For many entrepreneurs, “Shark Tank” is an enticing opportunity to demonstrate their dreams before a national audience. Not only do participants potentially find investors, but they also secure invaluable exposure for their products.
The show has championed a number of food-industry businesses that hope to herald in explosive growth for their ideas. But an appearance is no easy task. Appearing on “Shark Tank” means knowing your company inside and out. Some can’t handle the pressure of the 90-second pitch and the ensuing negotiations with intimidating investors (who might be overdramatizing the experience for better television).
However, a lucky few manage to stay afloat. We spoke with three quick-service concepts who were able to secure investments about what their new partnerships meant for the future of their companies. For Fat Shack, Mark Cuban offered the founders $250,000 for a 15 percent equity. Sharks Matt Higgins and Lori Greiner offered Beyond Sushi $1.5 million for 30 percent equity in West Coast operations and 15 percent in the East Coast. And Barbara Corcoran offered Press Waffle Co. $300,000 for a 15 percent equity.
Tom Armenti and Kevin Gabauer / Cofounders, Fat Shack
Tom: [“Shark Tank”] is something that I’ve personally watched since the show started 10 years ago. It’s just something that’s always been intertwined as we’ve grown the Fat Shack. When we opened that 11th location, it just kind of hit that tipping point for us where we thought, “Let’s actually give it a shot, because at this point now we could use that advice, and we could use that investment and that help.”
Kevin: We were preparing all of the food right before we went on. We were kind of rushing around to get everything ready for everybody. It all happened so fast. It’s like, “Uh, wait a second. I was just wrapping a sandwich, like, 35 seconds ago.”
We were probably a lot less nervous than we thought maybe we would be. All of the questions we were prepared for because it was things that we’ve talked about a million times, and now it’s just talking about them in front of people that are looking to potentially invest. I would say the biggest challenge was fielding so many questions that were all coming in at once because everyone’s so excited. We had a blast.
Guy Vaknin / Founder, Beyond Sushi
Nobody believed in a crazy concept like this in the beginning. I feel that before, we weren’t structured as a company where I could introduce it to investors. But you take it one step at a time. The past two years have been a work in progress. I’ve been pushed by my beautiful wife to go ahead and do it, and by a lot of other people who told me [“Shark Tank”] could be a great outlet.
Walking through those doors? It’s exciting, I’m not going to lie. But I felt very confident that I could talk about the business. So I was less nervous than I would have thought.
You’ll be surprised how engaged [the Sharks] are. We text all the time and we talk about everything. [Higgins is] giving back all of the knowledge of his concepts and the teams behind it, financial analysts, and marketing teams—it all comes together. [Greiner] was a surprise. Another set of eyes of a person who has been in the entrepreneurial world for that long of a time and owns so many patents and products and so on. It’s never bad to have on your team, right?
Brian and Caleb Lewis / Cofounders, Press Waffle Co.
Caleb: We first auditioned for “Shark Tank” in late January 2017. But that just kind of fizzled out after a couple months. We went back to an open casting call at the Dallas Convention Center in January of 2018 after we had been open in our brick and mortar for about two months.
Once that pitch is over, you’re in a room talking to potential investors about your business, and that’s how we tried to look at it. There’s a lot of thought that just goes into the production behind that. Because we were so familiar with the show, we felt ready for the types of questions Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’Leary) would ask or whoever it may be.
Brian: I think that our working relationship with Barbara is exactly what we wanted it to be. Barbara is there if we have a question about something. We have regular conversations about big-picture strategy items. But as far as day-to-day and the choices we make about the business, she made it very clear that she trusts us to make those decisions and to run the company on our own. That’s a freedom that we really appreciate.