'Shark Tank' Update: The Sharks' Sour Reaction to a Vinegar Company Now Tastes Sweet
Photo: Shark Tank
Just because an entrepreneur walks away without a deal from the billionaire moguls on Shark Tank doesn’t mean the pitch was a failure. In many cases, the effort to get Mark Cuban, Lori Grenier or even Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary to invest can itself turn out to be a huge success.

That’s what happened to Jess Sanchez-McClary. The CEO of Detroit’s McClary Bros. originally pitched her drinking-vinegars business on the season premiere of the ABC-TV reality show in late September, seeking $100,000 for 15 percent of the company.

Her product was drinking vinegars, a modern version of a colonial-era cocktail and soda mixer made with natural and organic ingredients. She came up with it while studying preservative techniques at culinary school, and told the sharks that her mixes are aimed at the growing craft cocktail movement.

The Sharks weren't initially impressed. Not only did she not get an investment, she got an aggressive dismissal from O’Leary, whose criticism went over the line in the opinion of guest shark Ashton Kutcher. The reason: O’Leary's comment to Sanchez-McClary that, “Let’s be honest -- it’s four guys and dog that drink this stuff. Why are you doing this to yourself?”

Kutcher actually called him out: “You’re belittling people and that’s not OK,” he told O’Leary. “She gave you an answer, and if the answer’s not suitable, that’s fine, but you don’t have to belittle people.”

That may have buoyed Sanchez-McClary’s spirits. But what happened immediately after the Friday episode aired probably did even more: McClary’s website took in 1,000 new orders the very next day. By Monday, Sanchez-McClary was able to say, “We have done now, on the website, as much in sales as we did on the website the whole of last year.”

In the three months since, things have gotten even better. Sanchez-McClary now says she’s doubled her full-time staff from three to six people, reopened a tasting room to draw in retail customers, connected with several distributors and grown the business so much that she’s opening a second production facility next month.

And her bottom line? She estimates today that sales prompted by her Shark Tank appearance have brought in $200,000 – more than she was seeking from the sharks in the first place. “Before the holidays started, we had already done more than twice in revenue than the amount we had requested from the sharks,” Sanchez-McClary says. “I really don’t need an investor anymore.”

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