by Kaitlin Mogentale
Part 1 — what got us here
How it all started. It was quite a while ago, say 2018 or 2019, when I had met one of the casting directors from Shark Tank at a local trade show called FounderMade here in Los Angeles.
At the time, I was working on Pulp Pantry but didn’t have our product line fully fledged (our flagship Pulp Chips hadn’t even been developed yet!). I struck up a conversation to get to know more about the process, and met our amazing casting director Mindy. We exchanged a few emails, but when I took a look at the (lengthy!) application, I knew I wasn’t ready to go for it yet.
In the years that passed, I had grown Pulp Pantry the scrappy way - landing in over 600 retail doors by 2021. It was slow and steady growth - I was visiting and pitching stores myself, demoing the product to customers, attending every production run, managing R&D and suppliers, finding ways to pitch our brand and products at every opportunity. I felt like we had reached a really strong position in the midst of emerging sustainability trends that brought retailers and fans to our brand.
But something had changed. I had been growing my business solo for so long, and felt like there was so much potential now that it was clear the climate crisis was a top of mind concern for many people.
Sustainability was no longer on the fringe - it was an issue at the forefront. And Upcycling, though little-heard-of at the time, had been named a top food trend for 2021 and 2022. And Pulp Pantry, our tiny brand, was receiving amazing press (Forbes, PBS NewsHour, The Today Show, Food Network Magazine and so much more), being named in trend watches and beyond!
I wanted to grow my team and begin to allocate my time to doing the deeper work that got me started down this path in the first place - looking ahead of the curve at new innovations that could help to support our mission to build a circular future (without waste) for packaged foods, made better for people and planet. I felt like it was time to raise funding to help me expand my horizons and bring on a talented team that could help out full-time dedicated to our mission.
As I contemplated what a meaningful raise amount would be, to truly support new hires and marketing + sales initiatives, I also questioned what the right investor partner might look like.
And then it hit me — why not kick off our efforts to fundraise the FUN way. I remembered meeting Mindy, my Shark Tank casting director, a while back. I dug up her email to ask about this year’s process. It was January 2021. And I couldn’t have reached out at better timing - her team had just begun the process.
Part 2 — the application to the pitch
Though we are not able to reveal any “behind-the-scenes” information about how we went from the lengthy application to the pitch itself, I can tell you that it was a longgggg process, with so many ups and downs.
I knew thousands of brands applied each year, and that chances to make it on air were slim. Every step of the way on the road to filming, entrepreneurs would be cut from the process, that was the reality. At quite a few points, I thought I was going to be cut, too!
We went 9 whole months in preparation mode before we actually filmed. From the day we started the process, to the day we filmed, each week and certainly each month were filled with some level of preparation: either working on our set design, our pitch, or preparing with potential questions we’d receive from Sharks on the show. To think that I could have devoted all of this time to prep, and ultimately not make it on the stage was of course terrifying. It was a lot of work on top of an already over-full-time job. But you had to risk it for the biscuit… and nothing in life is ever guaranteed.
When I got the word that we were being selected to film, I was ecstatic. Nervousness was another emotion in the background, of course, as I couldn’t help but wondering, “What if I look like a complete idiot on national television? What if someone asks me a question I can’t answer?” I was worried about putting myself out there - being vulnerable - to hear what viewers would think about our brand, our products, the passionate pursuit I’ve dedicated myself to for so many years.
But truth be told, Shark Tank was a HUGE bucket list item for me. I grew up watching the show and re-runs with my family every holiday season. I knew I had to ignore the fears to focus on enjoying the process and the time in the Tank. I mean, what a massive opportunity!
Part 3 — filming Shark Tank
Going into the episode, I knew who my judges would be: Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Grenier, and guest Shark Emma Grede. My dream was to pair up with Mark and Emma - that was my goal!
The day on set went by in a flash.
I can barely remember having downtime before being rushed through the process to get set on stage.
Standing there solo in front of the Sharks was a true pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moment. I completely blacked out for the first two minutes. I started my pitch before the cameras were ready (completely ignoring my cue out of nervousness) and had to start over again.
The first two questions that came to me, I don’t even know how I managed to answer. I was still in shock.
I couldn't even tell you if I had tripped up on my pitch until I saw it for myself - I had no recollection of what had happened in those initial moments!
Luckily, after the first two questions, reality hit. Here I was, in the Tank.
As I eased in, the time in the Tank was so much fun.
