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The Gently Soap Post-Shark Tank Experience
"This is the first week I’ve actually been able to conceptualize and come to terms with all that has happened since 9/29. It has been exciting, and it has been very, very hard. But I can say that grateful is an understatement." - Kristen Dunning, Gently Soap founder
In case you missed it, I had the tremendous honor of appearing as a guest judge on the season premiere of Shark Tank, Season 15, just a few weeks ago. During that exciting episode, I made a significant investment in Gently Soap, a botanical infused bar soap, designed for sensitive skin founded by Kristen Dunning. After wrapping the show’s filming, there was a brief window of time for Kristen to get operations in order for the show’s airing, but nothing could have fully prepared her for the surge of sales that came with that season premiere.
On September 29, as an investor in Gently Soap, I too was thrust into the heart of the Shark Tank phenomenon, watching its transformative influence unfold as the show aired. Like sideline reporters covering a football game, our small team's Slack channel buzzed with real-time commentary on the show's play-by-play action, all while keeping a watchful eye on the soaring Shopify numbers and the rapidly ascending ranks on Amazon. Sales surpassed even our most optimistic projections, with each new time zone's airing ushering in a fresh surge of new customers.
However, as is often the case with success, all those sales brought a new set of challenges. Kristen experienced firsthand that sometimes, there can indeed be "too much of a good thing." Despite assembling a team of family, sorority sisters, and friends to manage the deluge of orders and address customer inquiries, the overwhelming demand led to shipping delays and product sellouts. Understandably, for some customers, anticipation turned to frustration.
I feel a profound empathy for Kristen in this moment because her experience mirrored the early days of Sprinkles when lines snaked out the door, and I couldn't churn out cupcakes quickly enough. What makes this parallel even more poignant is that Kristen and I both began our entrepreneurial journeys with a shared goal: to bring JOY to people's lives. Yet, we found ourselves mostly managing customers who were far from joyful!
Growth, the holy grail of every founder, arrived on Gently Soap’s doorstep wrapped in a big Shark Tank bow. And Kristen soon found herself completely sold out of inventory all while continuing to work tirelessly to fulfill thousands of Shark Tank orders. The onslaught of inquiries and concerns has, at times, felt completely overwhelming. In those moments I remind Kristen that all she can do is her best. And that sometimes in business you won’t have the answer that your customer wants to hear, but the key is how you show up in such moments.
In those early days of Sprinkles for me, that meant personally apologizing to each customer for the cupcake shortage and working tirelessly to replenish our stock. For Kristen, this has entailed keeping customers well-informed about the status of their orders and sending heartfelt emails to her list, making every customer feel like a valued part of her journey, complete with all its ups and downs.
I take great pride in being part of Gently Soap's journey and supporting Kristen as we grow this business. Here are three of the most important lessons to take away from these last few exhilarating weeks:
Surround Yourself with Believers: Kristen's incredible support system, comprising family, friends, her faith and her new investor (me!) has served as her rock during turbulent times. Surrounding yourself with individuals who wholeheartedly believe in your vision can be your saving grace.
Stay Nimble. While growth is essential, it's far from a straight line. Be prepared for the unexpected, and remember that with every challenge comes an opportunity to learn, grow and improve.
Stay Grounded in Gratitude: As Kristen's beautiful quote at the top of the page conveys, even amidst the whirlwind of it all, there is so much to be grateful for. Living out your dreams is a gift to always be thankful for, in both good times and bad.
Meanwhile, my PSA: Don't forget to place your Gently Soap preorders to ensure you have these special soaps in time for the upcoming holiday season, and stay tuned for more enthralling Shark Tank adventures.