I spoke with Dave Alwan after he appeared on Shark Tank to get an Echo Valley Meats update and he may have the biggest Shark Tank Success story to date. If you recall, Dave did not get a deal on the show, but his online gourmet meats business BLEW UP after his episode originally aired. He had such success, Shark Tank went to his facility in Bartonville, Illinois to shoot an Echo Valley Meats update segment for season 5, episode 503 which airs on October 4, 2013 on ABC.
Echo Valley Meats Update their Website
I'm always interested in a business' website traffic post show and what they did to prepare for the onslaught of traffic the show inevitably brings. Dave was well prepared! “We prepared for the traffic the show would bring. We only had 15 days to get the new site ready. I had my web guys hand code everything in Drupal; they did in 15 days what would take a typical ad agency two months. We took extreme measures to be prepared, and that was a good thing – we had 19 servers running the site; at one point during the show we had 78,000 simultaneous visitors. We had more than 800,000 hits to the site in the 48 hours following the show – it was insane!”
“I had over 6,000 emails over the weekend and responded to about 4,000 of them by the end of the week (following the broadcast). There were dozens of offers for investments coming in, I could pick and choose. One email offered me 10 times what I asked the Sharks for, but we made more than that in the week following the show.”
Big Numbers for Echo Valley Meats
Even though we spoke in April, Dave was visionary in his predictions. “We may go down in history as the biggest Shark Tank success story of all time. In the week following the show, we did seven figures in sales. That's more than the previous year's sales – in one week! I don't need an investment now, but I'd let the Sharks back in if they wanted because I'm a man of my word. The best part is, the orders continue to come in; I'll surpass any numbers I projected and still own 100% of my company.”
Dave is a third generation butcher/meat man. He used to have a family business in Peoria: a popular grocery store and butcher shop called Alwan and Sons Meat Company; in 1998 Dave sold his share and started Echo Valley Meats. “I love my family, but I wanted to do more ‘value add' with the business, that's why I went out on my own. We're all still friends – the buy-out was very amicable.”
Fresh Meat in the Shark Tank
Dave took the most difficult route to the Shark Tank; he wasn't recruited by the producers or accepted via email. “I flew to LA for an open casting call waited and 17 hours to get interviewed. I gave a 2 minute speech and they told me to do a video and send it in. I never looked ahead, I took it like a football game – one quarter at a time. They liked my pitch, so they invited me ‘into the Shark Tank. I filmed in September (2012).”
“The Sharks were great, they loved the food. They've all since ordered. Mark Cuban said I was going to sell a ton of meat, he really enjoyed it. I'd say to anyone who was thinking of trying out, go for it. I could have just called a local bank and got a loan, but I felt being on Shark Tank was about getting the right partner and the right exposure. The whole experience was positive. My edit was fair, I didn't come off as cocky. ABC, Sony, Mark Burnett, and Clay Newbill were top-notch, start to finish; they're great people to work with.”
What About the Food?
“Our food is top quality, but we are priced more competitively than other online meat sellers. That's because we process everything ourselves. Our Summer Sausage has won numerous awards.”
Dave was kind enough to send some samples to me in the show's aftermath. I can attest personally that the food is excellent and his pricing is on par with grocery store prices for similar quality. The award-winning Summer Sausage was indeed excellent, as was the garlic cheese spread. Dave sent a spiral ham that had our family raving – it was the best ham we could remember eating. He sent about 20 Echo Valley beef jerky packets and they were gone in three days ( my college-aged son had the lion's share)! From the prime rib roast to the filet mignon steaks, everything was over the top delicious! The only thing he didn't send was hot dogs! (can you believe that?)
Dave Alwan's Parting Words
“In my business, in any business really, I found the extra, personal touch goes a long way. Just remember, don’t try to carry three watermelons at a time – you’ll drop one!”
Dave had one other answer for me, but you'll see that answer on The Hot Dog Truck.