I spoke with Carmen Lindner recently to get a Smuffins update. Carmen unsuccessfully pitched the Sharks in episode 418 for her business Gotta Have S'More where she sells her signature Smuffins – a S'More in the shape of a muffin.
The Birth of Smuffins
I asked Carmen what originally motivated her to start her business. “It actually started out as a silly conversation,” she explains. “We were sitting around about three years ago, talking about opening a S'Mores store. I had the idea for Smuffins, but I didn't have any butter or sugar in the house. I usually cook and eat low-fat, but I wanted to go full on decadence with these. We started eating them around the house – chocolate is very addicting – and I would have three a day. My weight went up and down!”
“My husband was and is very supportive. I sent some to work with him, and people loved them. That's when I decided I'd target corporate accounts. The first two months, I made them in my home, but then I moved to a commercial kitchen. I have a relatively big team, they aren't easy to make.”
Smuffins Update on the Road to Shark Tank
Carmen went to an open casting call in Hollywood. “I was 8 months pregnant and I had to stand in line for over six hours. I brought two dozen Smuffins with me. Before I heard from the show, I got a call from someone involved with the production asking how they could order more; that's when I thought I had a chance.” Her strategy worked, because she was asked to send in a video!
“I sent another three dozen in with my video and I brought more with me to dress rehearsal. My strategy was to get Smuffins into as many peoples hands (and mouths) as possible. Even though the Sharks were luke-warm on the Smuffins, everyone else on the set loved them. I figured I had to win over the editors.”
“I taped in September and I'd given birth about two months before taping. The stress of preparing for Shark Tank was a good way to help lose that baby weight. When I got back, I told my husband I didn't think I was going to air. I didn't think my pitch was interesting enough; it didn't have a lot of drama. I taped with the RuckPack guy and he aired last fall (2012), so I didn't think they'd end up using my segment. Then I got busy with the holidays, so I was totally focused on that. I was convinced I wouldn't air.”
Smuffins in the Shark Tank
“Like I said, I didn't think my pitch had a lot of drama. The Sharks tasted the Smuffins and Kevin said something about the calories. They didn't go overboard talking about them, but I had a good vibe after they all tasted them.”
“I was the last segment taped for the day. I taped for 45-50 minutes but it seemed like five; it was one of the most exciting things I've ever done. I was so giddy, I couldn't stop smiling, even when the producers told me not to. The Sharks were all so stone-faced and I just couldn't help thinking that, as an entrepreneur, it doesn't get any bigger than this!”
Even though Carmen says there wasn't much drama, the Sharks made a big deal about Carmen's shipping costs. “We talked a lot about shipping, but they left out the part where I explained I was in the process of bringing them down. Anyone who does a lot of shipping knows rates are negotiable and I was in negotiations about rates when I taped, so I didn't think that was going to be the last nail in the coffin.”
“I was just so honored to be there, something like 30,000 people try out and they picked me. I'm just glad I didn't cry; I definitely could have left crying if the Sharks turned up the heat. The broadcast was a pretty fair representation of what happened. Other than leaving out the lower shipping rates, they left out a description of what a Smuffin is. The craziest thing was after the show aired, a lot of people called asking if I was OK. OK?!?! It wasn't a bad experience at all, it was really cool.”
After Shark Tank Smuffins Update
“Our website held up pretty well. We had a brief hiccup with our shopping cart, but overall things held up. I used Shelly Ehler's web guy – he has a 100% success rate with Shark Tank entrepreneur websites – he was great. We got a LOT of traffic. The most surprising thing was the number of out-of-state (Carmen lives in California) orders. Even a few weeks after the show, there are more out-of-state orders than in state and that's never happened.”
“We got calls from every shipping company and fulfillment center in the USA after the show! I was in the process of negotiating lower rates when the show aired and afterwards, I was able to get them down lower. I'm shipping with Periship now, they're a third-party FedEx fulfillment company that specializes in perishable foods. They were able to take my shipping costs from $54 to $20.”
“We've also received a lot of interest from food brokers and distributors as a result of the show. I'm still sorting through everything. One thing that happened was a new arrangement with Williams-Sonoma. We were in negotiations with them prior to Shark Tank, but the appearance sealed the deal. Smuffins will be on the Williams -Sonoma website and they're made special with their own Ghiradelli Chocolate.”
“Gotta Have S'More is making money, but my husband isn't quitting his job just yet. I'm re-investing everything back into the business. Since I am so reliant on shipping, I am reliant on packaging and to cut packaging costs, I have to buy in bulk.”
“Overall, I am very pleased with the Shark Tank experience. I am a fan of the show; I still watch, but now I have a much different perspective. I've had a lot of cool opportunities open up just because I showed up. As a fan, the Daisy Cakes pitch was one of my favorites because she has a similar product and she's been so successful. I also met Shelly Ehler in the casting line – she was there supporting two other friends – and we have become friends since. She's been a big help.”
“What keeps me going as an entrepreneur is fans of my product. I am the queen of turning lemons into lemonade. I like to do events because I like seeing how much people like my Smuffins. There's not a lot of negatives with them and meeting people who love them is just awesome!”
I had one other question for Carmen. She answers it over at The Hot Dog Truck.