Sweet Mickie founder Emma Head admits she stepped foot on the Shark Tank pitch stage when her business was “quite young”, but before securing support from two sharks that has since proved invaluable, she faced a prickly audience.
“I was extremely nervous going into the tank,” she tells SmartCompany.
“I definitely went in when I was quite young in my business. I was definitely nervous, and I think they [the sharks] could see I was trying my best — but they still want answers.”
On last night’s episode of the Network Ten reality show for entrepreneurs, Head entered the tank hoping to secure $200,000 for a 20% equity stake in her personalised biscuit delivery business.
Sweet Mickie was founded in 2014 after Head decided baking gifts for friends was a better outlet for her creativity than her day job writing social media posts for the corporate world.
“I started making things for Valentine’s Day that said things like ‘Swipe Right’,” she says.
One of her favourite slogans to date has been the popular “Kate Moss Lied” cookie, a rebuttal for the supermodel’s assertion that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”.
However, having valued her business at $1 million and delivering each shark a box of personalised treats, Head says her nerves continued as the sharks started grilling her on numbers.
Steve Baxter, who informed fellow shark Janine Allis upon receiving his box of cookies that “gingerbread makes me fart”, was determined to get Head to answer where her business would be without the investment she asked for.
When she hesitated on this point, he suggested she did need extra help if she was stumped on a “pretty basic question”.
Ultimately Baxter and Glen Richards decided they were “not excited” by the business idea — a reality that Head tells SmartCompany wasn’t a terrible thing to hear in the long run
“I respect their honesty — if it’s not what they’re after, [you should] keep looking,” she says of the search for investment.
She had more luck, however, with Janine Allis and Andrew Banks, who both appreciated her personality and wit as a valuable part of the Sweet Mickie business.
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After each of the two sharks made offers for a $200,000 investment for an equity stake of up to 49%, Head had the quick thinking to offer an alternative and ended up securing a $200,000 offer from the pair for a 46% equity stake.
“It was appealing to me that Janine was in Melbourne, and my business was also Melbourne based. Andrew also had those valuable contacts, including with Krispy Creme, and there was some overlap there,” Head explains.
The details of the deal are still being fleshed out, but in the meantime the Sweet Mickie business has benefited from mentorship from both sharks, which was an enormous benefit when a big brand came knocking on the door of the business after the pitch to ask about a partnership.
“We will be launching into Starbucks Australia,” Head reveals. “They approached me … but then I was able to really work with Janine and Andrew,” she says.
She was able to leverage the expertise of both sharks, right up until the “pinch me” moment when the pallets were packed.
“Janine understands the buyers and understands what they want,” she says.
Sweet Mickie has now grown from a one-woman operation to a business with casuals on board to help with cookie deliveries.
Head says having the sharks around has been invaluable, because it’s helped her knuckle down and consider the numbers and business strategy, reflecting that the food sector tends to see entrepreneurs working alone without a lot of connections.
“When you’re working in food, you can’t often work in a co-working space,” she says.
When Head started Sweet Mickie, there was nobody in the Australian gift space doing personalised products in the same way. Over the past couple of years other products have popped up, and Head says she’s looking to draw on expertise of the sharks, as well as her own wit, to fight them.
“When I started in this space two years ago, there weren’t as many people in the space. But I try and be original, and I know I’m an authentic brand. I try to be funnier and smarter,” she says.