Shark Tank often loves student-run companies. In the past, the dramatic venture capital reality program — a program that shark Kevin O’Leary calls a VC firm “on steroids” — has promoted many young people getting a jump start in the world of business. There was Henry’s Humdingers, whose founder, Henry Miller, started his honey business before he was old enough to vote. Last season, there was a curt exchange of words after Scholly founder Christopher Gray, then a university student, left the tank with investments from Lori Greiner and Daymond John, before the other potential investors had asked all their questions.
Now, another student entrepreneur, Jesse Wolfe of O’Dang Hummus, is set to go before the panel in search of financial support. Wolfe’s company had humble beginnings. As he told UCF Starters, Wolfe could only eat soft food after his wisdom teeth were removed. He discovered hummus but was disheartened by the limited flavor offerings. He started concocting his own creative flavor combinations, his girlfriend took some to her work, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
Wolfe decided on short notice to enter the University of Central Florida’s entrepreneurship competition, The Joust, and won third prize. It was then that a new twist on a traditional snack food was born. But Wolfe discovered the road was not easy. He started selling his hummus at farmers’ markets around Central Florida, but not before overcoming the serious hurdles of entry.
IC Florida reported that Wolfe was turned down by six different farmers’ markets. He told UCF Starters getting a spot in the traditional summer events turned out to be very “cutthroat,” with one market, Lake Eola, having a two-year waiting list. Wolfe wedged his way in by handing cash over to a market worker, who in exchange introduced him to the woman in charge. Wolfe had her try his hummus, and his spot on the farmers’ market grass was secured.
O’Dang Hummus is set to launch in 1,100 Publix stores. On its website, the brand has an expanded offering of O’Dang hummus sauces, that are dairy, oil, and preservative-free. The brand maintains an Instagram feed featuring delicious food photos, and the occasional creative use of photoshop.
It is common for businesses to get a spike in sales after a Shark Tank appearance. Past Shark Tank entrepreneurs have had difficulty meeting initial demand and maintaining interest in their product. Despite the challenges of the food industry, many of Shark Tank‘s most successful entrepreneurs have sold food products. Barbara Corcoran invested in Cousins Maine Lobster, Daymond John invested in Bubba’s-Q Boneless Ribs, and Kevin O’Leary invested in Plated after the company’s handshake deal with Mark Cuban failed to close.
Jesse Wolfe couldn’t say before the program how his Shark Tank venture panned out, but he told the Orlando Sentinel there’s no behind-the-scenes fakery that goes on. He also gushed about the company’s advocates who have propelled it forward.
“I will say that ‘Shark Tank’ is extremely real. There are no cue cards or any scripts. What you see on TV is exactly what happens. The entire process has been an eight-month journey that has been a roller coaster of emotion. I am so grateful to the sharks, the producers, UCF and especially our fans. We would not even be anywhere close to this moment without all of the love and support from our fans.”
You can see Jesse Wolfe serve some O’Dang Hummus to the sharks when Shark Tank airs on ABC, Friday at 9 p.m.
[Main image: Courtesy of O’Dang Hummus/Instagram]