building inspiring brands from the ground-up and in shepherding established brands into new territories. He has a proven track record for creating and executing 360º brand strategies, concepts, campaign themes and brand visualizations that increased profitability.
Over the last decade he has risen through the ranks to become the go-to guy for fashion brands looking for edge and impact in their advertising campaigns. Baillie was one of the key figures behind transforming Target from a dowdy Midwestern discount retailer into one of the world’s most iconic brands. He also played a pivotal role helping entrepreneur Andy Dunn build the influential brand Bonobos. He helped develop a variety of permanent and temporary retail concepts called “GuideShops”, supplementing the online business with a concept that requires no inventory. This approach generated sales productivity per square foot on par with best-in-class retailers like Michael Kors and influenced major brands to rethink retail.
Bringing a diverse range of influences to his work, from hip-hop’s streetwise irreverence to the elegant minimalism of mid-20th century Swiss graphic design, Baillie has never failed to create work in which the interplay of form and function exist in perfect balance. He has subsequently produced creative work for a wide variety of clients earning his slot as one world’s the most influential international creative directors.
- Ken PilotRetail, E-Commerce & Business Development
Ken Pilot, currently President at abc carpet & home, has over 30 years of retail experience. He began as a trainee in the Macy’s executive training program in NYC. Ken spent just over 5 years with Macy’s, experiencing both store and buying line positions. Leaving Macy’s, Ken moved to the west coast to join Gap Inc. Over a 13 year period, Ken launched the Outlet division, was President of Gap International and ultimately President of Gap Brand Global. After 13 years with Gap Inc., Ken moved back to New York to take on the helm at J.Crew. His stint as CEO of J.Crew was short lived as he left the company when TPG brought industry veteran Mickey Drexler on as Chairman of the Board. Over the five years that followed J.Crew, Ken held various C-level positions with Ralph Lauren, American Eagle as well as leading a start-up, Robot Galaxy. In 2010, Ken filled his current position with abc. He is actively involved in new business development, B2B, ecommerce and advancing the company’s technology platform. Ken is also a board member at Alternative Apparel.
Ken resides in NYC, with his wife and three children.
- Christian LeoneLuxury Lifestyle, Global Designer Relations & Retail PR
Christian Leone, has worked in the luxury lifestyle space for over 20 years. Currently, Leone is the Vice President, Corporate Communications & Global Designer Relations/Brand Management of WME/IMG as a proven global leader across all public relations and corporate communications areas including strategy development and planning, consumer and retail PR, business and financial communications, executive positioning and internal communications, crisis communications and issues management, and public/community affairs. In May 2012, Leone launched Vaunte, an online editorial fashion website, celebrating the stylish set, innovating charity, and being socially responsible (recycling amazing closets). Leone was an early member of Gilt Groupe’s Executive Team (#30). During his four years at Gilt, he held the dual titles of Vice President of Marketing and Communications and Brand Relations. He accordingly insured the development of the brand across print, visual, and online media; produced special events; garnered worldwide press and recognition for the company. Prior to Gilt, Christian was Vice President of Communications at Giorgio Armani and worked in communications for a variety of high-end fashion companies including Salvatore Ferragamo, Halston, and the AEFFE Group (Alberta Ferretti, Moschino, Jean Paul Gaultier, Pollini, and Narciso Rodriguez). Leone received a BAS from St. Lawrence University and is on the Board of the New York Botanical Garden, Chicago Botanic Garden and Museum of the City of New York.
- Bill SmithRetail, Apparel & Luxury
Excellence is the sole caliber to expect, accept and achieve. Such is the philosophy of William Smith. Bill is the Founder and Managing Partner of Global Reach Capital, a private equity and venture capital firm, specializing in investments in consumer and retail. Bill’s success as an investor comes from the merging of knowledge and networks. His acute understanding of business comes from over 30 years of experience. He applies this wealth of knowledge to every venture, to mobilize unprecedented growth for a company. He has been one of the leading investment bankers focused exclusively on the consumer products and retail industry over the past 20 years. Over the course of his career, Mr. Smith has advised hundreds of apparel, retail, and consumer products companies on general strategic initiatives, M&A strategy, and capital structure. He has structured and executed hundreds of transactions exceeding $10 billion in total transaction size.
Prior to forming Global Reach, Mr. Smith was the President of Financo, Inc., an investment bank specializing in the consumer sector. Previously, Mr. Smith was a Managing Director at Kidder Peabody heading up the retail and consumer group. Mr. Smith has invested in and advised companies including Revlon, Coty, L’Oreal, Spyder, Tommy Bahama, Jones Apparel, Tory Burch, Jack Rogers, Soludos, VF Corp., Nautica, Gap, American Eagle, Tumi, CompUSA, Foot Locker, Ellen Tracy, Gloria Vanderbilt, The Container Store, Lanvin, and Yue Sai Kan. Mr. Smith earned a BS from University of North Carolina and an MBA from Harvard University.
- Rob WallaceBrand & Packaging Strategy
Rob Wallace is a Leader in the Branding Thought industry. Mr. Wallace has over thirty years of expertise in transforming a general design firm into one of the industry’s most recognized and respected global strategic brand identity firms. Mr. Wallace has shared P&L responsibility and managed growth from less than $3M at 7% profit to up to +$11M at 27% EBITDA. Mitigated risk by spreading income from 70% from 3 clients to no more than 15% of revenue coming from any one client with 40+ active assignments at any given time.
Mr. Wallace fostered the culture of the company based on a simple and effective philosophy: find those who work more for love than for money. He grew the company from 15 to 53 across three offices. Managed both growth and right-sizing transitions while retaining a culture that employees (and clients) refer to as the “Wallace Church family”. He recruits and retains talented professionals who do more for the team than themselves, honoring the company’s ethos, more for love than money.
Mr. Wallace is also an innovative process developer. He developed and leads the brand strategy practice including trend analytics, consumer ethnography, insight-driven brand ideation, visual brand essence/ViBETM, brand naming, brand architecture planning, package structure design, global brand expansion and message integration across all consumer touch points.
Due to his wealth of experience, Mr. Wallace has honed an astute sensibility for curating a diversified client base, from exclusively food and HBA to recent and relevant expertise in virtually every fmcpg category including prestige, Rx/OTC, private retail brands, tech, hard goods, spirits, wine, beer, home goods, and more. Mr. Wallace has initiated and maintained long term client partnerships with Procter & Gamble, Pepsico, Unilever, Bayer, Nestle, Revlon, Heinz, Pfizer, Dell, Target, The Home Depot, Johnson & Johnson, Bacardi, E&J Gallo, Mattel, Coca-Cola, MillerCoors , Kroger, Kimberly Clark, Kraft, Newell Rubbermaid, Enfa and more than three dozen national/global brands of equal caliber. Brand identity developer for over a dozen billiondollar global brands.
An industry advocate, Mr. Wallace is the industry’s primary spokesperson for quantifying design’s ROI and hyper customization in branding. He is on the Board of Directors at The Design Management Institute. He is also the Co-Chair of The Design Value Project, and a Keynote speaker at 40+ industry events across the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia. He is the Co-Author of “Really Good Packaging Explained”, a Contributing Author for “Build Your Own Brand”, a Mentor and lecturer at Columbia Business School, the SVA Masters in Branding Program, Georgetown, University of Texas and other MBA programs.
Above all, Mr. Wallace is a passionate Change Agent. His mission is to change fee-based brand consulting into to a value-based partnership where consultants are paid based on the ROI they generate. Those consultancies will train clients to become more design literate, make more objective, strategic decisions and optimize efficiency. Consequently, better, more sales-effective design will result, and both design and design thinking’s role will be elevated in the brand building process as the cornerstone of an integrated brand communications architecture.
- Susan ReratInternational Luxury, Media & Startups
Susan is an independent advisor providing strategic insight to PE investors, digital startups and luxury brands. Her wide range of general management experience includes the successful launch of Russian Vogue & GQ; creating a new digital app and business division for Vera Wang; starting Headline Studio, Advance Local’s in-house content marketing agency; managing editorial, tech and selling operations for the relaunch of major Conde Nast properties (Brides, Epicurious, Concierge, Bon Appetit); and the venture-backed startup of Meigher Communications (Garden Design). Susan has been part of the transformation of the media landscape for luxury brands from Anna Wintour’s reinvention of House & Garden, to the evolution of mobile, programmatic and RTB/private exchange platforms. Throughout her career, Susan’s focus has been on driving creative excellence across all functional disciplines, building high performance teams and delivering bottom line results.
- Chris Del GattoLuxury, Jewelry, & eCommerceA pioneer for luxury market growth, specifically in the secondary marketplace, and with over 20 years of experience in the fine diamond and jewelry field, DEL GATTO Founder, Chris Del Gatto, is widely regarded as one of the most important innovators in the modern jewelry industry. Having been raised in New York’s garment district, Chris’s innate love of aesthetics led him to become a licensed gemologist of the Gemological Institute of America by 17, a diamond cutter in Manhattan’s Diamond District by 18, and a partner in a diamond-cutting facility by 20. In 2001 while serving as partner of MRH Estate & Fine Jewelry, Chris discovered a void in the marketplace for a global supply chain of second hand (recycled) jewelry or diamonds. In short order, Chris launched CIRCA, the first luxury brand on the BUY SIDE of the jewelry industry. The company offered its clients an elegant service through which they could sell their old or unwanted diamonds and jewelry. The driving force behind CIRCA’s rapid growth, Chris served as Chairman & CEO of the company from 2001 until 2012. Although still a major shareholder, Chris left CIRCA in 2013 to pursue his dream of both building a portfolio of luxury brands, as well as creating a true 21st century version of what he’d previously built at CIRCA. After merging with I Do Now I Don’t in 2015, Chris launched his latest company, the eponymous “DEL GATTO”, where he currently serves as Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO.
- Alan SiegelBrand Voice Pioneer, Global Branding & Professional Sports Branding
Over the past four decades, Alan Siegel has become one of the best-known figures in the branding business. He has achieved the stature of both pillar of the establishment and provocative iconoclast, while building a leading brand consultancy, Siegel+ Gale, devoted to positioning global companies for competitive success. As consultant, author and commentator, Alan’s influence extends to advising such diverse organizations as Xerox, American Express, the National Basketball Association, Caterpillar, the Girl Scouts and Carnegie Mellon University; creating guides for The Wall Street Journal on understanding financial markets and serving on the boards of numerous business and cultural organizations.
Alan pioneered the practice of simplification, bringing clarity to such daunting documents as insurance policies, bank loan notes, mutual fund prospectuses and all types of government communications, including the 1040EZ tax form. Alan’s latest book, Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity (Hachette), which he co-wrote with longtime colleague Irene Etzkorn, was released in April of 2013 to critical acclaim.
During the 1980s, Alan popularized the concept of “brand voice” and in the 1990s his firm championed the Internet as a powerful expression of brand strategy. In all he does, Alan is known for the plain speaking he demands of clients and for the excellence in individual and organizational communications that his own firm has come to embody.
In 2011, Alan founded Siegelvision, a company committed to helping organizations driven by a passion for making a difference. Drawing on small teams of experienced, handpicked talent, Siegelvision develops distinctive brand identity programs for clients seeking to make their social purpose a reality. Current clients include NPR, the National Geographic Society, College Board, Lupus Foundation of America, the Urban Institute, Cornell College of Engineering, New York University, MIT Sloan School of Management, Easterseals, Teach for America, City University of New York and KinderCare.
Of special note is Alan’s focus on law and justice. In the 1970s he developed a groundbreaking writing course for lawyers, Writing Contracts in Plain English, at Fordham University School of Law where he was on the adjunct faculty for 10 years. Alan served on the executive committee of the Document Design Project, which was funded by the National Institute of Education, where he worked on simplifying federal government regulations.
Alan developed a brand identity program for the Legal Aid Society, where he served on the Board of Directors. Working with Jeremy Travis, the dynamic President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and chair of the Committee on Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration (National Research Council of the National Academies), Alan developed the “Fierce Advocates for Justice” identity to change the perception of John Jay as a “cop college” to a preparer of fervent, liberally educated professionals in forensics, law and law enforcement, social science and academia. John Jay honored Alan by creating the Alan Siegel Writing Center to help all matriculated students become more effective writers.
Alan has a passion for helping educational institutions articulate their vision, develop a distinctive identity and attract top-flight faculty and students. He served as adjunct associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, where he conducted research and was the founder and co-director of a popular graduate program, The Communications Design Center. When Bob Kerrey was President of The New School, Alan created its brand identity program, headed up the Business Advisory Board for the New Media program and was interim director of the data visualization center. For six years Alan served as the president of the Advisory Council for the College of Art, Architecture and Planning at Cornell University.
