I spoke with FunCakes owner Kimberly Aya prior to her appearance on Shark Tank episode 606 to get some background on her appearance. Kimberly is the world's only cake maker that doesn't have an oven – all her cakes are faux creations, made out of Styrofoam and fondant. They're decorative cakes people get for the ornamental effect, they pick up a regular edible cake for $20 locally. I became acquainted with Kimberly last year when she won the Shark Tank Survival Kit on the Shark Tank Blog. She read every book, cover to cover.
“I read them all,” Kimberly explains, “each one was excellent in its own way. I was very intrigued by Barbara's story. She started with $1000 and I started with $600, so I identified with that. Lori's story – what she went through – was unbelieveable. I also liked Daymond's book; it was all about branding and had great information about building a brand. Kevin O'Leary's book should be given to every high school student in America. It's loaded with practical advice about money and how to handle it. Even though he says you shouldn't waste money on a wedding, which is counter-intuitive to my business, I thought it was excellent. All the Shark's books were.”
In addition to reading the books she won, Kimberly had other strategies. “I went out and bought the first five seasons and I watched every show. I usually watch Shark Tank in the morning while I work out, but this was more focused. I think Shark Tank Blog is a good resource, too. You say some things on this site ABC doesn't tell you. America is made up of small businesses and I think this site helps with pushing people to their goals.”
The Road to Shark Tank for FunCakes
Kimberly has an amazing story about how she got on the show. Like many others, she filled out an application and made a video to send to the production company, but she added a twist.
“I applied back in late February or early March (2014) and I sent them a Shark Tank FunCake,” she explains. “I sent a 5 tier Shark Tank cake with my application and video. It had the Shark Tank logo, the ABC logo, fins on one layer, and all the Sharks were sitting on top of the cake. I tracked the package online and just two hours after the cake was delivered, they called! The producer asked who I was working with and how did I get their address. I told them it was just me and I got the address online.”
“They told me I would make it to the next level. I was pumped! I knew I had a decent shot, even though 50,000 people apply to be on Shark Tank, I bet I am the only one who sent them a cake. I knew it would catch their attention, everyone loves a cake, especially if it's about themselves. The cake actually appears on the show.”
That was early March. Kimberly knew she would tape, so her two sons – who work with her in the business – and her husband started practicing. “We were set to tape in June,” she says, “so for the next three and a half months, we rehearsed our pitch. We wrote it out and kept going over it for the whole time. I've been watching the show for a while now and I always thought when those doors open, the people must be so nervous. When I was actuallt there, I wasn't nervous at all, I was prepared and pumped!”
“Trying out for the show was always in the back of my mind, but what clinched it for me was when I got a call from New York to do 350 cakes for MAC Cosmetics. I told them it would take me three months, they said, ‘OK, you have three weeks.' I only had three cake decorators and a couple of staff, so I advertised on Craigslist for ‘artists' who wanted to learn cake decorating. I was lucky, I didn't get any druggies or wierdos. I got ten good people and we filled the order in time. Those cakes went all over the world. That's when I knew I was ready for Shark Tank.”
Prepping for The Shark Tank Effect
“We're not a bakery and we're not retail. FunCakes is an online business only. Occasionally, a local bride will stop in to take a look, but we're in an industrial park and intend on staying an online business. We have 5000 square feet plus some warehouse space, so retail would be too small for us. I may expand to Las Vegas – they have 350 weddings a day there, so it could support a location, plus it would open up a new shipping channel for the west coast.”
“As far as the Shark Tank effect goes, we just re-did our entire website which went live Monday [prior to the original air date]. We're using Shopify, and they say they've never crashed a website on show night. Before, you used to have to call and talk to us to order a cake. Now you can design and pay for your cake all on the website; it's all automated. We hired extra staff and got more phone lines, plus we reorganized the space to be more efficient. I figured if we could fill that 350 cake order in three weeks with no planning, we can handle the Shark Tank effect if we're prepared.”
“The other good thing is we just closed a deal we were working on before we taped Shark Tank. FunCakes is going to be in 200 stores of a major grocery chain. I figured if we closed that deal or got on Shark Tank, it would be good for business. We got both.”
Kimberly obviously couldn't discuss the outcome of the show with me, but she was thrilled to air. “They don't tell you if you're going to air when you tape because they film more segments than they use. You only find out two weeks before your air date, but when I saw my face at the beginning of Kevin O'Leary's “Gag Reel” before the season premier, I figured we made it!”
Shark Tank Blog will connect with Kimberly after the air date to get the rest of the story. I did have one more question for Kimberly, she answers it on The Hot Dog Truck.