Find Your Exit | Tomo Delaney-Lethbridge | Noshi

 

Dive into the entrepreneurial journey of a visionary dad-turned-innovator in this episode! Meet Tomo Delaney-Lethbridge, the mind behind Noshi, an organic fruit paint turned kid-friendly condiment that took Shark Tank by storm. From initial hurdles in packaging to securing a game-changing Walmart deal, Tomo shares candidly about scaling setbacks and personal perseverance amid family health challenges. Discover how strategic pivots and investor insights reshaped Noshi into a staple at family tables, blending creativity with mealtime fun. For some startup resilience and inspiration, tune in to Tomo’s story—a testament to navigating entrepreneurial waters with heart and resilience. Don’t miss this insightful episode!

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Listen to the podcast here

 

The Noshi Story: From Shark Tank To Success With Tomo Delaney-Lethbridge

I’m excited to have another episode with a very special guest, Tomo Delaney. He was on the Shark Tank. What episode was that?

It was on air last May 2023.

You’re not going to have any idea about Tomo’s background when you know about what he’s doing because the two are so opposite from each other. Tomo spent twenty years working in the fashion industry as a producer, photographer, and magazine editor. In fact, he even worked for Vogue. Now Vogue is every woman’s and some men’s favorite fashion magazine of all time. I’m not going to go too much into Tomo’s bio because you’re going to read it right here on the Shark Tank. Tell me, Tomo, how much anxiety do you have watching this?

Probably way more than I should have. I get anxious watching Shark Tank, regardless of whether I’m on it or not. I feel much for the entrepreneurs and I know how so much is at stake for all of them. It stresses me out to watch it.

I’m sorry to have to do this to you, but the best way to tell your story is to bring up your episode, and that’s what we’re going to do right now.

I’ll survive.

You’ll survive. “No, no, no.” Let me tell you why I love that. It’s because if you ever go on Shark Tank, what do you have to have? What do you think you have to have?

Balls.

You’ve got to have balls, you’ve got to have a great one-liner. You’ve got to have something that grabs your attention because think about it. You have 3 to 5 seconds to get their attention. If you walk in a little boring without the personality, without the excitement, without selling the sizzle, and having that great line, then you’re going to lose them. I don’t know why you have anxiety. You’ve done great.

Thank you very much.

It was excellent because why is, “No, no, no,” so good? 1) We hear it every day. It captures their attention. I think that was well done. If you go on Shark Tank, remember, to have that one-liner that’s going to grab their attention.

“My name is Tomo. I’m a stay-at-home dad to two very picky eaters. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve heard the word no. It’s the one superpower that kiddos can wheel over their parents from a young age, and the place they use it most is the dinner table. They’ll push it, pull it, slide it, hide it. Kids will do anything to avoid eating the food on the plate in front of them. Sharks, let’s turn those noes into yeses with Noshi, edible, organic food, paint, and condiments that kids can use to turn any mealtime into an art class.”

“Write your name on your breakfast, a smiley face on a cheeseburger, or just go wild and spray abstract art in whatever’s in front of you. The options are limitless, like a child’s imagination. Use flavors like strawberry, peach, or mangoes for fruity fun or a kiddo-fruit condiment like SketchUp, Crayonaise, mustards, and more. Noshi contains preservatives. No artificial colors. No artificial flavors. Just good clean, organic fun. Sharks, get imaginative with here for a second. I’m asking for $250,000 of this, in exchange for 17% of Noshi.”

The reason I love that is because it’s one thing to use the one-liners to grab their attention, but your presentation. They always say, “A picture worth 1,000 words.” The food came out so great. The entire presentation came out well. How many times did you have to practice that?

I had a weekly call with my producers at Shark Tank, and it was a one-hour-long call every week. We spent the majority of that hour rehearsing my pitch over and over again. It was important that I got it right for me more than them. It was important for them as well. It is the be-all and end-all. If you mess the pitch up, the whole segment collapses because all your information comes through from the pitch and the whole segment rests on how well you’ve presented your company to the Sharks.

It was important that I got it right. My children still tease me now because every now and again, they’ll walk into the room and go, “No, no, no,” because I said it many times over the course of the three months running up to us taping that episode that they can’t help but laugh whenever they watch the segments again or whenever food paint or Shark Tank is mentioned. They love making me cringe with embarrassment.

I love many things about this episode and you’re right, “No, no, no,” is so catchy and that’s why it was such a great one-liner there. There were other things that you said that I liked too, because you said, “Kids always say no. They push it, slide it, hide it.” That’s true, then I also like what you said kids want to play with it. We always tell them, “Don’t play with your food.” You’ll say, “Play with your food.” That’s how they can become more interested. How many times us parents say, “Don’t play with your food. Eat your food off the plate.” Now you’re telling parents to say, “Play with your food,” because it encourages them to eat more.

Why are we saying, “Don’t play with your food?” The reason children have meltdowns at meal times is not that they don’t like broccoli. It’s because they suddenly feel powerless. You are telling them, “Stop playing over there. Come and sit here. Do as I say. Eat what I tell you to eat. Do it this way. You can’t get down until you finish.” Everything about mealtimes is anathema to a child that they don’t, “Why on Earth would they want to have anything to do with a mealtime?” They often have meltdowns, even if it’s their favorite food in the whole world.

If they’re doing something they don’t want to stop doing, and even if you’ve cooked them their favorite meal of all time, they will still have a tantrum because the whole point of the tantrum is to remind you that they have this power over you and they can cause this huge problem sometimes three times a day if they want to because that’s the only power they can feel or that they feel they can wield over you.

