I was on ABC’s Shark Tank Friday night! Did you see it? I was in there with the Sharks – and I’m still swimming!
It’s been an exciting (and exhausting) nine-month process, starting on May 23, when I was eight months pregnant with Emma. I stood in line in the summer heat for eight hours, just trying to get a shot at auditioning! I constantly had to get out of line to pee and the people behind me had to hold my place. They probably hated me in the end (if you’re reading this – THANKS AGAIN!).
When I finally got inside, my forehead was burned because I’d forgotten to put on sunscreen – but my S’muffins were safe and sound…and still delicious. We were given one minute to pitch our business and one minute only. While all of us entrepreneurs were in line, we kept practicing over and over, agonizing over the perfect one minute pitch. Finally, around 6 p.m., it was my turn. I was a little nervous but not really. Honestly, it was such a long-shot that I could actually get on Shark Tank, I had nothing to lose; so that kept my mind at ease. I stepped up to the Shark Tank producer, put my best smile on and was ready to give it my all, when he
"S'muffin, What's a S'muffins?!?"
looked at what I was holding and said, “S’muffin?! What’s a S’muffin??!”
Success! I had won him over and he told me I would be receiving an email the following day with instructions to put together a 5 minute video. I had moved onto round two! At that point I already felt like a winner because out of all the people standing in the six hour line, not many moved onto round two. But, I did! Honestly still… what were the chances of me actually making it all the way? I mean 30,000 people audition for this show and only 60 – 80 are picked.
The next day the email came as promised. I had about a week to put together a five minute video to show off my product, but more importantly… me! My plan was to keep it simple with my home video camera and have my husband record it for me. By the end of the week, my simple video turned into calling in a favor to an acquaintance, Jonathan Pascual of PlanetZaya. He was amazing, a tiny little gift from God. He came to my kitchen, filmed for four hours, cut, edited and created my five minute video in one night. I still own him Big Time!!!
I hand delivered my five minute video, along with another couple dozen s’muffins just to sweeten my chances. I didn’t hear back for about a month and I just knew they had picked their lineup and I didn’t make it through. So, on June 19th – the day before my scheduled “C” section – I shot off a follow-up email to my ST producer/fan. I thanked him for being a fan and told him I was thrilled to have made it through to the 2nd round and I asked for some hot tips so that when open casting came around again I would be sure to make it all the way through. Within a few minutes he replied… “You are very much still in the running. So stay tuned and I’ll give you an update as soon as I know if you get approved.”
Emma, 4 days old
On June 24th, four days after Emma was born. I received another email…. “Warm up the ovens (do you actually bake them or just crumble some butter up with graham cracker and dip it in chocolate?) cause you’ve been approved to be on the show!” What, Who, Me?!??! I was in total shock and had A LOT to prepare for.
I was told that I would pitch to the sharks at the end of Sept. That gave me about 3 months to get my numbers in order, and more importantly, lose some baby weight!
During that time I watched every single episode of Shark Tank starting from season 1. I got all of my books in order and was prepared to have an answer for any question they threw my way. I knew how many S’muffins I had sold each year in dozens and singles. Every day I woke up for three months straight thinking “what do I need to do to prepare for Shark Tank?”
Three weeks before my big pitch, it was time to pick out my show stopping outfit, get my hair colored and practice, practice, practice my two minute pitch. I said it in my car while I was driving, while I was doing dishes, taking a shower. I said it so much my four-year-old was walking around saying “Hi, I’m Carmen Lindner, founder of Gotta Have S’more, I’m seeking…”
I flew my mom out the week of 9/20 to help me watch Emma, who was at that point two months old. I had come a long way but even up to this point, was still not 100% guaranteed to pitch in front of the Sharks and you’re never guaranteed that your episode will actually air, even if you do get in front of them. Two days before my scheduled pitch I had to do a practice pitch/dress rehearsal in front of all of the Shark Tank crew/producers. I had my perfect outfit, my pretty display table, S’muffins in the hands of every crew member and my solid 2 minute pitch. I was so nervous, I was so close at this point: What if I came all this way and totally screwed it up and didn’t get to pitch to the sharks?? I would be so disappointed. But, that didn’t happen. After I said my two minute pitch everyone clapped, smiled, laughed and said that I did a GREAT job!! I felt on top of the world!! I made it all the way and now I was scheduled to pitch the real Sharks in two days.
