Why Shark Tank Keeps Casting Philly Teams

The West Philly–based Lulu Bang sisters will pitch on Friday. Here's why we keep seeing Philly entrepreneurs on the national stage.

The hit ABC series Shark Tank kicked off its eighth season in September, and it’s now fair to say that a season isn’t complete without Philly-based entrepreneurs taking the stage.

On Friday, October 28th, the sisters behind the popular Lulu Bang sauce will pitch their line of exotic sauces to the likes of business tycoons Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner, hoping for an investment.

There’s a trend here that we shouldn’t ignore.

In 2015, we saw Philly-area innovators bring Scrub Daddy, Scholly, and Zoom Interiors to more than 8 million viewers. More recently, PiperWai and Fitly made pitches to the sharks, too.

Shark Tank keeps selecting dynamic and diverse companies from our ecosystem to compete on the national stage because Philly knows how to incubate top talent,” says Archna Sahay, the city’s director of entrepreneurial investment.

“We are often cited for our cheesesteaks or water ice — both great things — but Philadelphia’s true competitive advantage is her citizens. Our best assets are our people,” Sahay says, nodding to the city’s ability to retain close to half of its student population and the growing population of millennials and immigrants in the city overall.

The benefit of more and more Philly faces on the show goes beyond a shark’s decision to invest or the longed-for Shark Tank bump in business that the companies experience. The Philly presence also means more growth for the region, Sahay says. “It shows others that impactful and exciting things are happening here, and that yes, you can start and grow a business here.”

The Lulu Bang team exemplifies the people and community asset that Philly can boast of.

Lulu Bang CEO Kelly Beard, 50, and COO Jorrae Beard, 34, were born and raised in West Philadelphia and still run the four-year-old business out of the neighborhood.

Calling the product “Lulu Bang,” their deceased brother’s nickname, is how they keep his memory alive. He was murdered in West Philadelphia at the age of 32. The sisters also run Joyce’s Soulful Kitchen, a startup catering company in their late mother’s name that they also jumpstarted four years ago.

“We are still here in West Philly. We won’t leave our mother’s house behind,” says Kelly Beard. “We have our business here because this is our home and this is our roots.”

Since launching the company, the team says they’ve been up against the best of sauces. They took a leap of faith earlier in the business and pitched their product to Wal-mart. This decision led the product to be on shelves next to Sweet Baby Ray’s, Kraft, and Heinz sauces across 22 states at one point.

“We positioned ourselves to become real manufacturers, and now our product is available in local shops throughout the Northeast region,” Jorrae Beard says, citing the mentorship she received from The Enterprise Center business incubator in West Philadelphia.

But to attend a Shark Tank casting call, the team had to get on a plane to Miami back in March. There were no casting calls in Philadelphia open to the general community at the time.

In June, Shark Tank did end up hosting a regional casting call at XFinity Live!, where the supervising casting producer told me it’s time the show got to Philadelphia more often.

Whether they struck a deal with the sharks, the sisters couldn’t say. We’ll have to find out this Friday. And there’s a watch party. Find more details here.

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