Find Your Exit | Tomo Delaney-Lethbridge | Noshi

Noshi: The whole point of the tantrum is to remind you that kids have this power over you and they can cause this huge problem if they want to because that’s the only power they feel they can wield over you.

 

My thinking was, “Why are we fighting them? All the research says it’s a power thing so why don’t we give them back some power?” When I first started thinking about Noshi, I did the research and I read the research and it said all of this, my assumption was that if I went to the local grocery store, I would find countless products that were designed for children to use at the meal table, because that was the cure for the picky eating. I went to all of the grocery stores in my neighborhood, and there weren’t and many years later, there still aren’t any products apart from ours, designed for children to take ownership of. If you look at our branding, it’s designed to appeal to children. Children see our products and they can’t wait to get their hands on them. They can see it’s been designed for them. They love using our products.

It’s almost like you have to retrain the parents. I even tell my daughter, “Stop playing with your food. Eat your food.”

The reason I applied to go on Shark Tank was because I knew that children understood our products and couldn’t wait to get their hands on them. Every time I showed our products to a child to children, they knew that this was for them and they couldn’t wait to get their hands on it. It was the parents that needed an extra layer of explanation. I spent a long time half-jokingly saying in the absence of having a multimillion-dollar marketing budget, the other potential solution to getting the message across to parents is I need some national platform to tell them what is that national platform, then I suddenly realized that I had had, some communication with Shark Tank years before and I still had some email addresses at Shark Tank. I dropped them a line, expecting them to respond and they responded about twenty minutes later and said, “This is a great idea. Can we talk?” We spoke the next day and the whole process took off from there.

I also see this as a good product in restaurants because you see kids having meltdowns when they’re at the dining table and everybody else around them is like, “Shut up your kid. Get your kid to behave.” It’s a good product you should bring to the restaurants with you.

The catch that we are launching this month, especially everyone loves ketchup, I think it’s a slam dunk, in restaurants, airplanes are the other times when kids have meltdowns.

Airplanes, restaurants, and their home dining table. Let’s watch some more here.

“Sharks, I’m working at a distinct disadvantage here because none of you is six years old. If you were, I’d already have a deal. That’s how much kids love this stuff, but for now, I’m asking you to get in touch with your inner child and play with Noshi. After that, let’s play with some numbers. Please play with your food.”

“Very well.”

“Why not?”

“You’ve got a box of Sketchup, a box of Peppa Pig food paint, and a box of Crayola food paint.”

“This is branded Crayola. You must have a deal with it.”

“We’ve got license deals with Peppa Pig, Crayola, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Daniel Tiger.”

To have these license deals was some of the biggest brands out there. Was that difficult to get?

Licensing had never crossed my mind at all as a way of approaching this until I had breakfast with somebody in New York who was married to the head of licensing at an extremely well-known children’s television program. He said, “I want to take this home to show my wife because I think she’d be interested in this to discuss a potential licensing deal.” When he mentioned who she worked for, I got incredibly excited and I was like, “Why haven’t I thought about licensing? That’s a really good idea,” because it was all about validating the product and reassuring parents and children that this was a legitimate product that they should be paying attention to.

He took some home. She contacted me a while later and said, “We love this. This is amazing. Come in and let’s talk about how we make it work.” It fell apart at the very last minute because they had a licensing deal with another kid’s food brand that kid’s food brand heard about the fact that they were talking to me and they vetoed any deal with me, which was devastating at the time. Immediately, I spoke to my packaging designer and she said, “The one you should talk to is Peppa Pig because it’s a truly global brand.” I spoke to Pepper Pig and that deal fell into place quite quickly, but it was around the time that COVID was rolling into New York. We got the deal done under the wire as COVID shut everything down. I remember dropping off boxes of products to the Peppa Pig licensing company down the block from my apartment. The streets were empty because the COVID lockdown had already started.

That’s incredible. How did you get Crayola?

If I remember rightly, they saw the product somewhere, or there was an intermediary who suggested it would be a good fit. Of course, it was a good fit. I also have the big caveat here that we are not doing any of those products anymore. There was some major pivoting going on.

You are not doing Crayola anymore?

We’re not doing food paint anymore.

“The part I like about that is that you like royalty deals.”

“I’m not adverse, and that’s for sure.”

“It seems like not a lot of ketchup for a kid.”

“I think it’s about right. The box has three tubes in it and I think you use a tube per mealtime, even with two kids, you can probably split two between two kids.”

“What does the container sell for?”

“It sells for $5.46.”

“What are you making it for?”

“At the moment it’s about $272, but with the money from here, if I got it, we would buy 2 pieces of machinery, which takes $0.60 off each.”

“What do you sell a box of three for?”

“Wholesale? $3.70.”

“Your margins are awful.”

Noshi At Shark Tank

I agree with Barbara. I do think they’re very small. Trying to get a brother and sister or sisters or brothers to sweat, good luck. They never share toys. I did agree that the margins are very small, and we’re going to talk about after the tank, but I’m sure you found a way to increase those margins. Let me see what the Sketchup looks like. Do you have the Sketchup now? It’s about to be released. There we go. That’s a real-size Sketchup that I can see myself buying.

You paused the video at exactly the right point because those two pieces of information were key in the decision-making process that happened last summer, which was Cuban pointing out that the margins weren’t good enough and Barbara pointing out that the tubes were small because we then got emails from parents who had bought the smaller tubes and they said, “My kids love this stuff, but for the amount you are selling us, it’s expensive. It is a tough sell to me as a parent. If you put ketchup in much bigger tubes, I would buy that over and over again because my kids love your approach.”

Cuban saying the margins aren’t good enough. That was in large part because, with food paint and the small tube of ketchup, there were four layers of packaging. There was a tube, a cell unit carton, a shelving caddy, and a master shipper. Whereas with this, there’s the tube and the master shipper. You kill two layers of packaging and the margins subsequently have gone way up.

What are the margins now? How much does it cost you to make it versus sell it?

The margin for a single tube on Amazon is going to be 39%. That’s good.

Are you selling on Amazon?

We’re launching the ketchup only on Amazon, but we’re also pursuing retail partners fairly aggressively.

What about the Sketchup up going into Walmart because the Sketchup was in Walmart?

The partnership with Walmart has paused again on the advice of Cuban and his team. I loved working with Walmart and I love everybody that I worked at Walmart.

It looks to me like a bottle of toothpaste, maybe a little bit bigger than toothpaste.

The whole reasoning behind this size is that it’s still something that a child, even as young as two years old, can pick up with one hand. A lot of press PR photography with a bunch of different kids that I was introduced to, ages between 2 and 12 every single one of them loved the product. They couldn’t wait to get it.

Is that your demographic? Ages 2 to 12?

That’s about right. As soon as they saw it, they couldn’t wait to get their hands on it. It was brilliant to see that even the little ones were able to do this with one hand.

It is a much better size.

I completely agree

I agree with Barbara. I’m like, “That’s small and one per mil.”

The thinking behind those smaller tubes was that we wanted them to feel like crayons, basically. We wanted people, kids to be able to be able to hold them like crayons, but the margins didn’t make sense, to pay for a tube that costs that much and to only be able to put that much product inside it and then have it inside another three layers of packaging as well. Cuban was right.

I know it doesn’t serve the same purpose when they buy a big bottle of ketchup versus a low tube, it’s very hard for parents, especially for the struggling parents, but even for ones that are not struggling, it’s a hard choice to make.

Noshi Organic Ketchup

We were selling them 3.5 ounces of ketchup for the same price that other brands were selling them over 12, 15, or 20 ounces.

“You must have sales.”

“Last year was $117,000.”

“What do you think this year will be?”

“This year, so far we’ve sold under $80,000. I think it’s probably going to end up being $200,000 by the end of the year.”

“Why it’s so small? How many stores do you have?”

“We’re in 370 Walmart stores.”

“How much are you selling online?”

Long COVID

“We haven’t sold any online this year because I’ve got a situation at home. My wife has got long COVID and she’s been in bed for three years.”

I wasn’t planning to stop here, but this is incredible because your wife had long COVID and you have COVID right now. It’s the first time you’ve ever had COVID.

Coincidental?

Who knows? Spooky. I don’t feel too bad.

“Since then, I’m bringing up my two children almost as a single parent and looking after them.”

“She’s a long hauler in COVID.”

“She had a successful career and I don’t think she’s ever going to work again. That makes it incumbent on me to make this a success.”

“Were you based?”

“In New York. At the end of last year, my wife and I sat down, and for the first time, we discussed the fact that she probably wouldn’t ever work again. We agreed that she would move back to England and be cared for by her parents, which is where she’s been for the last nine months.”

“That must be horrible.”

“Terrible. I mean, the kids especially. My priority as a human being, as a parent is to keep them as happy and healthy as possible.”

That’s incredible. There’s an update there. Do you want to tell us the update?

My wife researched how to make herself better from long COVID and she succeeded in doing so. It was all about neural retraining. With her version of COVID, especially, I can’t speak for other long COVID patients, she discovered a method called neural retraining because the thinking is that in a lot of long COVID, your brain has tricked your body into thinking that you are sick. If you can retrain your brain to start telling your body that you are not sick, you will become less sick. She embarked on this program and was very successful. It worked for her. By last January 2023, she was back from England and back living with us, which was brilliant, especially for the children. At the end of last January, she published a substack or she felt confident enough to announce her potential return to work.

If you can retrain your brain to start telling your body that you're not sick, you will become less sick. Share on X

She published a substack and publicized it on LinkedIn to her work network saying, “If anybody has any consultancy work or freelance gigs, I feel able to start work again.” The next day she got sick again, but not with COVID. This time she got sick with a virus called Endocarditis, which to cut a long story short, ultimately ended ten days later with her having emergency lifesaving open heart surgery because she had had a stroke in the interim. If she hadn’t had surgery on the day that she’d had it, she would be dead now.

You don’t know if that could be a result of long COVID. We don’t know that.

Our thinking is that her immune system was probably compromised by the COVID and that probably exacerbated the endocarditis. It is generally curable with antibiotics and the antibiotics didn’t work with her. She had to have surgery suddenly, but she’s now in full health and back to work, which is amazing.

What an incredible story. Forget Shark Tank. That’s an incredible story in itself. Now you got your wife back and the kid’s got mommy back.

It’s been a rollercoaster story.

Say that one more time for anybody reading this, if you are suffering or know somebody who’s suffering from COVID.

She discovered a method called neural retraining. I’m trying to remember the name of the program she used. My mind’s gone blank, but there was a specific online program that she followed that worked for her.

Noshi Journey

“What were you doing before this happened?”

I grew up in the English countryside. When I was thirteen, I started reading my mom’s Vogue magazine and I thought, ‘I want to work there.’ I left home when I was 16 and 3 years later I was working at Vogue Magazine. I was a producer. I was a product photographer working for Tom Ford and Donna Karan, but then when our son was born in 2010, I thought, ‘I’m starting to grow out of this industry.’ My wife at the time was the CEO of a marketing company in New York and was making good money. We decided that I would become the stay-at-home parent. At which point, I discovered that both of my kids were extremely picky eaters.”

That’s another incredible story because you would’ve never been on this journey if you didn’t become tired of the industry you were in and decided to be a stay-at-home daddy, you would’ve never walked on this journey. I always say, “These things that happen in our life where we always should ask ourselves, why is this happening for me and not to me.”

When the book and the movie about my Nashi career are released, people read them and see the movie, they will not believe their eyes or their ears. It has been the most insane journey of my life.

Do you have a book and a movie coming out?

No, but once I’ve sold the company for $300 million, they’ll want to write a book and they’ll want to make a movie. It will be the wildest story you’ve ever read.

Who’s selling your business for $300 million?

You.

The Exit Rich Queen. Good answer. I love that.

“It took me a year to find a formulator. It took me another eighteen months to get the formulas to a point where we were happy with them and we launched in 2017. We went straight into about 80 Albertsons, 110 Safeways, and every branch of Jewel-Osco. I think we probably sold about $20,000 worth that year out.

“Out of all those stores?”

“They couldn’t see it.”

“Yeah.”

“People don’t know what it is.”

“It’s a unique product. People didn’t know what it was. I had designed the packaging thinking I was a creative genius.”

You were in how many stores altogether, like 400 with 20,000 sales? Why is that?

About 400. As I was explaining to the Sharks, I designed the packaging and it looked too much like a paint set. It was a unique pack part product that nobody had seen before. It was often placed on the very top shelf where people couldn’t see it. I had no industry experience, so I didn’t understand the importance of a marketing budget. A number of reasons. When we went into Walmart, the one thing they wanted me to change was the packaging design. I was eternally grateful to them for suggesting that because it was the right thing to say, and it made a huge difference.

I love how you’re saying, “I didn’t know anything about the industry. It was my fault. I should have known better,” but you should have known better because it wasn’t your expertise. That’s why I say, “Stick with your core competencies. Hire people smarter than you. Hire the genius at packaging. Even if you can’t afford it, where’s a wheel, there’s always a way,” then if you can’t afford the top of the top, get the best person you can get, hire them because it’ll save you a tremendous amount of money, time and energy. You would’ve probably been much further ahead if you would’ve done that.

Stick with your core competencies. Hire people smarter than you. Share on X

I thought I was the world’s best packaging designer because my background had been creative and so I thought, “I can do this,” then I designed it and I thought, “That looks amazing.”I had no second opinion because I was the sole founder. I only had myself to bounce ideas off. That’s why very often it’s hugely helpful to do something like this with at least one business partner and

A big lesson is if you are starting something yourself, as Tomo did, get those outside experts to see what you don’t see and then hire the people that you think are your strengths, but after you talk to an advisor, you talk to an expert, they’re going to say, “No, that’s not your strength. It was your strength in Vogue. It was your strength in that industry, but not necessarily your strength in kids and what parents buy.” As an entrepreneur, don’t seek opinions because everybody has one. You want to seek expert advice.

Find Your Exit | Tomo Delaney-Lethbridge | Noshi

Noshi: Don’t seek opinions because everybody has one. You want to seek expert advice.

 

The one thing you did well is getting those licensing deals. You might not be using them now, but that’s probably one thing that helped you get on a Shark Tank and it was a good thing at the time. Everybody going on a Shark Tank wants to have some type of proprietary assets rather than copyrights, trademarks, patents, and licensing agreements with some of the biggest companies out there.

Interestingly, about literally a week before Walmart asked me to redesign the packaging, I had started working with an advisor, a lovely guy called Dan, who I had met through a fashion industry contact in London. He had been one of the brilliant minds behind a smoothie brand in the UK called Innocent Smoothies, which subsequently sold to Coca-Cola for $250 million. Dan had done all of their branding and their copywriting. When Walmart said to me, “We’d love you to redesign the packaging,” I immediately went back to Dan and I said, “Help. Do you know any brilliant packaging designers?” He put me in touch with this amazing woman, Kirsty, who had done all of the innocent packaging design and she has designed all of my packaging from that day through to now. She designed this.

Entrepreneurs always say, “We have skillsets.” You need to take stock and figure out what is your superpower, what’s your core competency, and in what aspect. You were brilliant at Vogue and everything else, but not necessarily in this kids category or mom category because you didn’t specialize in that. Everybody needs to figure out their superpowers. Focus on your strengths and hire your weaknesses. Try to do it from the beginning. Here’s the bottom line. You fell forward and not backward. You’re still in business and you’re growing your company. You still did it the right way, but I always encourage people to try to do it sooner than that at the beginning if you can.

“Can we go to 2018? I want to see the trajectory.”

“In 2018, 2019, 2020, they were all the same because the packaging was wrong.”

“Did you stay in those retailers?”

“No, we came out of those Safeway and Albertson stores in 2018. In early 2019, I was at Expo West, and on the last day of the show, this young guy came out of the crowd and handed me a business card. I turned it around and it said Walmart on it. It was that easy. I’ve got these four amazing license deals.”

You’ve been very fortunate because you met the right person for licensing. You go to this trade show and the guy is with Walmart. Here’s the big difference between you and a lot of entrepreneurs. There are opportunities in front of us every single day, yet most people will never take action. You can have opportunities all day long, right in front of your face, but unless you recognize it, pay attention to it and take massive action, you’ll never realize those opportunities. You’ve been fortunate, but you acted upon it.

I would like to think that the guy from Walmart stopped and paid attention because it was, and I still believe that food paint is a brilliant idea. I just didn’t have the resources or the budget to do it justice. I hope one day we can revive it somehow and make sure that it is done properly.

I can’t wait to find out what you’re doing now and we’re going to save that for the end after the tank special.

“He handed me a business card and I turned it around and it said Walmart on it. It was that easy. I’ve got these four amazing license deals. They’re in Walmart. Walmart has stuck with us for three years.”

Investors

“How does Walmart feel about how you’re selling?”

“We heard last week that Walmart is going to put Sketchup into 1,500 stores next year.”

“Are they selling through currently?”

“Yeah, the last three production runs are the first three ever that we’ve sold through and we’ve sold through all three in the roads.”

“That’s a good sign.”

“I’m listening to the story and I would say you’re a remarkable man, given what you’ve been through. What’s bothering me is a lack of sales. Since 2017, it’s been relatively flat, then I have to consider that you’re a one-man show on this thing.

“That’s why I want you guys.”

“I get it, but I don’t need a job. I’m an investor. You may find that one of these other sharks wants to take this journey with you, but it’s not me. I’m out.

“I’m sad to hear that, but thank you, Kevin.”

It’s true that investors don’t want a job and many entrepreneurs make mistakes going to investors and thinking that they’re going to work in the business and investors are not going to do that. They already have enough jobs. I want to make that point.

I think he was right. I think you are right. I don’t have anything to say on that point.

I was going to add that the number one reason that buyers back out of buying a business is because a business is dependent upon the owner. You take that owner out of the business and guess what? The owner doesn’t have a business. The owner has a qualified job that they go to work at every day versus a business that works for them. You have to look at it both ways. Investors don’t want a job. Buyers don’t want a job. That’s why you have to work on a better and sustainable, scalable business I think that’s what you’re doing.

The number one reason that buyers back out of buying a business is because that business is so dependent upon the owner. Share on X

“I’m feeling that this doesn’t belong in a food aisle. I think it needs to be a gift item. I don’t see it as a competitive food item and appearing next to the ketchup in a food aisle because I don’t have confidence in the product where it’s positioned and how you sell it. I’m out.”

“That’s a shame.”

“Tomo, I think it’s a clever idea. There are a lot of things you did right, but there’s not enough here for me today to give you an offer. I wish you good luck.”

“That’s a shame, but thank you very much.”

Let’s pause there real quick. Two sharks are out.

It’s three by that point. It was Kevin, Barbara, and Lori.

Three sharks are out and I agree with Barbara. Now, we’re going to hear after the tank because I can’t wait to get to after the tank. We’re almost there, but when it’s that small, I can’t see it too positioned by the ketchup either. This is a product I see positioned in the cereal section where kids pay attention, the waffle section, whipped cream section, or sections like that. I had a hard time with positioning too to put a small little product next to a big bottle of ketchup. However, I know this has all been revamped. We’re going to talk about it in a minute. Do you think that here?

It’s been revamped in no small part. Thanks to the feedback I got from the Sharks, I suppose.

That’s another thing we want to talk about when we talk about after the tank what would you have ended up with if you hadn’t gone on a Shark Tank? I think that’s a good place for us to talk after the tank.

“I think that at $6, this is a great novelty one time and then a parent says, ‘It’s almost $6 every meal. I think.’ That’s where you may be having a little bit of resistance to the sales. I wish you luck and I really respect who you are, but I’m out.”

“Thank you very much.”

I saw this as a good gift item.

That’s what a lot of people said throughout its evolution.

This is great for birthday parties. If you’re going to do Easter, all the holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving. It could be seasonal and I see it as gift products.

I think that was the general feedback.

“There’s nothing I can do to convince you.”

“The hard part is I think shelf presence.”

I love that because you are like, “I lost four sharks and about to lose the last shark Mark Cuban,” and like, “Anything I could do to convince you,” because usually people give up too quickly.

“My life did flash before my eyes at that point.

I bet you’re like, “Oh my gosh, they’re all out.” So many people walk off the stage. They just give up and always say, “You are 3 feet from gold.”

The Shark Tank producers who helped coach me and prep me for the tank, “When sharks drop out, your energy levels need to go up, not down,” and they were right.

That’s not when you quit.

“You’ve got to know what you’re looking for or you’ve got to get attention very quickly. This says nothing. This is pretty damn cool. Thank you. I think Crayola will get a lot more attention. I mean the reality is what you do online is going to be far more important. That’s how you’re going to make all your money. What are you going to do to get online?”

“The problem is that I’m going to need funds to produce the product to sell and buy.”

“Is there any way you consider doing these as one-offs so that people can see them and try them? To Daymond’s point, it’s hard to make an investment of the $6 or whatever they sell for retail. If you have a little basket full of different flavors and each of these is $1.99, parents are going to pick them up.”

“I am open to doing anything. From day one, I knew that this was a good idea and whenever you show this stuff to a child, you are reassured of that.”

“I’ll offer you the $250,000 for 25%.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“Okay. Done.”

I love this idea about putting it in a basket like buy the cash registers where the parents are done hearing about the kids, “I need this. I want this,” at the cash register and you’re trying to shut them up. I love that idea. It’s like when you go to airport gift stores or anywhere you see the basket of Hot Wheel cars. I always buy a Hot Wheel car because my daughter loves Hot Wheels. She loves cars. I think she’s going to be a car racer one day, but I love that idea. Did you ever incorporate that?

No, because we were already in Walmart and the real estate at the registers is very hard to get into. It would’ve required us to restructure the whole business because we would’ve had to decide to make that pivot and then do everything that that pivot required of us, which is to say, produce more than three flavors and more than three formulas. How do you package them? How do you’ve got to suddenly put hang tags on them? All of this is with a view to then pitching them to the buyer that handles that set inside Walmart or another store. It was a huge amount of legwork with no guarantee of success. Ultimately, it didn’t need to.

You got the deal. You asked for 17% for $250,000. You got $250,000 for was 25%.

That was the offer he gave me.

