Continuing InTheSharkTank’s interview series, I recently got to chat with Raven Thomas, founder of crave-worthy confections at The Painted Pretzel. In this interview, Raven gives Shark Tank fans the lowdown on making a deal with Mark Cuban, where her sweet ideas comes from, and how her criminal intelligence background may have intimidated one Shark in particular. Here’s what she had to say:
How did you go from criminal intelligence to painting pretzels? That’s a good question! I decided to take a break for a little while. I had just had my 2nd son and I want just going to stay at home for a little while with my 2 year old and newborn. During that time I made these pretzels as Christmas gifts and people liked them, so I started to sell them. It definitely wasn’t a plan at all!
Where do you get the inspiration for your pretzel flavors? Which is your favorite? I ask people what they like and I love candy, period. It’s just fun for me to try and see what tastes good. My favorite is Reese’s peanut butter cup candy and I love when we put it in chocolate peanut butter.
So if your pretzels didn’t start as a business, what made you decide to go to Shark Tank? At that point [I applied] it was a business. I had been selling them for over 2 years by the time I applied for Shark Tank. I was selling to retail stores and I just didn’t have the finances to complete the orders I was receiving. I had seen the show and I thought it was great, but it was my husband who convinced me to actually try out.
Can you summarize your application process in three words? Surprising, exciting, crazy!
I applied for season 2 but it was after they had already done casting. It was one year later that I got a call asking if I was still interested in being on the show.
Before appearing on the show, was there a Shark you were hoping to make a deal with? Yes, Mark Cuban. He was definitely my #1, or Barbara.
When you appeared on the show you asked the Sharks for $100,000 in exchange for 25% of your company. How did you arrive at that valuation? I came to that number based on the orders I had previously gotten and the orders I had pending. I feel like I could’ve asked for more than what I asked for, but I think a lot of people make the mistake of using how hard they worked to value the business more than what it’s really worth.
The portion of your segment that sealed the deal for the Sharks was when you mentioned the $2 million Sam’s Club deal you’d been working on. How did you make that deal happen? …did you bribe them with your sweets? With everything, with all the places I’ve been—including stores like TJ MAXX and Marshalls—I tell people you can do it yourself, you don’t need to pay people to be your buyers. I Google peoples names [laughs], I find my own buyers. I just made several calls to Sam’s Club headquarters and I sent samples. It’s a really tedious process but I did it all myself. It seems so hard, but you can really do it!
Was there anything that didn’t air from your negotiations with the Sharks that you wish did? Actually my entire taping lasted 20 minutes and they aired about 15 minutes of it. The only thing they didn’t show was Robert asking me about my time as a criminal intelligence analyst… they joked that I had done a background screening on Robert before I came on the show.
When you made the deal with Cuban, he said he’d get The Painted Pretzel in Landmark Theaters and Mavs games. Did he follow through? Not in Mavs games yet, but definitely in theaters where the pretzels are doing great!
What was the first thing you did after you made the deal with Mark? I went to lunch with my family and was still in shock that it really happened! I kept saying, “Did that really just happen?!”