The massive appeal of ABC’s hit reality series Shark Tank, which is now airing its third season on Friday nights at 8/7c, is that the five wealthy investors, or “sharks,” negotiate investment proposals from emerging entrepreneurs. But the investors can’t financially support every product they see, but some entrepreneurs they turn down ultimately do find success from other ventures after leaving the show.
Shawn Davis, who is also known as Chef Big Shake, appeared on the second season of Shark Tank to seek an investment of $200,000 for his line of gourmet shrimp burgers. While the show’s investors turned his idea down, his company, CBS Foods, was immediately approached by 10 to 15 different investors after his episode aired. The chef, who plans on expanding his shrimp burgers nationwide, has seen the sales of his creation grown from $30,000 to a purported $6 million in 2012.
Davis took the time to speak about his Shark Tank appearance and his shrimp burgers over the phone from Manhattan. He discussed why he decided to pitch his burgers on the show, how he initially felt about being turned down and why he thinks Shark Tank offers opportunities to all investors.
Question (Q): You appeared on the second season of Shark Tank to seek an investment of $200,000 for your line of gourmet shrimp burgers. What was your motivation in trying to seek financing from the entrepreneurs on the show?
Shawn Davis (SD): My motivation, obviously, was stop living paycheck to paycheck, and to pump some money into my business. So basically not living paycheck to paycheck, and to expose my burger.
Q: After presenting the shrimp burgers to the investors on Shark Tank, they decided to turn the idea down. After the taping, did you feel deterred from continuing trying to find investors to support the burgers?
SD: You know what, I didn’t have, or go in, with any initial expectation. If I got the money, it would have been fantastic. But on the other hand, I look at it as a fantastic three-minute commercial. So it was either the exposure or the money, or both. I was a little hurt, I’m not going to lie, after they turned me down initially, but I got what I wanted, as far as the exposure, so it worked out great.
Q: Immediately after your episode aired, you were approached by 10 or 15 private investors to put money into the shrimp burgers. What is the feeling like, knowing so many people were interested in financially supporting the burgers?
SD: I felt extremely humbled and blessed, first off. Secondly, I was excited that people took notice and really supported the idea that I had. So definitely blessed and very humbled that people wanted to put money into my company. It was a very humbling feeling. Ultimately, (I was) overwhelmed.
Q: Since you have appeared on Shark Tank, the sales of your shrimp burgers jumped from $30,000 to a projected $6 million in 2012. When you signed up to appear on the show, did you think your appearance alone would increase sales so drastically?
SD: I think the exposure directly impacted the about 300 percent jump in sales and our growth. There’s no doubt about it.
Q: Shark Tank‘s executive producer, Clay Newbill, told the New York Post that if he had to pick one invention the investors should have taken a risk on and missed an opportunity, that would be the shrimp burgers. Do you feel he, along with everyone involved with the show, feel that way because of the burgers’ new-found success?
SD: You know what, I can tell you, when I initially did the pitch, when I brought the product to the studios, Clay and definitely a couple of the other producers there, munched on my burgers a whole lot. (laughs) So they supported me from the beginning, they definitely loved them. I was feeding them burgers the whole time I was there.
So I feel they missed the boat. But at the same time, I got better deal. I got more money, and less of a percentage of equity that we had to give up for our company that I was asking for on the show, so I think it worked out great.
Q: Do you feel Shark Tank offers opportunities to all investors who appear on the show, even if their products aren’t chosen by the investors, like the shrimp burger?
SD: I think they offer a level playing field. It’s a great opportunity, a great platform. If you’ve got a great idea, it’s a wonderful place to expose your product. If you get the money or not, just the advertising alone can pay for it, especially if you have a start-up company. So I think the exposure alone is definitely priceless.
Q: New month, you’ll appear in a follow-up episode of Shark Tank to share your success story with your company, CBS Foods. Why did you decide to return to the show?
SD: Well, they called me! (laughs) The producers called me, Clay called me, and asked me to come back on the show and tell my success since Shark Tank, and how it changed my personal and professional lives. So I was asked to come back on. The air-date is actually set for Friday, February 3.
Q: CBS Foods has announced a national distribution of the shrimp burgers throughout 2012. Why did you decide to have such a wide-spread distribution of the burgers?
SD: Well, we’re going into the Northeast first. That’s where we’re focusing all of our marketing dollars and energies. Then we’re going to expand to the Midwest and the West Coast. Our food service, we do have distribution throughout the state of California, as well as the state of Florida, at this time. We’re definitely segmenting our Northeast market for our retail-based launch.
Q: The third season of Shark Tank is now airing on ABC. What advice do you have for the inventors who will appear on the show this season?
SD: Know your company and know your business and your competitors. You have to know your competitors who are out there, before you jump into the world with a new product or idea. Know your competition, and don’t give up.