For entrepreneur and successful Shark Tank contestant Luke Lucas, pitching to the sharks for an investment in his health food business Foddies was the least stress-inducing thing he had to do on the day of filming for the Network Ten TV show.
That’s because, after fighting tooth and nail for a $100,000 investment deal from foodie shark Janine Allis, Lucas took his moment on national TV to propose to his business partner and long-time girlfriend Christina Glentis.
With a yes from both Glentis and Allis on last night’s episode of Shark Tank, Lucas feels positive about the whole experience, but says the deal with Allis is still passing through due diligence.
And as for the more personal proposal, Lucas says he and Glentis are waiting until the end of next year to have their wedding, telling SmartCompany their business is “number one” for the time being.
Foddies was founded by Lucas and Glentis in 2015 after the two realised there was a niche to fill in the food retail market for consumers suffering from allergies and intolerances, such as those requiring a low-FODMAP diet.
The two dove into the tank seeking a $100,000 investment for 10% of the business, at a valuation of $1 million.
At the time of filming, Lucas says the business was pivoting from being primarily a cafe to a more retail and wholesale-focused model, with only six stockists for its products when the segment filmed. This led to some concerns from the sharks, however, in the time since, the two have expanded that number out to 80 stockists and have some tentative overseas expansion plans in the works.
As for the pitch itself, Lucas says the founders’ biggest concern was not “looking like a fool” in front of five respected investors and on national TV.
“We ironed out what we were going to say and we knew our numbers back to front. Luckily with a finance background I have a natural affinity for numbers, so [Glentis] talked about the food and I talked about the numbers,” Lucas says.
“We’d done a small bootcamp on pitching a few months earlier, but this was our first formal pitch.”
Despite significant interest from all sharks bar Steve Baxter — who quickly dropped out, citing a lack of belief in low-FODMAP diets as the reason — offers for a stake in Foddies didn’t come quickly; the other sharks began dropping out, after each finding issues with the business.
“A lot of the criticism was valid. At the time we were a very young business and one of the areas we thought we might trip up is in being too early,” Lucas says.
“We got on quite well with Naomi [Simson], but she said she couldn’t invest in us because we were quite early in our journey.”
However, Lucas was the one to see blood in the water, sensing hesitation from Allis as she too turned down the investment opportunity. Just as all seemed lost, Lucas persisted and eventually received an offer from the Boost Juice founder of $100,000 for 40% of Foddies, which meant giving away 30% more equity than first planned.
“It was a fine line between persistence and harassment, and I was very aware of not crossing that line. At the same time, I wasn’t going to stop until I got a firm ‘no’ response,” Lucas says.
“To get anywhere you have to persevere, and you’re not going to survive long in this space if you fall at the first hurdle, as you’ll hit a new hurdle every day.”
Working with Allis has been fantastic, says Lucas, and although there’s no money involved yet, the shark has been helping the two founders in a mentorship capacity.
For Foddies, Lucas says the business is, “in a way”, trying to emulate Allis’ success, noting the overall goals for the business are to start franchising and get products onto supermarket shelves.
“It has been invaluable to get her influence in terms of ‘this is what you’re going to encounter’,” he says.
With a goal of having products stocked in stores all across Australia and New Zealand, Foddies has just locked down a distribution deal in Adelaide, and recently opened a new donut cafe in Melbourne to serve what it believes is a largely untapped market for low-FODMAP donuts.
For other aspiring entrepreneurs, Lucas says his key piece of advice is to “never be afraid of hard work”.
“You need to be comfortable that you will fail. That sounds stupid and not encouraging, but you need to prepare for it,” he says.
“You need to have the mindset that no matter how hard you work, there’s still the chance you’ll fail, and you need to be prepared for that no matter how hard you work.”