When Jenni-Lyn Williams pitched Shark Tank, she was eight months pregnant with her second child. She also was only weeks from having sent the show producers an email, expressing interest in appearing on the program. Unlike legions of Shark Tank entrepreneurs who apply year after year, attend casting calls and otherwise reach out in vain hope of getting on the program, Williams was cast quickly — despite being certain, as she told Philadelphia magazine, that she’d never be allowed in front of the cameras.
“I never really thought about [applying to Shark Tank] given the nature of the labeling of my product. It’s an ABC show, and Disney owns ABC. So because I didn’t think I’d ever pass through and make it on TV, I wasn’t even going to apply.”
That labelling has a bit of an edge. It’s what makes Snarky Tea stand out, and Williams does not hide the fact that her company is largely a marketing play. She told ESU Insider that, after being told by her doctor to switch to tea from coffee, she was uninspired by the existing tea names on the market, which tended towards the flower variety — “Wake the f**k up,” to her, was a more meaningful moniker.
Williams, an MBA grad from Villanova, was wise to take a shot on Shark Tank. She got a deal with Kevin O’Leary and guest shark Bethenny Frankel, who each took 25 percent of her company. Although that leaves Williams with just 50 percent equity stake in the business she started only a year before Shark Tank, she told Philadelphia magazine she doesn’t have any regrets.
“The highest percentage to give away is 50 percent, and that’s what I gave away. I did so because I wanted to be realistic with my valuation.
“I knew I wanted to go for the deal when the two of them got on board to work together, so it’s really 25 percent and 25 percent for them each. When you have partners like that, the value isn’t just the investments. But it’s also the experience and personal side. I couldn’t be happier with the partners I got.”
She was particularly motivated to be on the show, once it became clear the Shark Tank team was interested in arranging a pitch. Producers feared she may not be able to fly due to her advanced stage of pregnancy, but Williams was prepared to walk to the taping if need be. As she told Philadelphia, she had a different set of concerns.
“I talked to them beforehand because my biggest concern was potentially having to pee while in there.”
Williams has continued to grow her still young tea company, in part by connecting with current students of her business school, Villanova. Speaking in March 2018, she said the company is about empowering other women.
As for sales, Snarky Tea had sold about $270,000 worth of tea as of November, 2017, the time of her Shark Tank appearance. She’d begun the company just over a year before, in October, 2016, while still an MBA student. The investment from Frankel and O’Leary was $150,000 combined, meaning they gave Snarky Tea at $300,000 valuation at the time of her Shark Tank taping.
Snarky Tea’s Shark Tank episode is set to re-air on ABC Friday, May 25, 2018.