Why This Trendy Snack Company Is Barbara Corcoran's Favorite 'Shark Tank' Investment
She said the best thing about the deal is that she got two "phenomenal" entrepreneurs, siblings Jeff and Jen Martin.
"Do you know how exciting it is to get two for the price of one?" Corcoran asked. "Usually you have a winning entrepreneur and a sidekick who's a quanter [numbers person]. Or you get the quanter running the show and the sidekick has to be pushed up above them, and that's tricky business. I've had to do that."
Not only has she not had to manipulate the siblings' dynamic, but the company expects to grow its 2014 revenue of about $800,000 by 800% to 900% in 2015, with an additional 30 to 40 employees recruited, according to Jeff.
The Martins founded Pipsnacks in 2012 after they got the idea for mass-producing an unusual kind of popcorn that Jen had come across in her job at a Chicago health-food store. The company's premiere product is Pipcorn, a type of popcorn with a small kernel that doesn't get stuck in your teeth, which comes in a variety of all-natural flavors.
They made a deal with Corcoran that was finalized this past November for a $200,000 investment in exchange for a 10% stake of the company and a 10% draw from the Martins' salaries — they're currently not taking traditional salaries, so the latter part of the deal is still small.
At the end of 2013, Pipsnacks had three employees and about $200,000 in sales. After its appearance on "Shark Tank," business exploded.
Jeff said he was happy to hear that Corcoran recognized how he and his sister have complementary skill sets. They share a drive and vision, he said, but he is more detail-oriented and she is task-oriented. "Without her, I tell people, I would still be trying to perfect the logo or the packaging. With her, everything gets done in the right amount of time, and it gets done properly."
He also said that it's been incredibly important to both of them that they get along well, especially when things get tough. Sometimes "I'll lose my mind laughing" with her, he said. "That makes all the difference in terms of stress over all the work that needs to be done."
This year, the Martins will work with Corcoran — whose offices are a five-minute cab ride downtown from them in Manhattan — to expand to many more stores around the US. Pipcorn is now available in 75 stores.
Corcoran's investment in the company is more like a mentorship and has already been paying off, Jeff said. Not only did she introduce the Martins to a connection who could hook them up with some big-box stores, but her influence has made them sharper businesspeople.
Jeff and Jen have paid close attention to the way Corcoran carries herself. When she enters a room to discuss a business deal, "you know that she can do it and has done it and will do it," he said, referring to a palpable and reassuring self-confidence in her abilities and company.
Before they developed a relationship with Corcoran, Jeff said they would have a hard time negotiating with influential distributors who work with major snack companies, in part because they were intimidated.
"After meeting Barbara, we go into these meetings and now we can negotiate with the best of 'em. We get what we want," he said.