Park City company fed to the "sharks"
April 4, 2014
When Joel Clark was a child, his mother made whole-wheat pancakes made from wheat she ground herself. During the summer of 1982, when Clark was 8-years-old, he walked around his neighborhood in Salt Lake City selling brown lunch sacks filled with his mother’s pancake mix and her handwritten preparation instructions.
Thirty-two years later, Clark and business partner Cameron Smith have grown the small company, Kodiak Cakes, first started by Clark’s older brother in 1995. The pancake mix is now sold in grocery stores nationwide, including Associated Foods, Smith’s, Harmon’s, Costco and Target.
However, Clark and Smith have been looking for investors. One of Smith’s favorite television shows, "Shark Tank," features a panel of "sharks" that listen to small companies and businesses pitch to them to become investors. The panel includes Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, inventor Lori Greiner, tech-company tycoon Robert Herjavec, FUBU fashion line owner Daymond John and entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary.
Smith decided it would be a good idea to try and land a spot on the show to find an investor and partner that could help the company grow and gain new, beneficial connections. Three months after sending an email to the show’s producers in January 2013 detailing their company and its history, they received a response.
"I got a phone call one night, and it was the casting directors from ‘Shark Tank,’" Smith said. "After a half-hour phone call, they sent us an email with some forms to fill out and a request for a five-minute audition tape, which we made in about an hour."
Clark said they weren’t sure they had time to enter since they received the request on a Thursday night. They were going to be traveling for business beginning the next day and would be gone for a week. Fortunately, they decided to make the tape and received notice a month later that they were semifinalists.
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A month later, they talked to producers, and by mid-June, they were in Los Angeles, Calif. preparing their pitch for the "sharks." They spent several days preparing for their pitch by making sure they knew the answers to any questions the experts might have.
"It was really intense, because they are constantly asking question after question after question. They’re really grilling you," Clark said. "What was crazy is that we were in there for about 30-45 minutes, but they edit it down to a 7- to -10-minute segment. You’re actually in there a lot longer than what it looks like on the show."
Clark and Smith both graduated from the University of Utah. Clark received a degree in economics while Smith studied business administration. The business partners have grown the small company to now include a buttermilk pancake mix as well as a high-protein pancake mix called "Power Cakes." They are being sold in Costco right now but will hit Target shelves nationally in June.
Kodiak Cakes will appear on "Shark Tank" on ABC Friday, April 4, at 9 p.m. MDT. For more information on the company or to purchase their product, visit http://www.kodiakcakes.com.