After The Tank

That’s the offer you accepted. Let’s talk about after the tank. Take us through your journey. Throughout the show, you talked about the producers being helpful and informative and that’s great to know because we help our clients get ready to go on Shark Tank. I’ve had different experiences where they are involved and some they’re hands-off. It was good that they were involved. Anything you want to share there?

They were amazing. Shark Tank is a phenomenon and it has maintained its aura through them being very good at their jobs. Everybody involved at Shark Tank is amazing at their jobs. Talking to them, dealing with them and seeing how confident they are of their abilities, it is just their job. It’s what they do every year. They go offline for a couple of months and then they come back on, and the process starts again. It’s what they do and they’re very good at it. I can’t say enough good things about Maggie and Kelly, my two producers. They were fabulous.

After the tank, we talked a little bit earlier about, “We’re not doing the small tubes anymore. We’re not doing this packaging anymore. We’re not doing all this.” If you had never gone on Shark Tank, then what would’ve happened to your company? Where would it end up?

I would like to think it would still be moving, but I think it would’ve been harder. I gained Mark as a partner, which is amazing. He is the world’s best business partner, as I’m sure you can imagine.

 You’ve told me that he is amazing.

He’s amazing. His entire team is amazing. They are the best people in the world and the nicest people in the world as well, which is a huge part of it.

That’s wonderful to know because you don’t know. You see their personalities. It’s a show, so they have to be mean sometimes. Sometimes I look at some of these characters, the Sharks, and I go, “Daymond looks really mean.” I got another gentleman I hosted on my show. He is like, “No, he is the nicest guy on the planet. He just comes off that way.”

What I learned working in the fashion industry, and I think it holds true in most industries, is that the closer to the top of the industry, you get surprisingly the nicer the people are. In the fashion industry, you want to work with good people. if you are good at your job, you want to surround yourself with good, decent people. They need to be very good at what they do, but you want to enjoy spending time with them. I think all of the sharks, it’s a TV show, but they are very smart and nice people. I think don’t have any personal experience with the other four, but with Mark especially he is a very good person. I think that comes across. You can tell.

The closer to the top of the industry you get, surprisingly, the nicer the people are. Share on X

He seems very compassionate.

He’s very good at what he does and what he’s built is amazing. From my personal experience, he is a decent man. I think that’s very important.

Do you think you would’ve still been around but might not have moved as quickly or made some of the big changes that you made without their insight? Their insight really helped you.

There have been instances in the past where I’ve been given advice and I’ve chosen to ignore it. There have been instances in the past where I’ve read interviews with people and they’ve talked about pivoting their business. I’ve sat there and thought, “I would never do that. This is a good idea. There’s no way I would pivot my business. I know that I wanted something amazing here and I’m not going to deviate from it because I do think that if the right people see it, it will become a worldwide smash phenomenon.” That isn’t realistic. I think it kept me moving forward and kept me going as long as I kept going.

What was amazing after the deal with Cuban closed is that he and his team knew them telling or suggesting I make changes is different because these people know what they’re doing and they’re talking to me. We are a team and they’re saying to me what they’re all there to do, including Mark, is to turn my business into a growing increasingly profitable business. They tell you how they think you should make that happen, and they’re never wrong.

They do the jobs they do because they’re very good at them. They all, including Mark, made suggestions as to how we could change the business around. I started getting customer feedback as well from moms who had bought the Sketchup in the small tube saying, “My kids love it. They love the branding. They love your approach. They love the whole thing about it. They love the fact that you are making these products for them to use, but the small tubes are too expensive. If you put ketchup in big tubes, we’ll buy it.”

Taking on board the fact that food paint was a unique product that nobody had ever seen before, I sat down last summer with the confidence of having the support of Mark and his team and thought, “Everything I’ve learned over the last few years, I’m almost going to do the exact opposite. I’m going to make a product that everybody loves, that we know children understand, and we know parents understand as much as children. The Noshi ethos is still making products for children to use, to eat and making organic products because it was only ever going to be organic.” I made life as complicated as I possibly could for myself with food paint. I want to make life as simple as possible for myself with Noshi version two. I was happy to make the pivot and my thinking was, “Let’s do ketchup and what condiments do kids love?”

Let’s time out real quick because there was a lot to unpack that you said there, and I’m trying to remember it all. What I love is, that as many entrepreneurs get great advice as you said, but you don’t always take it. You don’t always listen to it because a lot of entrepreneurs are married to their ideas. They’re married to the concept of their idea. They don’t want to listen to somebody else because 1) They feel, “I was wrong about this,” instead of saying, “Thank God I got their perspective, that I can now start to pivot and transform my company because I’m not going to waste more time, energy, and money going down this path.” You weren’t married to your idea and what you said is doing the small tubes and all cost you all this discomfort, now you’re listening to the advice of the experts and you’re making things more comfortable for everybody else, which makes things more comfortable for you. There’s a lot of valuable nuggets right there that I wanted.

I had to buy all of my own machinery. I bought and built my own production line because nobody put food in tubes before me. There were no co-packers in the USA that put food in tubes.

Let’s talk about how you changed because I definitely want to talk about you buying your own machinery, but how’d you go from a food paint company to what are you now?

I sat down and I thought, “How do we do this differently?” The margins were awful with food paint and with the small tube of ketchup, the process of making them was almost impossible. It was killing me. It was too complicated. I thought, “We are going to find a co-packer that does put food in tubes so we can use their machinery, their labor, and their machinery is going to be much better than mine because it’s going to be newer than mine. Where is that co-packer?” I found one because I’d been speaking to them for 3 or 4 years, and they’re in Ohio. I spoke to them and I said, “Can we do this project together?” and they said yes, then I thought, “With food paint, we were buying all of the ingredients separately, bringing them on site and blending them, and then putting them in tubes.”