Maddie back stage at Shark Tank
September 23rd, I’ll never forget the date. I was ready to go. My husband, Maddie and I loaded up at 5am and headed down to Culver City, Sony Studios. Originally, I was scheduled to pitch before lunch. Perfect, they will be good and hungry and will devour their samples. But, that didn’t happen. I kept getting bumped all day and at 6pm – the very last slot of the day – it was finally my turn. I took one last look in the mirror, kissed my husband and I was off to land my deal.
“Go!” I walked down the long Shark hallway, the double doors opened, I took my mark and there they were: the Sharks, all five of them, the real deal. I couldn’t believe I was actually there in person, not watching from my couch at home but standing in front of them ready to tell them all about my wonderful little business.
I was ready for them to love me, and more importantly LOVE my product. I wanted so badly to hear, “You’re a genius, these are amazing, this is the best dessert idea I’ve ever heard!” But that didn’t happen.
At first, things were going well. Smiles, laughs, “MMM, this is good.” Then bam….. shipping rates, those dang sky-high shipping rates! I never thought that my out-of-state shipping rates, which have dropped between $20- $35, would dominate the conversation; but they did. Mr. Wonderful found his hook and wouldn’t let go. I could feel myself losing control of the conversation and I just couldn’t get it back. One after the other said, “I’m out, I’m out, I’m out…” and just like that it was over. I turned around walked away from the Sharks, walked out of the staged board room and was done. Three months of preparation, dreaming, high hopes, practicing, planning was high jacked by a conversation about high shipping rates and no deal. I walked up to my husband, told him the bad news, and gave him a hug. We loaded up our daughter, our bags and all of my display equipment. We drove home without a word. We were all exhausted and in a total daze. When we got home, my mom opened the door with a big smile on her face, expecting good news. I didn’t have any. Ben and Maddie went straight to bed. But my heart was broken so I stayed up and cried on the couch to my mom.
I didn’t stay down and out for too long, though. I have a pretty sweet life to begin with, an awesome husband, two super cute kids;
Carmen & Ben in Jamaica (just the two of us!!)
and I live in sunny California. The holidays were coming up and that is my busiest time of year. We scheduled a two week vacation after Christmas, spent time with family and Ben and I took off, by ourselves, for a full week to Jamaica. Seriously, life is good!
At that point, the subject of Shark Tank rarely came up anymore. I didn’t think it was going to air because it felt like the whole 30 – 45 minute conversation with the sharks was pretty boring. They didn’t tell me to go hang myself and I didn’t have a meltdown in front of the camera. But on January 25, I received an email and in the subject line it said, “SHARK TANK – 02/22/13 – 418 – AIRDATE”. OMG! It’s going to air!!! Once again, I had a month to prepare for an unknown outcome.
It aired and millions of people watched Mr. Wonderful rip me on shipping rates and come up with many new variations of the word S’muffin. But, I was ecstatic!!! It had been nine long months since I was standing in an eight-hour, open-casting line thinking, “What are the chances that this will ever happen?” They didn’t tell me I was a genius or that this was the best business idea they had ever heard, they didn’t invest in my company. But, little ol’ me and my Gotta Have S’more S’muffins made it past 30,000 other well deserving entrepreneurs. We made it all the way to the finish line and were seen by millions of people across the country on national TV and that’s a HUGE win!! It’s only been three days and I’ve already started receiving tons of calls and opportunities that are going to be great for my business. I know that everything happened for a reason and God is looking out for me. The past nine months have been an amazing experience and I’m really excited to see what the future holds. So, stay tuned…. You might just see me on one of the Shark Tank follow-up success stories!!
Thanks for reading!! – Carmen
WATCH MY SHARK TANK EPISODE or ORDER S’MUFFINS - Buy 2 dozen, get the 2nd FREE! Code – Sharktank1 (Limit time only)