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Q&A: LOLIWARE co-founder on Shark Tank success, future growth

Q&A: LOLIWARE co-founder on Shark Tank success, future growth
Shark Tank was good to LOLIWARE, makers of edible party cups. Here, co-founder Chelsea Briganti talks future plans and her tried-and-true advice to woo investors.

The era of red plastic party cups are numbered. LOLIWARE co-founders Chelsea Briganti and Leigh Ann Tucker, makers of jewel-tone edible, compostable cups (and past Natural Product Business School Pitch Slam winners), recently secured a $600,000 investment on the popular ABC business show Shark Tank.

After describing their product as biodegrad-edible, the founders dished out delectable cocktails to the show’s notoriously acerbic investors. Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran sealed a joint deal for 25 percent stake in the brand. The biggest surprise: Briganti and Tucker were only asking for $150,000.

Here, Briganti shares what it was like preparing for the Tank (her pre-presentation go-to: Bulletproof coffee), and what’s next for this innovative, sustainable brand.

newhope360: Congratulations on your successful Shark Tank appearance! Can you describe the experience of being in the tank?

Chelsea Briganti: Shark Tank had contacted us a year prior to invite us to apply to be on the show. So it was about a 10-month long, intense process going through the rounds of paperwork to get into the Tank.

At the point when you’re behind those two big doors before you make your pitch it’s really nerve-wracking. But we had been practicing incessantly and made sure we knew everything. During the filming, we talked quite fast because we each had two cups of Bulletproof coffee before going in. We were in the zone.  

nh360: What was the response from your fans on social media? Did you receive a surge of interest immediately after the episode aired?

CB: We didn’t really know what to expect. We were preparing for an onslaught on social media and our website, but we had no idea what that really meant. We’re still going through thousands of emails and product orders. We are trying to organically grow our business and consumer base, so we don’t want to send out a template email. It’s time-consuming, but we’re trying to answer each email personally.

We love to see the enthusiasm on social media. It’s been exploding and people are really interested about our product. The demographics of Shark Tank viewers are different than those who live in L.A. or NYC. It’s exciting to resonate with people living in other states like Wisconsin and Florida.

nh360: What’s your game plan for getting this innovative product into more hands?

CB: We’ll still sell direct-to-consumer on and Thrive Market. But we’re focused on driving volume and replacing plastic mainly through (partnerships) with event planning organizations. We have meetings with big theme parks and holiday party centers.

We’re focusing on the wedding season as well. For example, we’re delivering 5,000 compostable cups to one woman’s wedding. The wedding industry is huge, and green weddings are becoming more popular—brides are looking for fewer disposables.

nh360: What advice do you have for other food entrepreneurs who have the opportunity to pitch their product to investors?

CB: Something that the producers taught us on Shark Tank is the acronym A.B.S., which stands for Always Be Selling. It means to sell not just your company but also you and your partners as a team, and your vision. The product is important, but it’s almost secondary to your vision. And remember there are opportunities inside the conference room but also everywhere in life.

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