I want to find people who can make these savory sauces for me of ketchup and the other two that we’re making offsite and they can ship it to me ready blended, but I also want to find people who make it as close to my co-packer as possible to keep the freight costs to an absolute minimum, so I did, and I found people within two hours drive of my co-packer who were prepared to custom formulate these organic sources for me, blend them in their facility and then ship them to my facility.

They all go on a tube.

It is all these three sources, this tube, and the chicken sauce.

What do we have now? We have the ketchup, the chicken sauce, and what’s the one in the middle?

That’s ranch. The ketchup is launching in July 2024. The chicken sauce is launching in the fall of 2024, and the ranch is probably going to launch in early 2025. That’s not to say we can’t launch all three of them sooner. I’m thinking depending on how conversations go with retailers that we’re having, I’m very open to the idea of launching all three of them sooner than that.

We’re not doing food painting anymore. You had the painting on the waffles and pancakes. Now we’re selling the condiments in a bottle.

It’s in a tube.

How does that still make it fun and controlling for the kids where they’re going to enjoy eating and not play the no game?

It’s designed for them, as you can see. If you show this to a kid, they know that it is for them. This is not Mom and Dad’s ketchup. This is the kids ketchup and kids respond to that. All I can do is ask you to take my word for that. I spent a weekend photographing various kids using this and none of them had seen it before. As soon as I showed it to all of them, they could not wait to get their hands on it. They immediately understood that it was for them and it was ketchup. They all love ketchup.

The other big key piece of very pertinent information is the reason kids love condiments, we all know how much kids love condiments, is it’s the only time during the meal that they are given any responsibility. They’re told, “Put the ketchup on your fries.” They know that they can put the ketchup on the side of their plate or the ketchup on their fries. That’s why they love condiments so much. Ketchup tastes amazing. The reason kids get excited by condiments is because they’re allowed to do it themselves.

Find Your Exit | Tomo Delaney-Lethbridge | Noshi

Noshi: You can have opportunities all day long right in front of your face but unless you recognize it, pay attention to it, and take massive action, you’ll never realize those opportunities.

 

Summarize that. I call it my approach with my clients. Ask yourself the three basic questions. What business are you in? You were in the food painting business.

I was, I’m not anymore.

That’s right, but we’re going to go backward. You were in a food painting business, this is one time and then we’re going back forward. When you were in the food painting business, what was your superpower?

Knowing that kids liked these products and knowing the approach was the right approach, knowing that children needed and wanted to be given more responsibility at meal times the way to give that to them was by designing food products that they could use themselves.

We’re going to sum that up and say how children eat what will help them be in control not throw a temper at dinner, and then you transition into the con business. Amazon did that. Back in the ‘90s, they asked themselves, “What business are we in?” They were in a book distributor business. What’s their superpower? Shipping fulfillment, “What business did they say we have to be in? We have to be in a fulfillment business for products all around the world” That’s what you did. That’s what I encourage all entrepreneurs to do because you have to pivot. If you’re married to your idea and people don’t see validity in that idea, then you’re going to go out of business. I think you’re a great example of business entrepreneurship.

I’ve been doing this for many years and a lot of it is down to tenacity, but a lot of it is down to me being increasingly more and more open-minded as to how we grow the business and keep it moving forward.

Making The Transition

When did you make that shift? What year was that shift?

Summer 2023.

How have you been keeping your financial boat afloat when you weren’t in all those stores anymore? You are not at Walmart. How did you keep your financial boat afloat while you were making that huge transition?

Determination and tenacity. I’ve said to all of my investors including Cuban, “I’m very proud of what I did with the business up until the point I got on Shark Tank. I’m proud of the fact that I had an idea, I had the confidence to run with it and I then ran the business economically and efficiently for years, even in the face of very low sales because I wanted to keep it moving forward.” It’s a slightly bigger version of that. I know this is a good idea. I know what we need to do and how we need to get there. I know it’s going to take this long so I’m going to budget accordingly, and I did. We are about to launch. I’m pleased with that. It is about time too.

You were able to run a tight ship, budget your money, and be able to keep the voter afloat. That’s amazing.

It was extremely tough, but I was never going to give up.

That’s what you have to be. Here’s the bottom line. What entrepreneurs start with most 9 times out of 10 is not what they end up with. If you go to market, doing business the same way you’ve always done it, then you’re going to become antiquated because the thing that’s always consistent in business is change and innovation. The reason why many businesses go out of business is a lack of aim. The aim is always to innovate and market. You’re going to continue to innovate and market. That was great that you were able to do that because many entrepreneurs are stuck in no way. They don’t want to listen, don’t want to make any revisions, and don’t want to pivot, then, “I’m dying.” You’re either growing or dying. There’s no in-between.

Nine times out of time, what entrepreneurs start with is not what they end up with. If you go to market doing business the same way you've always done, then you're going to become antiquated. Share on X

When I first started filling tubes, we were working out of an organic co-packer in New Jersey. I was solo. There would be 2 guys over there making kimchi, 2 young women over there filling olive oil in bottles and somebody else putting chocolate-coated nuts into bags over here. They were all having so much fun and that’s what struck me. They would be laughing and having fun. They were excited we were building a brand and I felt very lonely. What I’ve got in place of that partner or that partner, I’ve got Mark Cuban standing at my shoulder. The difference between that and that and what I’ve got is that when I bounce an idea off him, he’ll tell me what I need to hear, even if it’s not what I want to hear.