Each of the Sharks had their own unique perspectives, personalities and of course questions. There was banter as the Sharks talked over one another, cracked jokes, and seemed to enjoy themselves. I really loved the experience, I had a great time.
Of course, you get the hard-ball questions from Mr. Wonderful, most notably a push-back on our valuation (I came in asking for $500k for 10% equity, or a $5mm valuation). But I felt like I answered all questions as best I could, without getting derailed from my focus.
When Mr. Wonderful and Lori put in their offers, I couldn’t believe it. Two offers? I was smiling to myself the whole time, on cloud nine although bummed that Emma and Barbara had dropped out.
When Mark came in with the final offer, I was beyond thrilled. As an entrepreneur I respect and admire, and one that’s invested heavily in sustainable foods, I knew it would be the perfect match. I gave it my shot negotiating the equity down and was pleased that Mark was willing to play ball with me.
All in all, I’m not sure how much time I spent in the Tank - maybe 30 minutes or 45. Of course, not everything gets aired. But time really flew by.
After the filming, I met up with close friends and family in Los Angeles for dinner. I was told that I’d experience a night filled with adrenaline, followed by a crash the following days — maybe even experiencing depression from the high-high the day before.
I will say, that night I really was full of energy and excitement. The next day, I still couldn’t believe what had happened. The shock was still there, but I did dive right back into work. It all felt surreal. I wondered what the next steps would be… and when I’d hear back about if we’d air?
Part 4 — waiting for an Air Date
Months went by - almost as many as had gone by before our filming! I knew the season would end in May. And here we were in April, I hadn’t heard a peep. And so I thought to myself…. Maybe we never make it on. Maybe we never air! I was bummed again, but I had figured that nearly 40-50% of entrepreneurs that had made it to the filming wouldn’t air. So… I swallowed my pride and held tight hoping the word would come.
Only 3 weeks before our air date of May 6th, 2022, we got the word.
We were set to air on Season 13, Episode 22 of Shark Tank. I think I screamed when I opened that email, calling my family immediately. The nerves rushed in again — how was my episode going to be edited? There was no time to waste worrying. I jumped right in to work — we had a lot to prepare from our landing pages, to making sure we’d have enough product in stock. It was a mad dash to get our partners ready for a potential influx of orders and inquiries.
Part 5 — after the Airing
That leaves us to where we are now - almost a month after Pulp Pantry aired on Shark Tank. The influx of orders was massive - and to date, the flood of orders has not stopped, only slowed. It was absolutely game-changing for our business. I cannot wait for everyone to try the product, and was so happy that we received (mostly) warm reception to the idea, the product and the brand.
There have been highs and lows. Of course, meeting new people and chatting with customers has been a high. The new retailers, investors and opportunities that have come knocking on our door is a high. The positive feedback that we’ve received from people who have already received their orders is a high. I can’t wait to keep these new supporters in our brand fam for years to come.
However, there was a pretty tough low, too. Amidst global supply chain challenges, we actually didn’t have enough product on hand upon our airing date. I had ordered new seasonings four weeks before we were told we’d air, but unfortunately, our team experienced delays bringing the seasoning in — up to 8-12 weeks!
On the night of our airing, we had already sold out of the jalapeño lime flavor (our best seller). I was already feeling nervous about how people would respond… we had already put up warnings that the flavor would be delayed until June 15th (to be conservative) everywhere we could on site. We’ve done our best to be communicative with all of our customers about our delays. But you’re never going to be able to please everyone, and you’re certainly going to piss some people off. Honesty is always the best policy, so I’ve tried my best to admit where I’ve made mistakes or let people down. And still, it can feel like you’re never doing enough. Although there have been some lows dealing with the madness and trying to regain a sense of “normalcy” after the airing, I try to remind myself just how blessed we are to even experience the warm reception to the brand.
My biggest advice to entrepreneurs that are preparing for an airing is to be as up front as possible with your new fans. Make sure you’re communicating your delays up front before it becomes an issue down the road. Be over prepared for the best possible outcome! And talk to other entrepreneurs about their experiences and learnings. Most importantly, soak it all in. Celebrate and share in the delight of this crazy moment with your new fans.
Cheers! And thank you to Shark Tank for such an incredible opportunity along this long, winding road as an entrepreneur.
Founder, Pulp Pantry
To watch Pulp Pantry on Shark Tank, Season 13 Episode 22, go to:
Visit our Instagram for our full pitch clip:
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To Find Pulp Pantry in Stores, visit: