What’s it like to swim with the sharks? Jared Cannon, an alumnus of the Fox School of Business and the founder of Simply Good Jars, knows a little about that question.
Cannon appeared on a recent episode of the hit ABC television series where he pitched his sustainable salad jar company to a group of some of the most prominent investors in the world. He came out top too, ultimately earning a $500,000 investment from Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner.
In this season two finale episode of Catalyst, we catch up with Cannon to hear exactly what it was like to stand on that stage in front of a national television audience. He updates us on the plans for Simply Good Jars in the wake of his Shark Tank appearance and also offers advice to aspiring entrepreneurs who might want to follow in his footsteps.
Catalyst is a podcast from Temple University’s Fox School of Business about the pivotal moments that shape business and the global economy. We interview experts and dig deep into today’s most pressing issues. Season two will answer questions like: How will COVID-19 impact my financial future? Why hasn’t the #MeToo movement reached the professional sports industry? And what makes a leader credible? We explore these questions so you can spark change in your work. Episodes are timely, provocative and designed to help you solve today’s biggest challenges. Subscribe today.
- Founder of Simply Good Jars Jared Cannon to appear on ABC’s Shark Tank (Fox Newsroom piece)
- Philly’s Simply Good Jars CEO to Appear on New “Shark Tank” Episode (Philadelphia Magazine piece)
- Simply Good Jars on ‘Shark Tank’: Philadelphia startup to appear on hit ABC show amid business model overhaul (Philadelphia Business Journal piece)
Simply Good Jars wins $500,000 on ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’ premiere (Philadelphia Inquirer piece)
Full Episode Transcript
Intro: The Catalyst for pitching Simply Good Jars on Shark Tank really is centered around our goal and visions really to redefine packaged salads at retail and change the world and what better way to do that than to tell the world what we’re up to?
Host: Welcome to Catalyst, the podcast of Temple University’s Fox School of Business. I’m your host Tiffany Sumner. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to swim with the sharks? Today we’ll find out. We’re joined by Jared Cannon, a Fox alumnus and the founder of Simply Good Jars. Jared recently had the chance to pitch Simply Good Jars on Shark Tank. In front of a national TV audience, he negotiated with some of the world’s most prominent investors. He secured a $500,000 investment for his sustainable salad jar company. In this episode, [00:01:00] we catch up with Jared to get an update on Simply Good Jars and to pick his brain to hear how he was able to thrive in the Shark Tank. Hey Jared, thank you for joining us on Catalyst today.
Jared: Pleasure to be here, I’m really looking forward to it.
Host: Good, well congrats on your recent success, and before we talk about your recent appearance on Shark Tank, can you tell us a little bit about Simply Good Jars?
Jared: Yeah sure so, Simply Good Jars was started about three years ago to really rethink access to healthy food options and you know pre-Simply Good Jars, a lot of healthy food was packaged in kind of single-use disposable containers, it was fairly commoditized so not something that really met [00:02:00] kind of the quality and taste standards of me being a chef and so you know eating healthy wasn’t enjoyable. It was, you know, fairly convenient, but I felt like there was a need for it to be improved. So we created Simply Good Jars. It took me about five years to really kind of net out the model, but we wanted to provide fresh, healthy, good-tasting food, make it easily accessible and create packaging that was built from inception with a life cycle in mind. And you know once you’re done consuming and enjoying our products, you have this jar leftover and instead of throwing it in the garbage, we basically asked our customers to pledge to not throw it in the garbage, pledge to reuse it, recycle it, do something else don’t send it to the landfill. And if you participate and if you help us in this mission, we actually donate a meal to the local food organization in which you personally live, so that we’re effectively empowering everyday people to make impact [00:03:00] in their communities by making better choices from the food that they’re putting in their bellies but also to the impact able to create around them.
