Deep Inside the Shark Tank: 6 Questions with Kodiak Cakes

I love ABC's hit show Shark Tank. I also love making pancakes with Kodiak Cake mix because it's all-natural, made of whole grains, and tastes great. Imagine my surprise last month when Joel and Cameron from Kodiak Cakes walked onto Shark Tank and pitched the Sharks on investing in their business. I was thrilled!

Naturally, I had to track down Joel and Cameron and see if they'd share some insight into preparing for Shark Tank and what has happened since appearing on the show. Luckily for me, they were willing to jump on the phone for an interview. All Shark Tank fans are sure to enjoy this rare glimpse inside the minds of two people who stood in front of the Sharks and lived to tell their story.

President Joel and VP of Sales Cameron were seeking $500,000 for a 10% of their business. Ultimately, they chose not to make a deal with the Sharks.  Thank goodness. Here's their story:

  1. Tell us how you prepared for your time on Shark Tank.
    We prepared so much that it would be difficult to add up all the hours. From the time we heard in May 2013 that we'd be on the show to the time the show taped the next month, we prepared two to three times per day for the one-minute pitch.

    We even had a PR firm in Utah host us for a practice pitch ahead of time. The PR firm employees acted like the Sharks on Shark Tanks.

    We flew out to do the show on a Saturday. We pre-pitched on Sunday. The taping was on Wednesday and in the time between Sunday and Wednesday, we constantly hammered each other with questions that could come up. We felt very prepared going into the Tank.

  2. What didn't we see in your clip on the show?
    Joel: I actually got choked up at one point during the pitch. The producers encouraged us to tell personal stories and I told one about how I don't ever give up. In high school, I was kicked off the football team because my grades were so bad. I ended up turning things around and getting a college scholarship. So I know how to overcome adversity and I know how to stick with things until the end. I could feel my face looking a little weird while I was telling the Sharks my story, and I was worried they might edit the show to include that part and make me look bad, but I was happy that they didn't do that.

    Cameron: I told the story of my first Kodiak Cakes business trip by myself. At first, I was working with small gift shops and I asked Joel if I could step up to bigger accounts. I called Target and they agreed to meet with me. Joel couldn't come with me, so I went all by myself and landed a deal with them. I told the Sharks that we're just blazing trails on our own.  All of that was cut from the show, too.
  3. What would you have done differently in your appearance on Shark Tank?
    We received a counter offer for 15% equity, which wasn't shown on tv. We wish we had played more to the tv show aspect of things. Maybe we should have played the game a bit more.

    We remember thinking that the Sharks' initial offers were so low that we just wanted to leave. But maybe we could have negotiated a little more. Maybe we could have fought harder to justify our valuation. Maybe we should have walked out of the room and discussed the Sharks' offer. But you know how that can go.

    No single question in the Tank took us by surprise. But everything happened very fast. Three Sharks would ask questions at the same time and was tough to respond before more questions came our way.
  4. I loved the story of how you initially sold pancake mix out of your wagon as a kid. Do you have any plans to incorporate this story into your product marketing or packaging?
    Joel: While we contemplated having my 8-year old son Richie wheel a wagon full of Kodiak Cake mixes into our Shark Tank pitch, we ultimately decided against it. We haven't incorporated the wagon story into our communication strategy yet because we've been focusing on building the Kodiak brand. We haven't talked much about how the company started as a tiny business, but that's certainly an opportunity for us.

  5. What has happened since your appearance on the Shark Tank?
    The show's impact was much bigger than we expected. While the show focused on the fact that our products are in Target, they are in many other stores, too. But after the show, people clearly remembered they could get our products at Target. In the two days after the show, we sold 13 times more at Target than we normally do in a week and Targets across the country sold out of our products. We saw a lot of pictures on social media of empty shelves where our products normally sat.

    We had to scramble to produce more products and ship them to all of our Target stores. We've sent at least four shipments to Target since the show aired.

    Our website also crashed immediately after the show aired. We moved to our own dedicated server to fix that problem but that crashed, too. Luckily, we've resolved those issues now.

    We currently have products in 7,000 grocery stores and we are the number one selling whole-grain pancake mix in the US.

    A lot of grocery store buyers we work with saw us on Shark Tank and are really excited. 10-12 legitimate investors have reached out to us and none of them were our competitors.

  6. What's next?
    We just launched Power Cakes, a high protein pancake mix. Our first priority is to expand the pancake mix business. Our new product is rolling out in Target stores this month. We trademarked the name two years ago, and after a successful test in Northwestern Costcos, we're ready to take the brand national. We are also contemplating oatmeal and granola. We continue to grow very quickly.
Thanks to Joel and Cameron for spending time with me and sharing about their time on Shark Tank. 

There's never a lack of ideas.


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