A graduate of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Alan also attended New York University School of Law, the School of Visual Arts and Alexei Brodovich’s Design Laboratory.
- Matt ShermanWellness, CPG, & Beauty
Matt Sherman is the Senior Director of Brand Marketing at Chobani. He is responsible for all aspects of marketing on the core Chobani business, as well as media planning, and emerging platform and channel development. In his role, he works closely with the brand communications and social strategy team, Chobani’s internal and external creative teams and the product development teams to deliver on Chobani’s mission of better food for more people.
Prior to joining Chobani in January 2014, Matt served as the Director of Marketing for glacéau smartwater at The Coca-Cola Company where he was responsible for the development of all marketing and advertising activities. Matt also spent nearly six years at L’Oreal USA as a marketer on a variety of brands, including Garnier, Matrix, and Kerastase. He has worked in a variety of sales channels – direct, distributor, and mass – and is adept at building business and messaging across a variety of constituents. Matt is passionate about brands that have deep meaning, personality and honesty and share his commitment to doing well by doing good.
Matt graduated from the University of Michigan with an MBA/MPP and holds his BA from Washington University in St. Louis. While he grew up in Washington, D.C. and owes his education to the Midwest, Matt has spent the past 10 years in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.
- Gary ShinnerTea, Health & Sustainability
Gary began business life as an investment banker and over time he developed an affinity for consumer brands. In a zig zag of fortuitous events Gary discovered the opportunities and his passion in the premium tea category. Mighty Leaf Tea born.
Mighty Leaf is now recognized as the brand that disrupts the paradigm on how the world drinks tea today, creating products driven by innovative quality, design, and sustainability. The company launched as a tea house in San Francisco in 1996, with the mission of infusing rejuvenating life into an ancient beverage and ritual, and grew to become the leading global specialty tea brand in foodservice and retail being sold in 30,000 restaurants and 14,000 stores world wide. A pinnacle was achieved in August 2014 when Mighty Leaf was acquired by Joh. A Benckiser/Peets Coffee.
Gary’s creative inspiration and vision is in building great craft brands and has recently launched TeaWorks Collective, an incubator company designed to concept, seed and support premium CPG companies in the health, wellness and luxury sectors.
In his personal life, Gary’s passions include fitness, meditation, design, all things artistically authentic, and off the path travel. Gary, along with wife Jill, daughters Julia and Caroline and 2 dogs (Golden Will & English Springer Jack) reside in Marin County, California.
- David GreensteinConsumer Products & Branding
Mr. Greenstein is reputed as one of the consumer products industries’ leaders, with particular expertise in both the textile and apparel fields. He is also an accomplished operator with over 30 years experience, the last 15 years in an executive CEO role. In these roles David has mastered the balance of the day-to-day rigors of running big business, with the need for creativity, and leadership.
Among Mr. Greenstein’s many achievements is the founding, building and eventual sale of Homestead to Li &Fung, The rebranding of London Fog and its sales to Iconix, and the rebranding of Pacific trail and its successful sale to Columbia.
Mr. Greenstein possesses particular acumen in turnaround, rebranding and product ideation. Among his accomplishments are the successful repositioning of both the Royal Velvet and Cannon brands and their proprietary placements at big box retailers.
After having run the home division of Li &Fung in the US, Mr. Greenstein now is the CEO of Himatsingka America, one of the US’s largest wholesaler of home textiles, where he oversees the brand efforts for Calvin Klein, Kate Spade, Barbara Barry, Bellora, Desigual, and Kelly Weartsler.
Mr. Greenstein has an strong and enduring relationship with the senior management at most of the world’s largest retailers, where he enjoys a hard earned reputation as a highly creative supplier, with an excellent track record for brand building and operational excellence.
Big Sky Partners Expands Unique Consulting Platform to Accelerate Brands, Empower Founders, and Provide Investments
“I founded Big Sky Partners in response to tremendous demand by emerging companies and their investors for creative, nimble solutions to bridge a divide between creativity and capital,” said Smith, chief executive officer of Big Sky Partners. “Fast-growing companies are facing a hyper-competitive environment for financial resources, market share and brand recognition, and Big Sky’s distinct platform provides a holistic solution with global reach.”
© Copyright 2017, Big Sky Partners LLC | Big Sky Partners ® & Creative Venturers ® are registered trademarks all rights reserved.