The biggest names disrupting the world of food today all began as startups. I’m talking companies like Impossible Foods, who helped revolutionize the world of burger alternatives, or Chipotle, who shook up fast food with their healthier, customizable restaurant model dozens of other chains have since replicated.
While we don’t have a crystal ball to see who that next big name could be, food giant Mars is hoping to be a part of their success with their new Seeds of Change accelerator. This four month program provides young startups with up to $50,000 in total funding while acting as a growth launchpad.
Photo courtesy of Mars
Announced recently at Expo West, the accelerator is now accepting applications for its first cycle of 10 companies. The program will take place in the USA (for 6 startups) and Australia (for another 4).
For those young companies that get in, Mars will give $25,000 in grant money, no questions asked. There’s up to an additional $25,000 up for grabs for each startup as well, with that money going towards research, marketing, or whatever other functions the business really needs to scale.
Seeds of Change Accelerator director Gary Arora is looking for mission-driven businesses that fit within multiple of five different “core pillars” that make up various values at Mars. These include flavors from around the world, plant-based products, easy meal solutions, responsible food made sustainably and transparently, and items that artisanally crafted.
Arora noted that companies of any size can make it into the accelerator, the major requirement being that a product has been developed and sold, even if that just translates to a few thousand in sales.
Mars is really looking to experiment with this, and there’s no guarantee of success in such a risky venture. Those that flourish within the accelerator and beyond, though, could find themselves at the forefront at the future of food with backing from one of the world’s largest food titans. Thus, we all should be paying close attention to the Seeds of Change program to see what results come out of it.
Applications for the accelerator are open through May 31st.
Shark Tank has us all hooked because of the drama and intensity that goes into each pitch. The show continues to succeed well into their 10th season because let’s face it — we all wonder what it’d be like to bring an idea to the Sharks.
We’re hooked on the entrepreneur’s story and their dreams of success, and for a few minutes, we’re cheering for them to land that big deal (or crash and burn in the process). That brief TV appearance is the culmination of months of work and stress, and a couple of keto cookie entrepreneurs that just scored a Shark Tank deal let us in on their raw experience.
Photo courtesy of Kristoffer Quiaoit / ABC
Fresh off landing a solid deal on the show from baseball legend and Shark Alex Rodriguez (aka A-Rod), Kristoffer Quiaoit and Victor Macias, co-founders of keto cookie company Nui, hopped onto Foodbeast’s The Katchup podcast to share their story just a few short days after their episode debuted.
Here are a few key takeaways that Quiaoit and Macias revealed into what it took to get on Shark Tank while simulatenously trying to keep their business afloat at the same time.
Developing Your ‘Skin In The Game’
“Skin in the game” is a popular term with investors looking to make sure the business owners are serious. It means that part of their own money is used to start the business, but for Quiaoit and Macias, it’s more than just physical capital. They’ve built up plenty of emotional capital tied with their mission of bringing keto cookies to the mainstream. The community that’s emerged around their product keeps them driven and wanting to grow Nui as much as possible.
The Initial Casting Call Can Take All Day
If you do find a casting call near you and want to pitch your business, be prepared to wait all day for your chance to get in. “It was like American Idol,” Quiaoit recalled, as the line wrapped around the audition location (a casino in Southern California) easily by early morning. At least 1,000 people were in line, an entire cast of characters looking to get their 15 minutes with the Sharks. Quiaoit and Macias arrived around 8 am and weren’t seen until 8 pm.
Prepping For The Show With No Guarantee
After the audition, even with positive affirmation from the casting folks — there’s no guarantee that you’ll get on the show immediately or even for a while. With that in mind, you have to head back to the grind of your startup but also continue to prep for an appearance on the show as if you got the spot. That way, if that call does come, your pitch is still solidified and ready to rock.
Taking The ‘Destiny’s Child’ Approach
One of the biggest concerns Quiaoit and Macias had with appearing on the show was nerves and freezing up, as a big-stage moment like that can literally take your breath away. To address that, they took a cue from Destiny’s Child, who’s known to practice singing after running up hills to get used to performing while totally out of breath. In the case of these entrepreneurs, they would practice their pitch after exercising intensely, getting super amped on caffeine, or when totally sleep deprived to account for every scenario possible.
Continuing To Grow Your Business
Quaioit and Macias still had to run Nui while practicing for their appearance, making sure that their business continued to grow and develop in the process. They were able to get it to $1 million in annual sales before going on the show, and even executed an entire rebrand, changing their name from The Keto Cookie to Nui. That came with a notification to Shark Tank that there had been a name change, which the show ended up being totally cool with.
Putting The Chips In Their Favor
Practicing and prepping was more than just being able to recite the one-minute pitch. Quiaoit and Macias took care to ensure their mental and physical health was in peak condition as well. This meant going to the gym, meditating, power posing, eating keto, and anything else they could do to help keep nerves down and put the “chips in their favor,” as Quiaoit put it.
Know Your Numbers
The more key financials and numbers you can memorize and have on hand, the better. From all of the pitches the Nui team listened to while prepping, they immediately understood that numbers were key and should come first, and they believe that leading with those numbers impressed investors like Mark Cuban while on-air.
Nui’s success on Shark Tank came from all of the above and then some. To see how they got their deal and what was going through their mind while on camera, you can hear their entire story on the newest episode of Foodbeast’s The Katchuppodcast embedded above. If you’re interested in buying their cookies, you can find them on Nui’s website as well as on Amazon.