On June 18, an eclectic group — including the co-founder of Google and world’s eighth richest person Sergey Brin, fashion designer Alana Hadid (Bella and Gigi’s sister), and actress Tallulah Willis (Bruce and Demi’s daughter), just to name a few — gathered in a forest in Topanga, California. The common interest that brought them together: mushrooms.
The group was celebrating the launch day of new e-tailer Shroomboom. Co-founded by Alejandra Rodriguez, an entrepreneur with a background in consulting and PR, and Jennifer Parke, an ad exec who has worked with clients like Apple and HBO, the platform taps into a growing mushroom craze across categories. Offering fashion, beauty and wellness products made out of mushrooms, it is the latest mushroom-focused startup to arrive on the market. The platform combines niche nutritional products with trendy brands that can be found at a Saks or Sephora, aiming to bridge the die-hard mushroom community with chic fashion and beauty shoppers.
“We’ve seen companies launch mushroom products pretty much every day, and our mission is to bring mushrooms to the masses,” said Rodriguez. “We’re building a marketplace that we want to promote to everybody.”
With fashion labels such as Stella McCartney and Acne Studios, and beauty brands including Youth to the People, Tata Harper and Humanrace, the site curates all things mushroom with branding that is more polished than hippie. To kick off the launch, the retailer’s Topanga event featured promotional booths by a wide range of brands that are sold on the site, including Ugg, Mud/Wtr and Hadid’s fashion brand La Detresse, which is launching a collab with the site.
For marketing, “It’s really, ‘How do we leverage all the verticals and put it together in a way that people really can experience and understand what’s happening?’” said Parke. The site’s publication dedicated to all things mushrooms covers everything from reishi in skin care to how to microdose on psilocybin.
But the brand doesn’t eschew the quirkier side of the mushroom world. Held at the wooded hippie retreat estate Elsewhere, the event included psilocybin enthusiasts extolling the virtues of the psychedelic, as well as a DJ that took the stage with various mushroom species hooked up to cords feeding into the sound system. Later, Brin started doing card tricks for a small group of onlookers.
Investors in the VC and tech worlds and Hollywood have become enamored with mushrooms in recent years. Shroomboom has $1 million in seed funding from business figures including Hollywood producer Marc Forster, MTV creator Bob Pittman, former WME agent Adam Venit and Scott Painter, the founder of Tesla subscription startup Autonomy, who previously co-founded Fair.com with Parke. The founders currently describe Brin as a “friend” of the brand and have not announced any funding from him.
In addition to the fashion collab, Hadid is also supporting the e-tailer as an investor. She sees mushrooms as “the next big thing.” Shroomboom is “100% ahead of the curve,” she said, and as a board member, “I’m riding that wave with them.”
The latest mushroom e-commerce startup to hit the market, following the launch of Multiverse in April 2021, Shroomboom is tapping into a community of avid mushroom enthusiasts that gathers at events and creates books and documentaries about the benefits of mushrooms. In November 2021, Rodriguez was a speaker at the Ondalinda Festival, an annual five-day event in Careyes, Mexico described by the New Yorker as a “more exclusive cousin” to Burning Man.
A big part of this enthusiasm is psychedelics. Although not legal apart from Oregon and a few decriminalized cities and thus not sold on Shroomboom, psilocybin is an area of interest for the founders, who are very supportive of research and legalization. The organization supports the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which has received a growing amount of support from mushroom startups as well as other brands like Dr. Bronner’s.
Rodriguez is enthusiastic about the benefits of psilocybin and is candid about its role in helping her on her path to eating disorder recovery.
“I wouldn’t say that mushrooms cured me, but I just became really passionate about finding better methods to live for my mind and for my physical health,” she said. “It was amazing for me personally, in the sense that you become really happy.”
She added, “It’s the critical, analytical part of the brain that it turns off; that overthinking, the anxiety, overanalyzing — all that goes away. Your brain goes back to our natural state.”
“I’ve always been a big believer in what’s happening on the medicinal side [of mushrooms] and hope that pathways to legalization can move faster,” said Parke.
For now, the company is focused on expanding the mushroom community through consumer goods. Beauty has been an especially big part of it — the startup was originally conceived of as a skin-care brand, and it will be launching in-house skin-care products this year.
“Beauty is a big part of our strategy. To be a powerful brand, you have to be compelling,” said Rodriguez.