The reality of appearing on a reality show: You better grow a thick skin

Dani and I taped our segment of Shark Tank in July of 2012. Three days after my 50th birthday.

We left L.A. with a deal and the knowledge that at some point between fall 2012 and spring 2013 we might be fortunate enough to air.

Once we returned, we immediately focused on preparing for the “mystery” date. Systems were put into place; the website was enhanced. There was a lot to do and not knowing when we’d air made the task a bit unnerving. But we dug in, worked hard and organized ourselves.

What we didn’t plan for or even expect was the volume of emails and phone calls that we would receive after we aired during primetime on ABC’s hit show.

The day after we aired, we went to the shop and found thousands of emails. The phone was ringing nonstop. Our voice mail was full. It took a week to finally get all of that under control. There were tons of inquiries about ordering product as we had anticipated there would be. What was a nice surprise were all of the emails and calls from viewers wishing us well.

And then there was the rest…The emails that I hadn’t prepared myself for. The horrible and ugly personal attacks.

I was manning the email when we aired that night, and to this day I’m so grateful it was me and not Dani. The negative and hateful comments leveled at the two of us on such a personal level were absolutely mind blowing. The bulk of my haters ranted on and on about how stupid I was to take the royalty deal in perpetuity.

I had enough sense to know that a lot of people just didn’t have enough vision to understand how a royalty deal with someone like Kevin would benefit us versus a royalty deal with just any investor. And though it was hard reading emails and tweets from men telling me that “we little girls needed to stay in the kitchen and leave business to the big boys”, I understood the ignorance that comments like that were born from.

What really bothered me were the attacks on Dani’s appearance. Because she had visible tattoos, she was the subject of comments calling her names like a “skank”. The kind of words no mother ever wants to hear or read about one of her kids. Especially coming from complete strangers who don’t even know us! These people didn’t understand that when we first started and were paying ourselves $20/week, Dani saved several weeks of her pay in order to buy sleeping bags and food for some homeless men she passed one day on her way to our baking facility.

And while there was also a fair share of commentary regarding my appearance, the real hurt came from knowing people were passing judgment without any facts.

It was so interesting that everywhere I went and was recognized, people would shake their head and say how sorry they were for the deal we took. Our business grew a whopping 600% the year following our appearance on Shark Tank. As far as I was concerned there was no need to feel bad for us or question our business savvy. In fact, our growth since then has allowed us to employ 20 people and to this day, we’re still growing at a rate of about 40%. Our partnership with Kevin O’Leary has opened up the opportunity to appear on dozens of television shows, be written about in hundreds of articles, be featured in two books, not to mention gain exposure to his entire team and their wealth of knowledge. As the saying goes, “you can’t buy that”.

It got so bad that a local competitor actually went to the drum shop where I take lessons and told the guys inside the shop how dumb she thought I was. Really? She had never met me, clearly had no idea of our ever growing success and yet she still took time out of her day to go and do that.  I still scratch my head with that one.

Dani was able to shrug it all off easier than I was. She even sat me down and watched Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets” with me. She said “See Mum? No one escapes nasty people. All you can do is laugh.” She was absolutely right. (Thanks Dani.)

So what have I learned from all of this? I’ve learned that the only opinions that truly matter are those of our customers, our employees and our very own. Most of the correspondence we received was lovely and supportive. And for that I’ll always be grateful.

I’ve also learned (after having spoken to dozens of other entrepreneurs that have appeared on Shark Tank), that our experience was not unique. All of them had to endure the personal attacks on social media, through email and over the phone. Sad that there are so many out there who are so quick to cast judgment without any real information. To all those people, I guess I would only ask that they think before they comment. Ask yourself how you would feel if someone commented publicly about your weight, your hair color, your intelligence, your daughter.  I think the world could be a lot better place if we all learned to encourage and not attack or discourage.

With that being said, the few negative attacks we receive now are read and deleted. End of story.

If I can get up in the morning and go to work knowing that we are working hard to provide our customers with the very best product and service we can then we’re a success in my eyes. And at the end of the day that’s all that matters.

And for the record: I’m not stupid. Dani’s not a skank and our product is Wicked Good.  ~ T