Joshua Parker, Creator of Parker's Maple Syrup, is a study in slow growth for a business. Back in 2009, Josh learned how to make real maple syrup on a school field trip. He set out to build his own sugar shack, which at first was little more than a tarp. A few years later, he had a real building with a concrete floor and cooked his syrup like a pro. By 2013, he had a set up capable of producing syrup on a commercial-scale – he's on track to produce 1500 gallons.
Joshua has Parker's Maple Syrup in over 500 stores today, but he thinks the market and demand for his product exceeds his current production capabilities. He's hoping the Sharks can help him with that in episode 806. Did I mention Josh is only 18?
In addition to syrup, Parker makes maple butter and maple cotton candy. His product is 100% natural and organic: it's “tree to table.” Maple syrup is very high in anti-oxidants and is the most nutritional natural sweetener on the earth. Most so-called maple syrups you find at the super market are “maple flavored” syrup made with corn syrup. Parker makes the real deal. He likely needs money to expand both production and distribution.
My Take on Parker's Maple Syrup
We used to go to Vermont a couple of times a year and every time, we'd pick up some natural Vermont Maple Syrup. Our old town had a community organic farm and all my kids had experience at their sugar shack where they made real maple syrup every February and March. The real stuff is so much better than the maple flavored stuff; there is no comparison.
Making real maple syrup is largely a cottage industry with many small manufacturers filling the marketplace. Joshua's family has a large farm with a lot of maple trees and he wants to scale up and become a national brand. I admire his work ethic – he sometimes slept in his sugar shack while balancing school, team sports and his business. As an 18-year-old, I assume he graduated and can become a full-time syrup tycoon. I like his product and he seems like a solid kid. For that reason, I'm in.
Do Sharks Like Syrup?
Over 3 million gallons of real maple syrup gets produced every year, which is a tiny fraction of the overall syrup market. Parker thinks there's a lot of room for growth and market share, his challenge is production and distribution. Making syrup is very seasonal, trees get tapped and “harvested” in three months during the winter. This leaves a small window to produce as much syrup as possible. Joshua knows that employment in his area is low during winter, so he thinks he can get enough seasonal help to grow his operation.
The Sharks will admire his work ethic and knowledge. He's been doing this nearly half his life. He also has customers, sales, and a measured approach to growing his business. Since the equipment he needs to expand costs a fair amount of money, he's at a stage where investors bring value to the business. As long as the Sharks get what they think is a fair value, I think Mr. Parker gets a deal.