Host: That’s such a cool idea. It’s my understanding that the idea at least in part was honed at the Fox School at Temple, specifically in IEI, our Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute. Can you talk a little bit about what the experience was like coming up with the idea for Simply Good Jars and how it evolved during your time at Fox?
Jared: Yeah so, I remember even the phone interview when I was applying to be a part and be accepted into the program, and you know I had this wacky crazy idea that you know I’ve been working on, but didn’t really understand, you know, how do I get it to market and the whole intention to really pursue that program was to create and build a foundation of knowledge and best practices and create a network of people that could help me actually bring this to life. And so that’s exactly what happened throughout the IEI program, was, you know, I had this idea that was somewhat netted [00:04:00] out for about three and a half years prior to starting the program and I was able to in real-time apply concepts like the business model canvas. Apply concepts, about you, know about product marketing strategy and crossing the chasm and all of these things that are part of really kind of the life cycle of any product, whether it be software, food or technology or whatever. And so I was able to really iterate my concept in a more go-to-market way and I actually did not introduce the concept for the business of Simply Good Jars until about a year post-graduation. It was definitely a critical part of the process. I think at the end of the day, build foundational knowledge and gives me a little bit of confidence to, you know, quit my six-figure job. I launched the company on a $1,000 loan, so you can figure out how crazy that sounds, and so time at Fox was really spent on kind of refining [00:05:00] what had already been conceptualized, but refining it in a way that made it financially and economically feasible from a business model perspective.
Host: Got it, because, that’s right, your background, you were actually an executive chef or a chef and you came to the Fox Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship program to help you figure out how to become an entrepreneur.
Jared: Correct, yep. So I had always been I think you know I had that entrepreneurial kind of burn right? I was always looking for a little bit more, you know, whatever you call it right when you’re at work and you feel like you’re not contributing as much as you want to be and you know you want to have a little bit more leash to make a little bit more kind of out-of-the-box decisions or implement things you think of have massive impacts and you know that autonomy was just kind of lacking in traditional kind of employment in a workplace. Even at the top right as an executive chef, there were still stings operationally [00:06:00] that kind of don’t really fall under your wheelhouse. So yeah I always had that burn and the move into running my own businesses has been fantastic and every way with that in mind, for sure.
Host: I guess before we talk about Shark Tank because we have so many questions and we’re so excited to know what that experience was like, I’m curious how Simply Good Jars fared through the pandemic? Can you walk us through maybe the history leading up to 2020 and then how things have fared since?
Jared: Yeah so, the pandemic drastically changed the entire business model we actually created at Fox. But you know another critical kind of component that you kind of learn or you know assuming you’re paying attention, is you have to listen to your customer and you know you can have the best idea and have the best product you think in the world, chances are it’s going to change right when it gets into the hands of customers and consumers are going to tell you what they like, what they dislike. It’s [00:07:00] not, you know, available in the right place for them and as you can imagine our business model pre COVID, was to really introduce our ready-to-eat, healthy, accessible meals in these smart vending machines that were placed in office buildings, in hospitals, convention centers, hotels you know places where food was either not available at all or let alone fresh healthy food you know on the floor of a building that was you know 80 feet tall in Manhattan. So all those places literally vacated overnight. Our business went from doing great to 98%, it was gone overnight and you know at the time, people were thinking it was weeks or maybe a month and that will return to normal and pretty quickly it became evident that that was not going to happen. So you know we very quickly were able to really address the same customer with the same product where they now were, which was at home, [00:08:00]shopping at their local grocery store and we were able to provide kind of service to get Simply Good Jars into the hands of our customers at home and that business model has now really solidified in 2021 as the core of what we do. So Simply Good Jars today is solely and exclusively a wholesale distributed and manufactured product available to our customers at retail in several channels so you know convenience, grocery, drug, mass-market, e-commerce places where our customers are the businesses selling it at retail price to the consumer.
Host: What was it like as an entrepreneur to make that pivot?
