Philly Shark Tank Entrepreneurs: Where Are They Now?
When dropped into the Shark Tank, Philadelphia entrepreneurs strike big deals. Over the last two years, we’ve seen the region’s entrepreneurs pitch everything from a smiley-faced cleaning sponge that’s been called the hit show’s biggest success story to a scholarship-finding app that’s helped millions of students find money for college. Shark Tank keeps casting Philadelphia teams for reasons BizPhilly explored here, and in June the show’s supervising casting producer said he’d like to cast in Philly more often. Why? Because Philly is breeding innovation, he said. As we wrap up 2016, BizPhilly caught up with five Philly companies who pitched on the show — Scrub Daddy, PiperWai, Lulu Bang, Scholly, and Homee — to see where they are now. Read on to find out which team rebranded and moved across the country, which entrepreneur landed on Oprah’s Super Soul 100 list, and who won an Ernst & Young 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Since appearing on the show in October 2012, Aaron Krause has become Shark Tank’s biggest success story with Scrub Daddy, a smiley face–shaped cleaning sponge. In 2015, we reported that the company had hit $50 million in retail sales across the entire product line, and this year Krause took things even further. In February he launched Scrub Mommy, a “reso” foam sponge that holds more suds and soap. He sold 2 million of them in just 24 hours on QVC, Krause told Philadelphia magazine. The company also launched Eraser Daddy this year, a magic eraser that removes tough marks. They’re in every Bed Bath and Beyond in the country, with thousands of units selling each week, Krause said. And Krause’s team has grown exponentially. He now has 55 people employees in manufacturing and 14 executives who lead multiple departments, including graphic design, sales and marketing, and social media and public relations. In 2015, BizPhilly visited the company’s one warehouse in Folcroft, but now there are two. Krause purchased the building across the street, adding 25,000 square feet to the company’s existing warehouse space.
For 2017, Scrub Daddy is developing new products, including the Scour Daddy, its take on a traditional mesh-covered sponge, and the Scrub Daisy, a flower-shaped dish wand. While Scrub Daddy already has a presence abroad — they’re on the shelves at DM, Germany’s version of Walgreen’s, and in Canada and Korea — they’ll be expanding into the U.K., Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Mexico next year. Krause took home the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year Award for the Northeast region. “I’m really proud we’re doing this right here in the Philly area,” Krause told me.
The two women behind PiperWai — Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner — snagged a $50,000 deal with Barbara Corcoran for a 25 percent stake in their natural deodorant company when they appeared on the show in December 2015. Now, the women tell us that they experienced more than 5,000 percent growth in the company this year. The biggest news of all for the company this year, though, is that they launched their highly anticipated deodorant stick applicator on December 15th. (When product first hit the market, users had to scoop the charcoal-based deodorant out of the jar.) PiperWai is now in every GNC store in the U.S. and has a pending rollout with Whole Foods across the Mid-Atlantic.
The entrepreneurs were hyper-involved with charity this year, raising $17,000 and donating more than 1,000 jars of their product to local organizations like the Young Entrepreneurs Academy of Philadelphia and Twist Out Cancer. The two also told Philly Mag that one of their best moments this year as Philly locals was receiving a Best of Philly award for the “Reality Stars We’re Actually Proud Of” category. “It was an honor that we proudly display in our Philly office,” Edelstein said. Moving into 2017, the two will focus on expanding the team. And for the second time, they’ll make an appearance on HSN on January 3rd.
The team at Joyce’s Soulful Cuisine made the region’s latest Shark Tank appearance in October 2016. West-Philly natives Kelly Beard, Jorrae Beard, and Ashley Beard pitched their Lulu Bang sauces — “Bourbon Marinade,” “It’s Just Hot!” and “Asian Persuasion.” Despite not landing a deal with the sharks, the team experienced the much-desired Shark Tank bump. In the two days after the episode aired, the company made $60,000 in sales alone, more than the $45,000 it made in three months being on the shelves at Walmart, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.
The team has told Philadelphia magazine that they are preparing for a pop-up restaurant, Lulu Bang Burgers and Wangz, that they’ll officially open on January 6th. The restaurant will be located at Common Table on 48th Street in University City and will remain open until the end of March. The short-term venture is in conjunction with a program run by the Enterprise Center’s culinary division.
It was impossible to miss Scholly news in the national headlines this year, from the New York Times to Smithsonian magazine’s recent story about the app and its founder. Christopher Gray took his app, which matches students with scholarships, to the Sharks in February 2015 and secured a $40,000 investment with Lori Greiner and Daymond John. Now less than two years later, the Scholly team has helped students raise more than $20 million in scholarship funds. Though Gray has been in the spotlight since appearing on the show, he really catapulted the app into the public sphere when he brought popular actor and activist Jesse Williams on board in September as the company’s brand ambassador. Oprah showed the young entrepreneur some love this year when she named him to her Super Soul 100 list, which recognizes entrepreneurs, teachers, and givers making impactful change.
Beginning in September, the company took a new marketing approach when it started sharing the stories of students who won money through the app. They also announced the “College Affordability Series” with personal loan provider OneMain, offering users tips on how to make college more affordable. And to cap off the year, Gray was awarded the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for Youth Achievement.
The app Homee might be unfamiliar to many, and that’s because it just launched in July and is what used to be ZOOM Interiors, the Philly-based online interior design service for millennials. The three co-founders, Madeline Fraser, Elizabeth Grover, and Beatrice Fischel-Bock, struck a deal with Barbara Corcoran on the show in May 2015 but walked away from the arrangement months later when they realized giving up one-third of their business wasn’t ideal. Now, ZOOM Interiors no longer exists. The team pivoted their interior design dreams to Homee, an app that helps users furnish their space online. And in an unlikely partnership, they raised money for the company with the help of Tinder’s CEO, Sean Rad, who stepped in with a personal investment after hearing that the Shark Tank deal fell through, Fortune reported. The company also announced a Series A funding round in July, lead by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, according to TechCrunch.
But Philly can no longer claim the young entrepreneurs, who were recent college graduates when they started ZOOM Interiors. They’re now based in Los Angeles, though they told Philly.com in 2015 of their intention to stay in Philadelphia. “We found that Philly has such a great support system around start-ups and it’s less cutthroat than New York or L.A., so we said, ‘Let’s do it,’ the rent is affordable and we can have an office. We’re so grateful to be here,” one of the company’s founders told the Inquirer.
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