Spoiler Alert: Here’s how Katey’s ‘fight for her life’ ended on Shark Tank
BRIDGEVILLE – Katey Jo Evans’s enthusiasm and passion for her hand-packed premium ice cream and sorbet faced off Friday night against the Sharks’ appetite for entrepreneurs with a bit more experience, a bit less market competition, and a product that doesn’t require refrigeration.
No, we’re not going to tell you yet how it ended.
Evans was looking for $125,000 for 20% of The Frozen Farmer, which makes from scratch many flavors of allergen-friendly, super-premium ice cream, nice cream (a sorbet/ice cream blend), and sorbet from the fruit grown on Evans Farms as well as traditional favorites like cake batter, peanut butter cup, cookies-n-cream, and even sweet corn. She describes it as taking the concept of “farm to table” to the next level, with a product that offers “a neat way to reduce food waste at the farm level.”
The taping of her Shark Tank segment last September took well over an hour before being edited to a 15-minute roller-coaster ride that Evans now describes as “a fight for my life.”
After coming out in a pageant gown with her hand on her hip – Katey Jo was Miss Delaware National Teen in 2004 and juxtaposed that experience with her current role as a “farmer’s wife” – and peeling it off to finish her presentation in shorts and a tank top – Evans introduced the Sharks to a strawberry that was “misshapen, bruised, and slightly overripe but still nutritious and delicious.” She explained that one in five strawberries never makes it off the nation’s farms, resulting in billions of pounds of waste.
Giant is one of the Frozen Farmer’s major buyers, building on the relationship that 2,000-acre Evans Farms already has supplying the chain with produce. The Frozen Farmer opened in 2015 when she and husband, Kevin, decided to expand their third-generation Evans Farms Produce business to take the concept of “farm to table” to the next level, with a product that offers “a neat way to reduce food waste at the farm level.”
Her goal: Get help with migrating the business from hand-packing and hand-producing to finding co-packers and getting some industry expertise.
Barbara Corcoran said it was a phenomenal product but said she wasn’t sure Evans had the judgment to build a national company, a concern shared by Mark Cuban, who questioned what would happen when she no longer had the home-court advantage of Bridgeville and the Giant chain. Draymond John said a friend once told him to never invest in refrigerated products and all but told her she should go back to the farm
Evans grew continually agitated and frantic as Shark after Shark dropped out, saying she just didn’t understand what it would take to scale nationally. Cuban said, “When 10,000 people are doing something, I don’t want to be 10,001.”
And then came Lori Greiner’s turn.
Greiner started by saying it was the best-tasting ice cream she had ever had, but questioned the packaging, saying she needed to leverage the damaged fruit and the billions of dollars in waste that damaged fruit caused. Greiner promised to help improve it, “no matter what.” And then came her offer: $125,000 for 30% of the company, contingent on landing a deal with a major national grocery chain.
Evans said she was already talking to Harris-Teeter and Wegman’s and then “gratefully” took the offer.
Shortly after the show ended, Evans told the Delaware Business Times that she “cried all my makeup off tonight” as she watched the segment for the first time.
“It was all so intense, starting with walking down that hallway,” she said, explaining that the Sharks were not as hard on her as one might think from watching the show. “They loved the product and I don’t feel they were rude or too quick to judge. We had a bunch of long conversations and I learned a lot.”
Evans said her phone “started blowing up” before the show was even over with calls from all over the country and the Cayman Islands asking if she’d sell direct to them. An effort to go on The Frozen Farmer’s website generated a message that indicated a high volume of traffic.
The Frozen Farmer is ready to launch e-commerce distribution in late April, something they had been working on since before the segment taped, and with the help of Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, she’s already gotten to the co-packer level. While she hasn’t signed Harris-Teeter or Wegman’s, Evans did expand her Giant relationship earlier this year to all of the chain’s stores, which she feels satisfies Greiner’s contingency.
Evans won’t say whether she went into the taping with a preferred Shark in mind – “they all brought something to the table,” she said – she would say that “Lori’s an incredible resource when it comes to branding and packaging. Her offer to help us with our packaging was more than gracious and I always knew it could use some help.”
Looking back at the experience, Katey Jo said, “I can’t say there’s anything I’d do differently. I was able to get the offer because I put in the work. This isn’t just about our company, our brand. It’s about everyone in this community.”
In a previous interview with Delaware Business Times, Evans said, “We’re at a pivotal point in our company’s history and want to grow our brand name and recognition. From the day we opened, people had told us we should do this. My ‘maybe one day’ turned into this.”
And she’s prepared for what’s coming next, which is good considering the impact that COVID-19 has had on their business.
“Every entrepreneur probably does a substantial amount of work before their segment airs to ensure they have enough inventory and people, making sure their freezers – and those of their partners – are well stocked,” she said in early March. “This is the calm before the story. We have a marketing plan in place and are working with Giant to drive store sales.”
The Frozen Farmer is the second Delaware company to appear on Shark Tank this season. Markevis Gideon and his NERDiT NOW partners were unsuccessful during their late October appearance, when they were seeking $150,000 for a 20% ownership position in their tech repair business. The Sharks generally liked the idea but said they believed it was too early for NERDiT NOW to be investible.
By Peter Osborne