My life and the future of Parker's Maple changed forever in the Fall of 2016 when our pitch premiered on ABC's Shark Tank.
Overnight Parker's Maple went from being a little known local company to one of the fastest growing real maple brands in America.
Many who read this may know our path leading up to Shark Tank -- that I learned how to make maple syrup on a school field trip when I was 11 in 2009, that my dad was gracious enough to help me get a loan at 15, and that we were launching with some major retailers by the Fall of 2016.
However, many have reached out to us and asked: what has life been like since Shark Tank?
Well, one word can sum it up: Crazy! It's been full of ups and downs; exciting growth and heart-breaking setbacks; big successes and crushing mistakes.
So, here are 5 noteworthy events, thoughts, or lessons learned from the past 2.5 years:
1. An Avalanche of Orders!
When Shark Tank aired for the first time we were NOT ready. I was personally having one of the hardest seasons of my life after we were unable to fulfill the largest order we had ever received due to production issues. The day after cancelling the shipment and fully realizing that a few hundred thousand dollars of inventory may not be sold, we found out Parker's Maple would be airing on Shark Tank. This was one of those moments when I could intimately feel the protection of Someone watching over us. The timing was just too perfect.
Going into the air date, I had no idea what to expect -- so, I started ordering what I could for supplies, boxes, and lined up a few friends to help out after the episode. What happened next was incredible. We received over 7,000 individual orders the first week!
This was more than I could have ever imagined. And, if you've been a customer long enough (since that week), you know that it took us a LONG time to get most of the orders out. Four weeks later, we were still packing orders from the night it aired! From running out of packaging, running out of maple syrup, running out of shipping boxes to just not having enough time in the day - the first month was a marathon.
I must mention, we were tremendously blessed to have a supportive community that rallied to help pack boxes during the weeks and months after Shark Tank. Dozens of people came, brought their kids, brought food, and got to work filling our small facility to the ceiling full of packages. Looking back, I can't imagine what we would have done without all the help.
So, the lesson for me after the first episode aired: Be ready!
2. How to Keep it Going?
After a few months of consistently giant online sales, I knew the peak "Shark Tank Effect" would soon wear off. The question that kept me up at night was, how could I keep this going? How could we continue to grow after such an amazing peak? I had heard of, and did not want to be like, the companies who went on national television, grew overnight, and then faded off into nothingness within 12 months.
As I look back on this "post-peak period," I see it was full of trials that tested our resolve to keep bringing more maple to more people in more ways. It certainly was not easy and I made many mistakes. But, we kept pushing and tried to learn all we could from the tuition we paid with each misstep.
If I could go back, would I change some things? Of course. However, even if each action didn't bring us exactly to where we wanted to be, it did bring us closer. We learned a tremendous amount during this time and the fruit of our work began to blossom soon enough.
3. Keeping Up With Growth
2017 turned out to be a great year. While it presented challenges, as mentioned above, it brought with it a tremendous amount of growth. We expanded our product distribution by more than 15x and saw an unprecedented amount of market demand for real maple.
Ultimately, we decided to focus on our existing products and get them into as many hands as possible. With this decision came the freedom to invest all of our time, thought, and effort in to getting our product from our facility, to the store, and ultimately to the customer exceptionally well.
Up until this point, our operations had always been at my family's farm. We had built a building on the property to be certified for food production & had grown the business out of it. However, by the summer of 2017 this space had became wildly too small. Our production space was too small to fit efficient machines so we were often running double shifts through the night; our office space was combined with our shipping so no one could have a conversation without the sound of tape in the background; And, worst of all, our internet was terribly slow.
So, in the Fall of 2017 we moved into a brand new facility off my family's farm in the outskirts of the town I grew up in. This gave us the opportunity to have beautiful & spacious offices, dedicated warehouse space, and dedicated production rooms for cotton candy, maple butter and maple syrup. Finally, we had the peace of mind that we could keep up with the unbelievable demand coming from maple-lovers across the US.
4. A Growing Family
Often times the exterior of a business is all customers and community members are able to see. Through my journey with Parker's Maple, I have tried to be candid and constantly share the ups & the down with our community. One element to understanding the "behind-the-scenes" of our company is understanding who I am when I am not "Parker's Maple."
Well, I am a husband and a father! Many reading may already know, but for those who don't, in 2017 I was blessed to marry my wife, Alessandra, and together welcome our son, Rhett, into the world. As he has gotten bigger (and can finally enjoy cotton candy!), bringing him up with the business has brought an immeasurable amount of joy to Alee and I. We've had the opportunity to bring him on trips, to meetings, and just have him run around the offices as we work -- we are very excited to have him grow up in an environment where hard work & commitment are on full display.
Now, I would not be being honest if I did not mention how difficult having a young son is while trying to grow a high demanding business! Finding the balance between work and family is always difficult -- but Alee and I are well on our way to figuring it out!
5. Parker's Maple: Part 2.0
This all brings us to the question of where we are today. After 2.5 years of growth after Shark Tank we are fully convinced that people across the country want to replace fake, processed sugars with nutrient & antioxidant rich real maple. Because of this demand, we have been able to move into our new facility, grow our team, and establish ourselves as the leading real maple brand in the country.
We have spent time preparing operations, focusing on our core product line, and testing the market... Now we are ready to take the next step in fulfilling our mission to share more real maple with more people in more ways.
As I type this, we are planning the launch of an entirely new product line, collaborating with the largest national retailers on exciting new projects, and working to deliver real maple in fresh & exciting ways.
Be on the look out over the next few months as we continue to bring you the best nature has to offer!