Jared: It is crazy, right? And kind of to put you into the mindset you know you have your business literally disappear overnight. [00:09:00] I had a team of 14 people that had you know — it’s one thing when you’re an executive chef of a restaurant that you don’t own and you got to terminate people and you got to do things. It’s a whole nother game when you have people that believe in you, your vision, the company, the product, where you’re going and so, you know, the mindset was, it was my responsibility or at least I assume the responsibility for these people’s well-being and making sure that they continue to be able to have employment. And so we made very quick decisions fueled primarily on taking care of our people but also to kind of try and find a way to save the business and keep revenues up so that we didn’t burn a bunch of cash. So you know, the sneak peek behind the curtain was really fueled by making sure our team, which we always put first and foremost was taken care of, but more so finding a new way to market to reach the same consumer in an efficient and scalable fashion not just temporarily. So that lens was really [00:10:00] meant to understand that holes have been poked in our model due to unforeseen circumstance with the pandemic, and we needed to pandemic proof our business so to speak and so that’s kind of what we did, faster than anyone thought possible. But I like to say in extraordinary times, typically you’ll try things that you might not have normally tried and sometimes you get surprised by the outcome. You know, for us, as bad as a pandemic has been and was for our business, it may have forced a focus on what we do in the best way possible.
Host: I was going to say it can’t all be bad news because your appearance on Shark Tank came about shortly after you were named Entrepreneur of the Year in Philly, so how did you secure the spot on ABC?
Jared: [00:11:00]So way before anybody even knew what or thought about the word COVID or pandemic, we had been reached out to by the executive producers of the show or the casting team, I’m sorry, of the show to introduce the upcoming auditions and process for season 12. And, you know, for me, at the time, you know it’s one of those things when you don’t have enough time in the day, how do you make time to do something like this? That was just kind of the initial reality because you are just so inundated in trying to do what you’re trying to do and stay focused and not get too distracted. But you know, in the moment it just became one of those let’s give it a shot type of things right. And so I pitched literally my cell phone 500 times, I think I got kind of a picture video submitted into the casting team, created an application, went through tons and tons of interviews and [00:12:00] the process continued thereafter. It wasn’t until COVID had hit, the business model had changed that the actual filming went on in August of last year in 2020. And it’s one of those things where you go, you do it, it is what it is. It’s something I’ll never forget, for sure, but you know you never know if you’re going to air on on television or going to be part of the season, be selected as a pitch for an episode, so you know we got nine days to notice that you’ve been selected and you’re going to be on television in nine days, right? So I’m just throwing out a number, it might not be exactly nine but it was one of those things where you don’t know until you know and then you just have to do the best you can to prepare.
Host: Where was it shot?
Jared: We were in Las Vegas.
Host: Oh ok, so you had to get on a plane?
Jared: Oh yeah.
Host: [00:13:00] So what was the experience like I mean actually when you were onstage pitching? Did it go how you planned, did you feel more or less nervous than you thought you would?
Jared: I was way more nervous than I thought or had ever been. You know, I sum it up by saying it was equally terrifying, inspirational but surprisingly energizing. And so you walk out and this is pandemic time, you know, you never know how it normally operates but you’re just walking out into a room with the sharks in front of you and you’re just you’re doing your pitch, nobody’s telling you what to say, what to do, things to prepare for you just have to be confident that you know your business better than anybody else and, you know, be prepared to create a vision and a compelling opportunity in a very short amount of time to people who have no background knowledge of you, your company, what you’ve done, where you’re going, your successes, your failures, so it’s a lot to take in [00:14:00] and couldn’t tell you how long I was out there or what I said because it was an out-of-body experience, seemed to show well on TV, which I’m grateful for but yeah I was a nervous wreck so.
Host: You could not tell. I promise you because we all watched and we were just like wow. You nailed it, especially the negotiation. And that to me was one of the most interesting parts because there were a lot of back-and-forths. What was that like in the moment?
