“Everyone wants to know what happened to ‘the kid,'” according to Daniela Kelly when I called to get a Ryan's Barkery Update just before Christmas. Daniela is Ryan's mom and a big part of the business. They both appeared in Shark Tank episode 424 and the Kellys scored a deal with Barbara Corcoran, who invested $25,000 for 25% of the business. I'd been trying to find time to do a Ryan's Barkery update interview before Christmas, but scheduling was tight and, as Ryan put it, “I'm probably the first entrepreneur who told you what time I get off the school bus!”
I finally did catch up with the Kellys the Thursday before Christmas. When I called, Ryan told me they'd call back because “mom is on the phone with Barbara.” They were putting together some pre – holiday strategies. When they got back to me about 20 minutes later, they were both filled with praise for Barbara Corcoran.
Ryan's Barkery Update on Barbara Corcoran
“We hear from her a lot,” Ryan explains, “she makes us feel like we're her only company. Daniela said “she helped us with packaging labels. We went from selling the treats in ziplock bags to SKU packaging overnight. We hear from Mike in her office a lot, but we can get her on the phone at any time. “We had a blast at Fire Island with Barbara and her group,” Ryan continues, “I love those guys.”
“The deal with Barbara didn't take too long to finalize,” Daniela adds. “We didn't have a ton of numbers to sift through. We had $800 in sales when we taped; we're approaching six figures now.”
Once again, Shark Tank entrepreneurs have high praise for Barbara Corcoran! The people she funds have a great admiration and respect for her. All the entrepreneurs she's funded have nothing but praise about her accessibility and her honest and forthright advice.
Ryan and Daniela have praise for Peter Ferreira from Nuts n More too. They're the peanut butter guys who scored a deal with Robert and Mark in episode 420. “Peter's dad owns a bakery,” says Ryan, “they don't live too far from us, so he met us at the bakery and we spent a whole day making dog treats there. He really helped us catch up with orders!”
The Life of a 12-year-old Entrepreneur
“I always loved business,” Ryan says, “I had lemonade stands, sold Halloween candy on the bus, I even rented my sneakers to my brother once! I got the idea for the dog treats when we got our dog, Barkley.” I asked Ryan how Barkley was, he answered, “He's FAT.”
We brought him to vet recently,” Daniela interjects, “he was fawning all over him – it was the same vet who gave us the ingredients for the treats. Barkley needed shots, so the vet gives him a treat to distract his for shots. It wasn't one of ours and Barkley wouldn't touch it. He's spoiled.”
Ryan is like a lot of 12-year-olds, when he isn't out building his business. “I play hockey and lacrosse – I am trying basketball this year – but it's tough with sports teams because we do a lot of traveling in the Northeast doing promotions,” he says. “Ryan is also part of a new program called Independent Youth,” Daniela adds, “it's a teen entrepreneurs program affiliated with Kingonomics. We travel to a lot of their events. I've gone with Ryan to Atlanta and St. Louis; I still go with him because he still needs a chaperone!”
As for school life, Ryan was still in elementary school when he first aired (he's in middle school now). “Quite a few kids didn't know the show, but the teachers brought attention to it when word got out I was appearing. A lot of the kids at school watched it. After that, I was ‘the Shark Tank Kid' at school. They couldn't believe I was on the show.”
Ryan's Road to Shark Tank
“It's an interesting chain of events that led us to Shark Tank,” Daniela explains. “They told Ryan's story on Shark Tank, but they left out how I became involved. I had two strokes and have a hard time typing or writing. It was hard to find work. Then my father passed away. We got Barkley because the kids were sad about my father. Ryan wanted to make all natural, home-made treats the dog would like. He started out giving them away in the neighborhood. He gave them to a lady who said she didn't want them because her dog doesn't eat treats, but she took some. Her dog LOVED them. One of this lady's friends is in PR or something and she called Shark Tank because she heard they were looking for young entrepreneurs for season 4. I saw her talking to Ryan at a football game and I kind of got in her face about ‘stranger danger.' That's when she told me she'd called. One day, a producer just called and things moved quickly after that. The whole chain of events makes me think Shark Tank was so meant to be.”
“I'd heard of the show,” Ryan continues, “I first started watching it because I thought it was about real sharks, but I liked it. When I was taping, the Sharks got a little ‘snarky' with me at one point. They said running a business was a lot of responsibility and how could they trust an 11-year-old with that.”
“Overall, they were respectful,” Daniela adds, “they each took time to give him advice. A lot of their questions are designed to get a reaction, but because of his age, it went over his head.”
Life after Shark Tank
Ryan's Barkery is a bit of a family affair now. Daniela spends 5-6 hours a day at a rented bakery in nearby Norwalk with her mother, another friend, and four contract workers. Ryan spends his weekend time working on the business. “His older brother thinks it's awesome,” Daniela says. “He's very involved and the best employee we have besides my mom. Ryan's younger brother isn't so enthusiastic. I've been a stay at home mom and all of a sudden, mom got a full-time job.”
“After appearing on Shark Tank, we were making them at home. For the next three months after the show, we had 14 people in our kitchen. I'm glad that's over! Now I am the ‘production arm' and Ryan is the ‘marketing arm.' I get home from the bakery in time to take the boys to hockey and lacrosse.”
Ryan was amazed at what his appearance did for orders. “We went to a restaurant to watch the show. Mom's phone actually overheated from all the emails and orders and shut down. When we got home, the computer kept making a ‘doorbell sound' every time we got an order. Mom didn't know how to shut the sound off – my brother had to do t for her!”
Daniela said Ryan's Barkery is currently in over 30 stores and expanding. “We're working on a doozy with Barbara,” she said. “We also shot a Ryan's Barkery Update segment, but we're not sure when it will air.”
Ryan had some words of wisdom for other entrepreneurs, regardless of their age: “One thing my mom won't stop telling me is don't let anyone tell you what you can't do.” Sound advice from such a young man.
I had one more question for Ryan AND his mom. They answer that over at The Hotdog Truck.