Interview with Raven Thomas

Interview with Raven Thomas

“Raven Thomas and the Painted Pretzel,” sounds like the title of a fairy tale story you might read to a child. After her Painted Pretzel business was funded by Mark Cuban on Shark Tank, you could make a strong argument for the “happily ever after” tale of this Arizona mom and her fledgling business.

Mark Cuban Funds Raven Thomas

When Raven Thomas' segment first aired on Shark Tank,  I predicted her business would be funded. If you have ever had a chocolate covered pretzel, you'd know why I made that Shark Tank prediction! I caught up with Raven last week over the phone and chatted with her about life after being on the Shark Tank and the current status of Painted Pretzels.

Web traffic crashed Raven's servers when the show first aired. “Our web host kept saying ‘don't worry,' but we had 75,000 hits to the site and it went down for 2 hours. Traffic to our website has remained high since.”

Like many other Shark Tank entrepreneurs, Raven has befriended Shelly “Show No Towels” Ehler. Raven has joined the supportive Shark Tank community of entrepreneurs. “Shelly is a friend to entrepreneurs,” she said. The two have met up in person and talked on the phone many times.

Raven's Painted Pretzels are making money. “Sales have quadrupled since the show first aired. We made more sales in the few months after the show aired than we did all of last year! I keep re-investing everything back into the business, though.” She uses a commercial kitchen to fulfill her orders now, and she outsources to a candy factory for large orders, “but they use my recipes.”Packaging and shipping are still handled by Raven personally.

Painted Pretzels are available to purchase online, but they are in retail stores as well. “We have them in Neiman-Marcus. Their business is seasonal to a point, but the bigger stores re-order throughout the year. We are in every Neiman-Marcus in the Fall, the Fall and the holidays are very big for us. Mother's Day and Father's Day were good too.” When asked if she had any other goodies in the pipeline for the Fall, Raven said she plans to stick to her pretzel products. “I have always been about the pretzels – just the pretzels.”

Mark Cuban, who funded the burgeoning confectionery empire, has been a big help to Raven. “He brings both curiosity and credibility to the business; he'd change the dynamics of any company. Mark's forgotten more about business than I'll ever know. He's very accessible, we are in touch via email at least once a week.” Raven didn't give up control of her business to Cuban; she explained his role as more of an adviser. “I bounce ideas of Mark and he keeps me from making bad decisions.” As far as Cuban's personality goes, “what you see is what you get with Mark,” she said.

Raven felt the broadcast treated her fairly. “I was only taping for twenty minutes, so they didn't cut much. I was happy with the editing – the pitch was to the point.” The favorite part of her segment was when she offered the sharks samples. “That was the best part of the pitch, when they tasted the pretzels. They all cleaned their plates!”

One of the other Shark Tank products that caught Raven's eye was the Lollacup. “I have two kids, so I really saw the need to have a spill proof cup.” We spent several minutes commiserating about crappy sippy cups from our parenting pasts and both agreed Lollacup was a winner. Raven is also a big fan of Steve the Cat Drawing Guy and Show No Shelly. She claims if she were a shark, she would have funded Invis-A -Rack. “I just liked the idea,” she said.

All in all, Raven rates the Shark Tank experience as a resounding success. “I am super grateful for the opportunity, it was good luck. Lots of good businesses don’t make it. I really needed the funding. I would have kept going without it, but I am not sure if would have made it.”

I asked Raven one more very important question. Check out The Hot Dog Truck for the answer.

About Rob Merlino

Entrepreneur, auteur, raconteur. Rob Merlino is a blogger and writer who enjoys the Shark Tank TV show and Hot Dogs. A father of five who freelances in a variety of publications, Rob has a stable of websites including Shark Tank Blog, Hot Dog Stories, Rob Merlino.com and more.

Comments

  1. Yefim Brordd says:

    I was very happy that the Arizona mom’s business was funded by Mark Cuban. Mark liked the product so much that he not only emptied his plate but also grabbed some pieces from another’s Shark Tank plate. And Raven Thomas not only created a very good product liked by everybody in the Shark Tank. She is a nice person who is goal and business oriented, as she has stated in her answersto the questions posed to her.. Being a mom of two young children she shows them by example when you do what you want and like to do, and you put your heart and sole in it, good results will come.

  2. I liked the fact that Robert asked her why they should invest. When she said she had 2 children they all shut down. But Robert gave her another chance to answer and the answer got her her funding. The sharks are about the bottom line. They want to hear numbers. It doesn’t hurt to have a good story and to be someone that’s easy to work with, but in the end it’s about money. I think she handled it very well and Cuban was the perfect one for her to partner with because she needed the funding, but not as much hand holding.

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