Do we look familiar? You might’ve seen us on a little ABC show called THE SHARK TANK! We still have trouble believing that this really happened. If you’re interested in learning more about our experience, check out our thoughts below!
What made you want to apply for Shark Tank?
We think it goes without saying that going on Shark Tank is the Holy Grail for hungry entrepreneurs. We've always loved Shark Tank, but when we started our business, we embraced it even more knowing what it could do for our family/company. Listening to the stories of entrepreneurs “like us” felt therapeutic. While we felt as though we took the advice the Sharks gave to others to heart and dreamt what it would be like to have such incredibly successful mentors, we never thought it would be possible. But when we found out Shark Tank was auditioning in our city, we felt we had no excuse but to try!
What were your feelings surrounding the initial interview process?
We spent a lot of time preparing for the audition process with Shark Tank. We knew tens of thousands of people tried to go on the show every year, so we knew it would be difficult to stand out. We decided we would do our best to showcase ourselves and our product authentically, while ensuring our protein doughnuts were served fresh and warm for the casting team! The first time we auditioned was at a mall, so we had to bring a rolling cart and camp out with a microwave in the middle of the shopping center. One of our team members (our first employee, Bryson!) waited patiently until we came close enough in the line for him to heat and glaze the doughnuts. Marquez sprinted from the outlet by the escalator with the warm doughnuts to serve them promptly to the casting team. It was a whirlwind, but we we were thrilled that our protein doughnuts were enjoyed by all! We didn't make the cut that year, but we took a leap of faith and auditioned a second time the following year. While we were nervous the second time around, we felt overwhelmed with excitement and confidence that not only did we bring a delicious product to the table, but this time we had more experience and sales to back it up.
Did you have any specific fears that almost held you back? Was fear of rejection a component?
After we auditioned the first time and did not make the cut to stand in front of the Sharks, we felt we had OD'd on the show a bit. We took a break from watching and obsessing over everything "Shark Tank". We still loved the show and aspired to stand in the Tank someday, but we felt we needed to focus on truly growing the business. We spent the next year working our tails off to the grow The Dough Bar. When one year rolled around and we had moved the needle forward with our business, we discovered a natural inclination to go back and show the casting team the progress we had made! At that point, we didn't feel fear. We had a "why not?!" attitude. We were excited to share the progress we had made and we had confidence that our business was going to continue to succeed either way. Although I (Ondrea) was 7 months pregnant at the time of the second audition and wasn't overly enthusiastic about driving 8 hours to audition in the midst of the busiest time of year for The Dough Bar, I followed Marquez's lead and buckled up for a wild ride. We both understand that The Dough Bar never would have made it if one partner didn't push the other to forge on when the going felt tough or the other was discouraged.
How did it feel walking into the room and standing in front of “the Sharks?” Did you eat that morning?
We spent an insane amount of time practicing our pitch, we felt confident. We had photos of the Sharks at home on the wall with lists of questions they often asked and facts about each Shark. We felt a little like detectives investigating serial killers, but it was the best way to visualize the Sharks and prepare for their questions! It was an early morning before the Sharks, but we got a decent amount of sleep the night before (as much sleep as you're going to get with a 3 month old). We made sure we ate that morning, although we picked at bananas, Ondrea ate a doughnut and we both sipped Diet Coke the entire time we waited for our turn. When we finally got backstage, we held hands and said a prayer, making the sign of the cross, knowing we came as prepared as we possibly could have been. Our nerves have never been so high as they were when we walked down that hallway. By the time we were ready to pitch, the excitement completely overtook the nervousness.
How did you feel when you left the room? Did it take awhile for what just happened to set in? Did you eat that night? (I’m so curious about the food! I feel like I wouldn’t be able to eat a thing!)
The first thing I (Ondrea) said when I left the room was "That was so freaking fun. Can we do it again?!" We couldn't stop talking about the experience with the Sharks and how incredible each and everyone one of them was. After leaving the studio lot, as the adrenaline waned, the hunger set in. All we could think about was food. We scarfed down an enormous amount of chicken and waffles, ready to hit our hotel room for a long nap.
Marquez previously stated that the process was full of ups and downs. I think the ups are kind of obvious, but what are the downs?
This process forced us to take a thorough look at our business, inside and out. That can be extremely time consuming and a bit stressful, but despite the time it takes to analyze so many aspects of the business, it is what is necessary for a healthy and thriving operation!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue Shark Tank?
Go for it! Be confident as an entrepreneur, believe in your business and trust that you will be successful, with or without Shark Tank. As a small business owner, Shark Tank is so much more than a "TV Show", it's an incredible opportunity to partner with someone highly intelligent, gritty and successful who will empathize with your dreams! But also remember that it is a television show, so there will be certain aspects that must be exciting and attractive to a large scale audience. Whether or not you feel your business is "hot" enough to be on tv, go for it anyway, and don't be discouraged if you don't make it. Don't be afraid to try again; sometimes the second time's the charm!