Jared: You know, like I said I don’t recall a lot of the details just because I was so you know, inundated with circles of emotion but you know it’s one of those things where as an entrepreneur, even when I was at Fox, right? I had no idea what an angel or venture capitalist was, what you know a seed round and around you know debt-equity, percentage, know all these things and how they related to being able to effectively [00:15:00] start, operate and fund a business without needing to draw from your savings kind of thing, right? And so like I said, I started on a thousand dollar loan and quickly throughout this process forced the learning of how this world works as it relates to you know investments in equity through debt. And so I’ve kind of learned the language so to speak it. It was just one of those things where I was trying to speak the language of the investor but also try and make it palatable for the audience at home to be able to follow along and not get lost in the jargon right so.
Host: You ended up with a $500,000 investment for 10% equity from Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner. Is that what you were hoping for when you came on to the show and what would have made you walk away?
Jared: So I think you know I went out there without really any preconceived notions or barriers. It was [00:16:00] more about, again trying to create that opportunity and to find partners that I felt had a background or somewhat of an understanding of food production distribution, manufacturing, marketing, distribution all these things, right? And so obviously we did our research, pretty significant research and from a portfolio perspective, Mark has done a lot of food deals and we knew that going in. And we knew that there was value there, potentially if we could create some sort of interest. And then interestingly, Lori has also done some food deals but also has a great kind of access and networks into a lot of the mass retailers and then some of the retailers that are a little bit harder to kind of break into you know when you’re just the normal company with a cool, innovative product. So we thought and kind of went in there with the thinking that those would be the ideal [00:17:00] — that would be the ideal partnership but I was open to anything, right? Even, you know, Damon or even Kevin O’Leary or you know Robert Wright? So it really came down to I think what would have made me walk away is if I got the feeling that nobody really understood the business and or felt like they could help in some way. So you know I wasn’t there just for a check, I was not there to be one of these companies that go on with a falsehood of a deal and just to kind of get on air and hopefully kind of showcase the product and take advantage of that. I went out there with the best of intentions to strike a deal, to kind of live in the moment, which I can’t recall but and with the intention of living the moment, and you know make the best decision I could base on any of the inputs that I would get kind of in real-time. One of the things I always say about being an entrepreneur is you know, [00:18:00] it is a life decision making. There are tough decisions, there are easy decisions but at the end of the day, there’s a lot of choices that get made and you get fairly familiar and good at identifying how to make those choices as it relates to your ultimate vision and goal for the company or trajectory or things that you’re looking for it to help build or enhance the business.
Host: How much have you communicated with Mark and Lori since you’ve been on the show?
Jared: Oh, weekly.
Host: That’s really great. So I think it’s safe to say, 2021 got off to a really great start for you and Simply Good Jars. What’s next?
Jared: So what’s next for Simply Good Jars is mind-blowing. So even before airing on Shark Tank right and I think it would make March 5th right is — we could not tell anyone. Not customers, not even part of our team [00:19:00] that this was potentially coming, that there was potential exposure for this opportunity so we have over the course of about a year right with a pandemic starting last March built a pretty monstrous pipeline of customers at retail and the airing of Shark Tank has only accelerated that beyond anyone’s opportunity right? Because we did not get to the table, we did not get the product in people’s hands and interest to get the product on the shelves leveraging Shark Tank at all, and then Shark Tank comes, we get half a million people come in signing up to let us know when Simply Good jars are made available near them and now all of a sudden, we have people that when we open in different markets or different retailers, we can kind of create a geofence around those locations, we can identify people that have signed up using the zip codes. Boom, we can let them know hey now available at retailer X near you around the corner. That is what the power of [00:20:00] Shark Tank and what the power of being on the show has brought to the business moving forward in 2021. But you will see Simply Good jars in several states and several regions of the country and we’re on track to have national distribution in the next year. it’s running wild and we’re trying to, you know, make sure that we continue the execute flawlessly, our product and our quality never compromises and that we can continue to create that impact everywhere Simply Good Jars made available and so 2021 is a super exciting year but we’re just getting started and you know right now, it’s about you know fueling the growth with the new capital and also building the team.
