Last spring, when Shawn Davis, also known as Chef Big Shake, brought his Original Shrimp Burgers into the Shark Tank, the Sharks found them as tasty as an actual shark might find live shrimp in their original, non-burger form. But by the end of his segment, the Franklin, TN chef walked away without a deal, seemingly because the Sharks couldn’t reconcile the high cost of seafood with the cost of investing.
But Davis, a Long Island native whose company, CBS Foods, also produces lobster products like pot pies and sliders, says his appearance on the show was far from disappointing.
Question: Why did you go on the show in the first place? What did you think it could do for you?
Answer: I had no clear expectations. I’ve been working at this for a while, and so I thought that A), if I get funded, fantastic, but B), if not, there’s a three or four-minute commercial.
Q: The discussions on the show seemed to break down to the cost of seafood, volatility of the market and climate issues. Did you expect this would be an issue?
A: In all fairness, they showed on TV just a three-minute segment that took about a half an hour (of real time). The numbers they showed on television, saying that the margins were low, were 100 percent incorrect. The bottom line is that (the Sharks) had no grocery or seafood experience. My costs don’t change because of an oil spill…I don’t use that product, and the product I use doesn’t have that volatile market swing. I have had a freeze on my prices for about 24 months now. (Chuckles) But it’s cool!
Q: What was the response right after the show, both from existing clients and the ones attracted by what you said yourself was basically a commercial?
A: I have thousands of emails of people saying “I would have done it for you!” or “They’re crazy! Why didn’t they fund your product?” I’ve received so many positive emails saying “Don’t give up!” Just tons of support. It’s definitely been overwhelming.
Q: Any calls from possible investors?
A: I got funded the day after the show aired. A couple of investors contacted me, and we went with one in particular, who is a great investor and understands our market, and my dream, basically.
Q: I don’t know if you want to give specifics, but did that ultimate deal correspond with what you were seeking from the Sharks, which was $200,000 for 25 percent of the business?
A: It was a lot better, the deal I got.
Q: Besides the funding, which is amazing, what has being on Shark Tank done for you?
A: It was a tremendous help, getting that exposure. We did our first food show back in May (2011), the NRA (National Restaurant Association) show. I can’t tell you the amount of people who recognized me from the show. There were people seeking me out, because we’d said on the Web site that we’d be there, who wanted to try our food and taste it. And they were saying they loved it. It was definitely a blessing.
Q: Knowing what you know now, would you go back on the show? And if so, would you do anything differently?
A: I ponder that in my head. You figure “What did I do wrong?” You run it through your head over and over again. I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I came with the core numbers, and the (information) about the core audience for my business. I don’t know what I could have changed. My passion for my product was evident.