Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Jackson’s Honest lands a shark and a huge investment on Shark Tank

Crested Butte family business reaches another plateau

By Mark Reaman

As millions of viewers across the country watched the ABC television show Shark Tank Sunday evening, local chip company Jackson’s Honest website exploded. And that carried over into the following days, with more website visits and more orders for chips.

Crested Butte’s Scott and Megan Reamer jumped into the Shark Tank on October 1 and came away with a $1.25 million investment from former Coca-Cola executive and investor Rohan Oza.

The ramifications were immediate. “There’s been a thousands-fold increase in traffic on our website,” Scott Reamer said Monday. “We’ve had a hundred-fold increase in orders. It has eclipsed any order of magnitude of anything we have ever done.”

The Reamers started Jackson’s Honest in 2012 in an effort to help with their son’s diet. Jackson Reamer had contracted a rare brain disease as a small child and the Reamers discovered that potato chips made in coconut oil benefitted Jackson in part because coconut oil is a healthy fat that helped in a low-inflammatory diet.

Jackson unexpectedly died this past August at age 16, three days after the television crew filmed the family in Crested Butte for the show. Scott said watching the scenes on Sunday was extremely emotional. “Megan and I were crying,” he related. “We had a viewing party in Boulder and seeing the scenes of the family at our house in Crested Butte just 72 hours before Jackson passed away was intense. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

The drama of TV

The segment of the show with the potential investors was actually filmed in June in Los Angeles. While the Reamers knew the ultimate outcome and had to keep it a secret, they also knew that their hour-long interaction with the five “sharks” who consider the business investment proposals would be cut down to about 12 minutes.

“It was dramatic even for us,” Scott said. “I have to say, the stuff they aired captured the arc of the conversation over the hour. They stitched it together well and it turned out to be a good tribute to our son.”

Scott said to see billionaire investors like Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban, two of the Shark Tank investors, live tweeting on Sunday during the show and putting their support for the product and the company out on social media was “surreal. But it was sort of typical of the experience of the show,” Scott said. “The show and all the people were genuine, nice, constructive and sympathetic. Everyone was supportive. Megan and I were both struck with the amount of empathy each of the sharks had. They have a real respect for the entrepreneurs.

“It was like getting a business school degree in an hour,” he continued. “They challenged our assumptions and asked hard questions but were very supportive. They were critical but encouraging. It forced us to think about the business in ways we hadn’t before.”

Shark Tank receives about 40,000 applications a year to be on the show and they take about 100. Scott said just making the cut put them in rarified air. The Reamers were in L.A. for three days for the show. Filming took place on day two. Meeting the cast and interacting with the crew was the highlight and like so many people know, there were always people with some sort of Crested Butte connection. “Everyone was incredibly enthusiastic and loved the chips,” said Scott, who said the company had sent a pallet of the product that was snapped up by the crew.

Finding compromise

As for actual show time, Scott said there were nerves at first but they quickly went away. “We were told to walk in when the doors opened and the music started. Once on the set you know there are hundreds of people behind the scenes but all you can see are the five sharks so with the lighting it’s like just us and the five of them. Once they said they liked the product the nervousness fell away and we had a conversation. Our goal was to see if we could join forces with one or more of them to create something better than we could on our own.

“I have to admit it was tense when four of the five said ‘no’ and we were wondering if anyone would say yes to help us,” Scott continued. “Then Rohan showed some interest and we tried to find some middle ground. That’s the tension of the TV show. But really it is about being able to find compromise where both parties benefit. No way could we access what he can offer without the show. We have a passionate and heartfelt story. We both brought things to the table.”

Oza and the Reamers settled on selling him 15 percent of the company for $1.25 million. Scott said since the show was filmed in June, a deal was struck this summer. With Jackson’s passing in August, things were pushed back but he said the two teams have been working well and more intensely together for the last month or so.

“He has been incredibly valuable to the business already,” Scott said. “He’s given us ideas on some new products and packaging. We are incredibly excited about it. I mean this is the former chief marketing officer for Coca-Cola, the biggest brand in the world. He’s forgotten more than we could ever hope to learn. He is an incredible resource.”

Crested Butte kudos

And for Scott and Megan, they say the $10 million company (which is still struggling to make a profit) appreciates their Crested Butte roots. The community remains front and center for them.

“We have been humbled by all the community support. What happened Sunday night [on Shark Tank] doesn’t happen unless Crested Butte is the town it is,” concluded Scott. “It started here with buying potatoes at the Farmers Market. Spence at Dragon Sheet Metal made the pans we started frying the chips in. We used Dana Zobs’ kitchen at the Four-way Stop. People helped us fry the chips. Cini sold our first bags of chips at Mountain Earth. We are floored by the reality of Crested Butte being the community that it is. We are so appreciative of Crested Butte. Crested Butte glue is incredibly strong and a huge part of the fabric.”

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