Host: That sounds great and congratulations on all your success. So in closing, we’d love to ask for you to give advice to future entrepreneurs and students who are just figuring out what their business is and finding their way.
Jared: Yeah, of course, you know my time at Fox you know [00:21:00] I think I got to experience some of what I’m about to give advice on, but you know I like to say there’s a misconception I think especially when you have a business idea that you need to keep it close to your chest, you can’t share with anyone because people are going to steal it, they’re going to do it before you can and the reality is no two ideas can be executed the same way through two different individuals. There’s going to be a founder- itis around each idea and the creation in the way that it comes to market and you know as I alluded to earlier in the podcast, you know the idea of getting your products and even at the idea phase, into the hands or for opinions of potential customers at the end of the day they’re going to tell you how they want it, where they want it, what they’re willing to pay for it all of these types of things, and so I highly doubt any successful business product or company has remained the same from ideation [00:22:00] stage to a success story. And the ones that make it asked the question to the customer, and they are able to adjust to the needs and kind of things with a customer. So I always say whatever your idea is no matter at this stage, find as many people as you can tell them what you’re working on, why you think it’s important, know the value proposition so to speak that you’re creating and what the value is in terms of you know what you would charge for what the value received would be and do that as many times as possible. Attend events right I did a ton of Temple kind of free events with speakers, with networking and a little different in COVID times but it will come back. And through some of those conversations, here’s what I’m working on you know, what do you think and I always took the approach that the way that I would frame my story, how I was doing what I was doing, [00:23:00] the intention behind it as well as the actual value proposition once I got a response out of whoever I was talking to that said, ‘Wow that is great I would buy that is so smart,’ and there wasn’t anybody telling me anymore you know what you should do? You know that kind of thing that I kind of had the approach or the best possible approach down and then what surprises — what surprised me was the amount of people that at no charge said you know who I should introduce you to. And so through telling people your idea as broadly and widely as possible and being open to hearing what they’re saying and then applying it in real-time to your idea or your approach, you also get this kind of web of people around you that is free. People want to innately help people that are working on [00:24:00] something that they know they believe in or think could have an impact and so really quickly, now all of a sudden, I’ve refined an idea and been able to deliver it in an understandable way. I now have people around me that I’m getting connected to that you know create a path into Comcast or a path into some of these customers that I would never thought we could have had an opportunity with like Jefferson Healthcare or Hilton Hotels. So my advice is simple, tell your idea as broadly and as passionately to as many people as you come in contact with, be open to feedback, you know solicit it if needed, change and iterate you’re approaching value proposition, and look for that kind of introduction into other people that can help you because you’d be surprised how quickly all of those things together can create a real opportunity.
Host: I want to thank Jared for joining us and sharing his experience with Simply Good Jars. Within a few years, Jared went from founding a company with just $1,000 to earning a half-million-dollar investment on Shark Tank. It’s a fascinating story and it’s one of many stories of resilience and entrepreneurship within the Fox Community. Coming out of one of the most difficult years in recent history, it was especially heartening to learn how Jared has thrived. Aspiring entrepreneurs will want to adhere to his advice: listen to others, your customers, attendees at conferences, potential partners and investors. Be open to incorporating their feedback to refine their business and do so while you are connecting to new people and growing your network. This advice is paying off as it seems like the [00:26:00] best is still to come for Jared and Simply Good Jars.
Catalyst is a podcast from Temple University’s Fox School of Business. Visit us on the web at fox.temple.edu/catalyst. We are produced by Milkstreet Marketing, Megan Alt, Anna Batt, Stephen Orbanek and Karen Naylor. I hope you’ll join us next time. Until then, I’m Tiffany Sumner and this is Catalyst. [00:19:00]