Bridgeville woman gets cool deal on ‘Shark Tank’

Katey Evans of Bridgeville shows off her Frozen Farmer product line to the investors on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” (ABC photo/Eric McCandless)

BRIDGEVILLE — It’s been a self-described “whirlwind” for Katey Evans and her family since March 27.

That’s when the Bridgeville woman appeared on the ABC show “Shark Tank” looking to get a deal for her family farm’s line of desserts called The Frozen Farmer.

“My phone started blowing up as soon as the episode began to air. I was getting calls all throughout the episode and the messages started pouring in from all across the country and the world really,” she said on Monday morning, three days after the show aired.

The messages really intensified once she actually received a deal.

After four of the five “sharks” on the show turned down Ms. Evans’ offer of receiving $125,000 in exchange for 20 percent of the family’s dessert line, the remaining investor, Lori Greiner, said that although she wasn’t “a huge ice cream person,” the samples from The Frozen Farmer were the “best ice cream I’ve ever had in my entire life.”

Telling Ms. Evans that she could help her with the packaging and branding of the product line, Ms. Greiner counter-offered a deal for $125,000 for 30 percent — on the contingent that they are able to land a grocery store to sell the products nationwide.

Ms. Evans accepted the deal and a business relationship was born.

“I spent three hours (last Sunday) tackling the emails and started coloring in a map of everyone we heard from, from California to Utah to Missouri. There were other countries too like Mexico and Denmark. It’s been really incredible,” she said.

The show’s airing was the culmination of over a year’s worth of work. She and her family have been working on an e-commerce system to ship to customers’ doors their line of premium ice cream, dairy-free, gluten-free and fat-free sorbet, along with “nice cream,” a blend of ice cream and sorbet.

“We heard from people interested in the products and they will be notified of our launch date,” Ms. Evans said.

She estimates the system should be ready to go by the end of April. And it’s a good thing because Ms. Evans said they had 5,000 people who wanted to buy the ice cream in the first 12 hours after “Shark Tank” aired.

“We were told by our web people that at one point, we had 30,000 people on our website. The response has been incredible,” Ms. Evans said.

“I spoke to Lori (Sunday) and she said she had people blowing up her phone asking about it. So it’s really exciting.”

All products in the line are made from premium ingredients and, when in season, local ingredients, including those from the fields of her family’s third-generation facility, Evans Farm, established in 1943 on Route 404 in Bridgeville. In fact, the idea for The Frozen Farmer came from the farm.

Katey Evans of Bridgeville hugs investor Lori Greiner afte the two made a deal for Ms. Evans’ family farm line of Frozen Farmer desserts on ABC’s “Shark Tank” (ABC photo/Eric McCandless)

“More than 20 percent of the fruits and veggies in America don’t make it off the farm because they aren’t perfect enough for the grocery store shelves, resulting in billions of pounds of waste annually,” said Ms. Evans in a prepared statement.

And with their main customers being grocery stores, this meant a major loss of profit.

Ms. Evans, along with her husband Kevin and her mother, Jo Ellen Algier, created the product line that contributes to cutting food waste in June of 2015.

All of the sharks on the show seemed to appreciate the product’s aim of improving food waste by using products that would have otherwise been discarded because of a slight imperfection and all praised the taste of the frozen desserts.

But she received significant pushback from them on the difficulty of the ice cream business, with Daymond John and Mark Cuban advising her to keep the business local instead of going national.

“Everything that they were saying was not untrue. The ice cream business is a competitive, hard industry and stores aren’t going to add more freezer space just for your brand,” Ms. Evans said.

“It has to be good enough to beat out other brands for shelf space. I’ve learned that firsthand. I’m not an expert at this. I’m just a farmer’s wife getting into this world. It’s not an easy industry.”

Although on television it looked like the first four sharks immediately dismissed the deal, the 12-minute segment actually took about an hour and a half and was edited down, Ms. Evans said.

“Barbara (Corcoran) went out in probably the first 15 minutes and Kevin (O’Leary) and Daymond hung in there the longest and went back and forth before they decided to go out,” Ms. Evans said.

And although it appeared that she immediately took Ms. Greiner’s deal saying “I know I’m supposed to negotiate,” she did think about it for longer than it appeared.

“You don’t go in thinking you are going to stand firm on your offer. You have to have a window with some parameters. But it was a fair offer. I definitely thought on it longer than you saw on TV,” she said.

Katey Evans shows off an otherwise discarded strawberry that wouldn’t be used if not for her product line of Frozen Farmer frozen desserts. (ABC photo/Eric McCandless)

“Just to have a shark behind you with her name and expertise tied to your brand is priceless. She has so much experience in the industry. I couldn’t be more pleased. Her husband is very hands-on. I’ve already had a meeting with him and their team. You just can’t put a value on what this means.”

And the national chain that was part of the deal? Ms. Evans said Giant Foods has gone from distributing The Frozen Farmer regionally to across the country.

She has also acquired a co-packer and a distributor, Burris Logistics in Harrington.

The line is also sold in Redner’s Warehouse Markets and Exxon Mobils throughout the region.

After her deal was accepted on the show filmed in mid-September, the program’s producers sent a film crew to Bridgeville in the first part of October to do a taped piece on her and her family that aired before her segment.

The segment was tricky to shoot because she still had to keep her appearance on the show a secret.

“An entire ‘Shark Tank’ film crew took that time to film us and went around Bridgeville. It was exciting but the confidentiality that we were under during the whole process was a little frustrating. We had employees who didn’t even know that I had made it into that final round of casting,” he said.

After having scores of satisfied customers telling her that she should try out for “Shark Tank” and getting some encouragement from Skinny Girl cocktail creator and “Real Housewife” Bethenny Frankel, Ms. Evans and her daughter went to New York City last May to try out for the show. The arrived at 4 a.m. and were 71st in line among about 600 entrepreneurs who were gunning for a chance to stand on that famous carpet.

She was told last summer that she was picked to be on the show and flew to Hollywood to film it in September.

Even with all of that, it still wasn’t a guarantee that her segment would make the air. She said not all of the deals that are accepted are shown on TV. But she got the got the word in the first part of March that she indeed made the cut.

She was very happy with the way she, her family business and the area were presented.

“That was great because not only did it feature us but showed how beautiful Bridgeville and Delaware is. This isn’t just a great thing for our company. I think it is a great thing for Sussex County and all of the state,” she said.

“And it also is a way to give back to the community. As a person in agriculture, this can be more of an overall message of the food movement. It’s important to take note of how much food is being wasted and how we can be an advocate within the industry of the problems that need to be solved, hopefully making more responsible consumers who don’t overbuy and we can be mindful of this even on the grocery store level.”

For more information on The Frozen Farmer, visit TheFrozenFarmer.com.