There are many benefits to having launch partners and business partners in that context, but there is a danger of you convincing each other that you’ve reinvented the wheel. It’s amazingly helpful for me to have a partner who will say, “No, don’t do that. We are not doing that. That’s that’s not the way to be doing this,” but at the same time, if I say a good idea or good progress report to him, he’s amazingly supportive. He’s an amazing partner to have.

I always say, “It’s hard to read the label from the inside of the bottle. You need an outsider’s perspective to learning science to keep you out of that danger zone.” I talked to a huge role leader in AI and he took my entire vision and turned it upside down. I said, “You can’t do this. You can’t do that. You can’t say this. You needed to go in this direction. Do that.” That is invaluable. Many people take offense to that and they’re married to their idea and they can’t hear what somebody else is saying. You got to detach yourself from your product. You have to detach yourself from what you know that you think to be true because you don’t know what you don’t know. Unless you’ve been in that industry for years and years, and even if you have, there’s already somebody out there who knows more than you do. You always align yourself with the greatest of the great. What’s next for Noshi and what does Noshi stand for?

I’ve got no idea when I was designing.

I knew, “No, no, no.” No has to be part of it.

No, it is not. When I first was introduced to Kirsty, the packaging designer and we had our first call. She said, “What designs do you like?” I’d always loved Japanese food packaging. I did a lot of Googling on Japanese food packaging. I think the word Noshi must have evolved for me looking at lots of packaging that said things like Toshi, Goshi, and Boshi on it. It was a made-up word. One of my friends of mine who was helping me with the business at the beginning is Jewish and she made the connection between Nashi and nosh, Yiddish for to eat. It was the right name. Visually, it looks great.

It’s short, which is great. What’s next for Noshi?

We launched the ketchup on Amazon. We launched the chicken sauce as soon as possible after that and the ranch as soon as possible after that. We’re talking to retailers. I’m excited about the Amazon model. I think the margins we’ve managed to get are in stark contrast to the ones we had with food paint that were discussed on Shark Tank. We’ve got a bunch of influencers lined up and committed to posting content of our ketchup around the time of the launch to their combined six million followers. I stole that idea from an amazing woman called Helen who founded a keto cereal brand called Schoolyard Snacks.

There are interviews with her online and she talks about how she built her business from the ground up. The first bunch of sales was generated by her reaching out to hundreds of micro-influencers and asking them to post content in exchange for free content, and they did. It generated $100,000 in sales right out of the gate. That’s how she got her business up and running.

Are you going to sell on your own website too?

Not initially, everything’s going to be driven straight to Amazon.

Can I give you some advice on that?

Yeah.

Be careful. You don’t want everything in one bucket.

There won’t be one bucket for long. It’ll be one bucket long enough to get the product out there, make a big splash with it, and make it very easy for as many people as possible to get their hands on it quickly and to get some revenue coming through.

This happens all the time when somebody’s got their business like we were working with a makeup manufacturer and they were everything in Costco. The only distributor was Costco. COVID happened. People were spending money on makeup. They kicked them out with no other platform. I always say, “You want 4 to 7 ways you get paid. You want 4 to 7 platforms on how you sell your products and services.”

Find Your Exit | Tomo Delaney-Lethbridge | Noshi

Noshi: You want four to seven ways to get paid and you want four to seven platforms on how you sell your products and services.

 

When we were only selling in Walmart, I used to think that to myself regularly and it was terrifying. I think this time’s a little bit different because if COVID happens again, anybody can buy anything from Amazon in a heartbeat.

Are you going to be in Whole Foods too?

We’re going to get there.

Whole Foods, Walmart, and chains. Retail chains are coming back. I suggest you start your own website then Amazon, but you want very diversified platforms. You’ve been a wonderful guest. Great knowledge. I hope your anxiety lessened a little bit.

That’s the first time I’ve watched it since it aired and it wasn’t that bad. I mean everybody says I was quite good, and it wasn’t.

That’s the first time you watched it since you’ve been on it?

Yes.

You’re an incredible man with an incredible story, and obviously an incredible surviving wife. It’s ironic that you happen to have COVID, but you did a great job and you brought many golden nuggets. What do you have to say? Any last-minute thoughts for our audience?

Entrepreneurship is a wild ride. If you’ve got the nerve to do it, it is the most exhilarating journey you will ever go on. It is terrifying. Every problem that you are presented with, if you have the tenacity and the willpower, you can overcome anything that’s put in front of you. Being a food and beverage CPG brand Founder/Owner is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I’m very proud of myself for having kept this train on the tracks for nearly ten years and something amazing is probably about to happen. Take Shark Tank and everything out of the way. Your success as a founder will all come from you. It is all down to you. If you have the balls to get there, you’ll get there.

Well said. I love that. It is a wild ride. Saddle up, entrepreneurs. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a wild ride, but you’ve hung in there, stuck in there and I can’t wait to see what’s up for you next. Thank you so much for dropping all these wonderful words of wisdom and sharing your experience. Not just your Shark Tank journey, but your personal journey as well, which is even more incredible than Shark Tank, in my opinion.

Thank you.

For all of our readers, I know this was a huge episode. Make sure that you read it a few times because it’s like drinking from a water hose. There’s so much golden nuggets in there that you want to capture. Make sure you share this with all of your friends. Make sure you subscribe to the Exit Rich Podcast. If you’re interested in getting on a Shark Tank episode, we specialize in helping our clients know the numbers. You did a great job knowing the numbers, Tomo. That’s where most people get hung up as they don’t know the numbers. You were realistic in your evaluation. Nobody beat you up on evaluation.

You’ve got to be realistic with the numbers and you’ve got to know your numbers. It’s very important.

You want to know your numbers. Thank you so much.

Thank you for having me.

 

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