Fudge tycoon Donna McCue made a big splash with her Fat Ass Fudge in episode 409, the so-called “Shark Tank Holiday Special.” She was portrayed as a wacky, Fudge making lady with big ideas and not much of a plan, but there is much more to Donna than her fudge. She's had an interesting career as a stand-up comic, intuitive, author, and fudge maker. I caught up with Donna on the phone to get her take on her Shark Tank appearance.
Fudge Sales Skyrocket
Donna McCue's Fat Ass Fudge, like the other Shark Tank Holiday Episode entrepreneurs, had the unique luxury of airing twice in ten days. This meant double the exposure during the Christmas shopping season. Donna, who sells her fudge online, at farmer's markets, and in a couple of Whole Foods markets, was prepared for the onslaught of internet traffic the Shark Tank brought to her website.
“I streamlined my product offerings to five of the most popular choices so I could keep up with the orders,” she explains. “We had something like 50,000 page views from the show. I had my web guys beef up the hosting to make sure the site wouldn't go down (it didn't), but I sent them four pounds of fudge to ‘sweeten the deal.' I made a lot of sales. During the week of the first airing, I made over 250 pounds of fudge. I had taken out a personal loan from my brother and I was able to pay him back in one day! Even the Sharks say it's important to pay back your investors!”
Donna claims people everywhere love her fudge and she brings it as an icebreaker whenever she does business. “I always bring some to the bank and it's like the Red Sea parting when I walk in. It helps when people love your product. I like to say, ‘my fat ass opens a lot of doors!' Most of my sales are to men, they buy it for their girlfriends and wives. I've noticed a lot of sales from Texas since the show aired; Mark Cuban must have told all his friends how good it is!”
Donna McCue: Author, Intuitive and Comedienne
Donna's always wanted to be an entertainer, even when she was in kindergarten. She was a stand up comic back in the 1970's. “I am an intuitive – I prefer that term to psychic. I've always been good at telling stories, so I used the idea of a comedy palm reader in my act. I'd go into the crowd, which was usually a bunch of drunks, and start reading their palms, then I'd say outrageous things about them and get big laughs. John Belushi caught one of my acts at Catch a Rising Star and he came up to me afterwards and said he liked the set.”
Around that time, Donna was approached by a new company, HBO, to read palms at a company function. “My life took a turn. For a number of years, I did these sorts of events. HBO paid me $1,000 a day to read palms. I started getting more and more in demand, I even wrote a book about it. That's how I became an intuitive.” Donna stopped doing the palm readings after 9/11; she didn't like doing intuitive predictions about death and had a couple of personally disturbing incidents during that time period. “I got sick of it, so I just kept upping my prices until people stopped calling.”
Donna sometimes drifts back to her intuitive ways as a sales mechanism when selling Fat Ass Fudge at farmer's markets. “If things get slow, I use my intuitive abilities to rake in customers. People will walk by and I'll tell them something about themselves. Sometimes I'll do a quick reading and blow their socks off. When I do, they buy fudge! The fudge is delicious, it's almost orgasmic,” Donna moans as she tells the story, “it brings a level of sensuality to people who eat it. I sometimes make it when I'm depressed just to feel better!”
Donna Swims with the Sharks
Donna applied to Shark Tank in the fall of 2011 via email. She didn't hear anything back for about 8 months, but when a producer called in May of 2012, she gave her pitch over the phone. “I said ‘hello, my name is Donna McCue and I want to give you a piece of my fat ass!' He was laughing so hard, I knew I had a winner.” She sent in her video and was asked to come to LA to tape.
“I thought I had a good shot. Everyone behind the scenes loved my fudge. I was taping for about an hour and a half. It was exhausting. Thank God I have a lot of energy – if talking burnt calories, I'd be anorexic. Kevin O'Leary was so sweet. He was very nice. He said ‘Donna you don't look like you need the money' and I said, ‘oh we all do! Money can't buy you happiness but it can buy you Fat Ass Fudge!'”
I was pacing all over the studio, I'm the type who likes to keep moving and Daymond kept saying ‘Donna! Get back to your mark!' I was sassy though, I did what I wanted to do.” Donna was pleased with her edit overall. “I watched the show over. They showed me wrinkling up my face a few times, it was out of context – that bugged me a bit. And the ‘YES,' it seemed like they lengthened it.They have a pretty good editing crew, they make it look real.”
There were some funny moments that didn't make it on air. “They asked me how I made the fudge and I told them ‘I'm the face of the business and my husband is the fudge packer. I just want to be the person who stands behind my fat ass!' In the after show clip, I was swearing like a sailor, I said the Sharks can kiss my fat ass!” Donna had me near tears as we were talking, I can't understand why she didn't stick to comedy!
What's Next for Donna and Fat Ass Fudge?
“I figured, wheter I get a deal or not, the Shark Tank would be good publicity. I've received a few calls about doing a reality show, there are two concepts I like so far. As for the fudge, I'm still making it myself in a commercial kitchen. I am looking for a co-packer. Whole Foods wants my fudge in all their New York and New Jersey stores, but I can't do that kind of volume right now, I typically make about 100 pounds a week in the farmer's market season and around Christmas time. I melt the sugar on low heat for two hours – it's a labor of love for me- I talk to the fudge when I cook it and I bless each package as we pack it up. It's the one thing I know I can make perfect. People love the fudge, the only complaints I get is there isn't enough. I tell people ‘hey, your paying me to make sure you don't over eat!'”
Once the sales volume from the Shark Tank appearance and Christmas gets more manageable, Donna will be rolling out more products. She'll be re-introducing her “Ass Kissers,” little, 1 ounce, dark chocolate squares with the Fat Ass donkey on them. She also has a chocolate martini mix. “My slogan for that is ‘move over skinny girl, fat ass is back!”
Whatever Donna does in the future, she's sure to tackle it with humor and LOTS of energy. She'll be joining me on the Small Businesses Do It Better show on 1/29/13 at 10 PM EST, so tune in to get a piece of Donna's fat ass! You can order Fat Ass Fudge direct from the website.
I had one other question for Donna, which she answered on The Hot Dog Truck.