For viewers, a Shark Tank vote of confidence is considered the make-or-break moment for a business. Get it and the business will succeed, albeit with some struggles involved. Miss on it and the business is assumed to fail.
As we all know, though, assumptions can be dangerous. That’s proven to be the case with Spoonful of Comfort, a delivery service that failed to get the support of the Shark Tank panel back in 2007.
So what happened to Spoonful of Comfort after Shark Tank, exactly? Let’s dive in and see how Spoonful of Comfort fared trying to navigate the shark-infested business waters without the approval and backing of the high-profile panel.
The Spoonful Story
Spoonful of Comfort was started by Marti Wyman in 2002 as a way to deliver comfort food from a distance.
The business was based on her family situation; Wyman’s mother lived in New Brunswick, Canada while she was in Florida raising young children, and she wanted to find a way to send her mother foods like chicken soup that would help give her a stronger sense of connection.
To do this, she came up with Spoonful of Comfort as a way to send gourmet gift baskets to faraway family members.
These included other soups, specifically homemade tomato basil and potato keep soup, the Wyman eventually added six different kinds of cookies to the bundle, which cost $69.
The bundle also came with possible upgrades to tea, blankets, and inspirational books for an extra fee, and the guarantee was that the food would be prepared with the same level of loving comfort that Wyman put into what she sent her mother.
Wyman founded the company herself, but Scott Gustafson eventually joined as an investor. There was also an emotional connection for Wyman when her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she couldn’t make the trip to Canada to be with her. Unfortunately, Wyman’s mother tragically died before she could get to taste the soup.
The Shark Tank Story
Spoonful of Comfort was already in business when Wyman and Gustafson went on Shark Tank in 2007, and the fledgling company had amassed an impressive total of a million dollars in sales.
They used a daily deal website to build their customer base, but they were losing money despite the high volume of customers.
Wyman and Gustafson were seeking an investment of $400K to make up for that loss, in exchange for a 10 percent stake in the company, and they handed out soup samples to the sharks to create a sense of personal involvement in the product.
The Sharks response to the product was problematic. The gift baskets cost $31 each to manufacture, and the cost of getting a customer was $18, versus an initial sales price of $35. That price was bumped to $69.99 plus $14.99 in postage, and they were able to generate $100K in revenue.
Despite this improvement in the basic business formula, the Sharks were reluctant to commit. Barbara Corcoran was excited when she discovered that another investor had put $1.3 million in the business, and Mark Cuban quickly flowed.
Daymond John, meanwhile, liked the concept but couldn’t envision a way to expand the business, so he left based on that assessment. Lori Greiner liked the soup but also saw the business as unsustainable, so she was out, too.
Robert Herjavec’s logic was somewhat different. He saw that the company had been in business for five years but hadn’t eliminated the wrinkles from the formula or the process, so he used that as his exit logic.
Kevin O’Leary expressed uncertainty about being able to lower their acquisition costs, so the final verdict from the Sharks was a disappointing “no deal.”
Unlike some companies, Spoonful of Comfort continued to operate after the “no-deal” verdict, and they remain in business successfully to this day.
So how did they do it? The key was a combination of product expansion and a focus on scalability, the latter of which was one of the issues the Sharks had with the promising company.
The first round of new products included Butternut Squash, a Gluten-Free package, and an offering called Fall Harvest Vegetables.
The site format was also shifted to allow potential customers to browse by occasion, with the categories including getting well, Sympathy, Thinking of You, Corporate Gifts, a New Parent Gift Basket, and Just Because.
This helped Spoonful of Comfort create new audience segments, some of which were closely related, while others like the corporate category helped them penetrate a new and potentially lucrative market with regard to scalability.
In addition, the package was expanded and standardized. It includes a 64-ounce jar of soup, a half-dozen cookies, six rolls, a personalized ladle and notecard, and bespoke packaging designed to boost the brand identity and make it more recognizable.
The sub-menus have expanded as well. Customers can now check out a variety of soups and cookies, with the latter including sugar, chocolate chip, and oatmeal raisin.
The scalability was heeded in the form of a 2017 offering in which a cookies-only package became available, and the cookies are available in four different flavors with 2-3 day shipping as a complementary part of the package.
The package was priced at $19.99, with a low-cost option to help avoid the perception that the new cookie package was overpriced.
In addition, Spoonful of Comfort now offers other options that include tranquil tea, a cozy blanket, a honey box that comes with a dipper, and a stylish apron.
The key to the business’s success has been the reviews, which have grown steadily and reflect a positive customer experience.
There are now over 1400 reviews on the site, which offers fairly conclusive proof that this kind of business can make a go of it without the high-level visibility the Sharks provide.
The company continues to grow by remaining true to its original formula. There are now baskets for children, and customers can subscribe to a discount coupon service to capitalize on various offerings.
There’s also a Sympathy and Solace Care Package that includes a cable knit blanket, and the package as a whole is geared for those who have suffered a loss.
Being in the right market at the right time is important, too, and that’s definitely helped Spoonful of Solace on its journey to success in the last few years.
The combination of the pandemic and the rising popularity of delivery services created an even higher demand for products for those offered by Spoonful of Comfort, and the overall results of the company’s post-Shark Tank are astounding, really.
The company is now not only profitable, but SoC does incredibly well when it comes to both sales and revenue. Heading into 2022, Spoonful of Comfort now has an annual revenue of over $68 million dollars, so while the Sharks definitely had some solid advice to offer, they seriously missed the boat when it came to capitalizing on the lucrative potential of this company.
That $400K would easily have grown to millions of dollars by now, provided the owners of Spoonful of Comfort were allowed to pursue their dreams by remaining true to their unique brand and vision.
So what’s the final takeaway from Spoonful of Comfort’s experience with Shark Tank?
There are two basic elements that seem most relevant:
(1) the business advice offered by the Sharks and the values contained in that advice
(2) the ability to persevere after a setback like being turned down by the Sharks, which was doubtless perceived as a huge failure at the time.
We’ll start with a breakdown of the advice. Most of it was at least relevant, and parts were both excellent and indispensable.
The owners of Spoonful of Comfort might have reached the same conclusions about products, costs, and scalability on their own, but receiving it from the Sharks added a level of credibility to that advice that gave it extra weight.
But the Sharks also missed big when it came to seeing the big picture. It’s clear from their reactions that they saw Spoonful of Comfort as a small, low-level business with little potential for expansion, and the overall results turned out to be the exact opposite of that.
The takeaway regarding perseverance after a setback is more conventional, but there are unusual lessons associated with it just the same.
The experts from Shark Tank saw the flaws in the business model, and despite the rejection, Marti Wyman was smart enough to take their analysis to heart and make the appropriate changes.
But what the Sharks missed was the long-term potential of Spoonful of Comfort. They looked at the immediate numbers and saw a great concept with a price point that wasn’t high enough to offset costs, despite the SoC’s ability to attract customers.
All businesses that make it to Shark Tank have some amount of potential, though, and the potential of Marti Wyman’s business was based on personal experience.
That gave her the drive to keep going, make the necessary adjustments, and turn Spoonful of Comfort into a great success story, even after she was turned down by the Sharks.