Carmel residents Matt and Emily Griffin have been keeping a secret.
After years of operating in the shadow of “the Oprah effect”—the couple’s term for a 2010 sales spike that came when the talk-show guru called their innovative brownie pan “genius”—they’re fishing for ways to grow their small business.
On May 16, a national television audience will find out whether Baker’s Edge landed an investment from celebrity entrepreneurs on ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank.” The season finale airs at 9 p.m. local time.
The nature of their pitch and the so-called sharks’ reaction is still under wraps, but Matt Griffin said they enjoyed every minute of the whirlwind trip to Los Angeles last fall when they filmed their segment.
“It feels like a great achievement just to get on the show,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for doors to open.”
Baker’s Edge—named for a pan design that ensures every brownie is an “edge” piece—has been profitable since it launched in 2006 with one product. A larger lasagna pan joined the mix in 2009, and the couple recently introduced a redesigned muffin pan using the same cast-aluminum material.
Bringing in an outside investor would allow the company to accelerate product development, scale up production and move from its niche into the broader bakeware market, Griffin said.
“We’re looking for connections, partnerships, and some money wouldn’t hurt,” he said with a laugh.
On the to-do list: a loaf pan, cake pan and pie pan.
The couple owns Baker’s Edge outright and has taken a conservative approach to growth, avoiding debt. A contract manufacturer in Minnesota handles production, and the Griffins focus on product development and marketing.
Matt, 39, has degrees in economics and urban planning from Ball State University and also works as a development manager for Watermark Residential in Indianapolis. Emily, 38, was a paralegal before going to culinary school at Sullivan University; she works on recipe development in her roles as company chef and mother of three.
Baker’s Edge sales peaked at nearly $2 million in 2010, after Oprah Winfrey included the original Edge Brownie Pan on her “Oprah’s Favorite Things” episode. Since then, Matt Griffin said annual revenue has been about $350,000. So far this year, sales have increased about 20 percent a month, he said.
Whether they land a Shark Tank investment or not, the Griffins should prepare for Oprah-like interest in the company and its products after their episode airs, said Derek Pacque, an Indiana University graduate who pitched his ticketless coat-check system on the show in 2012.
“It’s an opportunity to advertise on the air to 8 million people,” he said, referring to the typical Friday-night audience. “They need to be ready to capture those leads and fulfill any orders they get—and make sure their website can handle the traffic.”
Pacque was surprised how much time it took to follow up with investors, customers and media who contacted him after he pitched CoatChex to the sharks—and turned down a $200,000 offer from fellow IU alum Mark Cuban, a serial entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team.
But he has no regrets.
“It was great for the company, for the brand. It was definitely the right move,” he said of the very public pitch. “Whether you get the deal or not, you’re getting your idea or product in front of millions of people. Be ready for it.”
Griffin says Baker’s Edge is prepared. Its products already are available at as many as 300 bricks-and-mortar retailers, in addition to the company’s website (bakersedge.com) and Amazon.com.
Now all they can do is wait for everyone else to see what happened: Did the sharks take the bait from Baker’s Edge or eat the couple alive? Tune in and see.
The Griffins expect to watch from home, celebrating the occasion by letting their kids (4, 7 and 9) stay up late enough to join them.
“We’re boring people,” Matt Griffin said.?