Sales rise after Viera entrepreneur jumps into ‘Shark Tank’


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Business has been booming for Daniel Rensing, CEO of The Smart Baker, after he and his wife, Stephanie, appeared on TV’s “Shark Tank” in 2012.

MIKE GAFFEY

Swimming with television’s sharks has been good for Daniel Rensing’s business.

Rensing, 29, founder and chief executive officer of The Smart Baker, shared his experiences from his March 2012 appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank” during a Viera Means Business meeting Sept. 11 at Art Gallery of Viera. 

Rensing and his wife, Stephanie, manufacture and distribute baking accessories at their Rockledge business.

The Rensings of Viera sought $75,000 in their business pitch before five wealthy panelists, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Although a deal struck with real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran later fell through, the television exposure sent their sales soaring, Rensing told the crowd of 50.

“By the end of March (2012) in our online sales, we did more than we did the previous year,” Rensing recalled. “It was great for us. It transformed us from a garage-based e-commerce business.”

Rensing comes from an entrepreneurial family. His grandfather started Rockledge-based manufacturer Renco Electronics in 1955. 

“I grew up in family business from day one and I think that’s really the path I wanted to take in my own life,” he said.

After Rensing and his high school sweetheart moved from New York to Brevard in 2003, he obtained a degree in computer graphics and design from Keiser University and launched a printing and design business.

Then in 2009, the couple got the idea for The Smart Baker. Both had spent lots of time baking treats for family members since they were in high school, and scaling up recipes to feed relatives and converting measurements to figure out ingredients would grow frustrating. So Rensing created an apron for his wife with measurement conversions printed upside down for easy reading. They first placed their product, the Cheat Sheet Apron, on e-commerce website Etsy.

“Two weeks later, I get a phone call from Food Network Magazine, saying ‘Hey, we came across your apron online and we’d love to do a feature,’ ” Rensing said. “I thought it was a joke.”

In its Christmas 2009 issue, the magazine listed the apron as one of its top 10 must-have kitchen items, Rensing said. As sales rose, “we quickly had to come up with a business name for the website, figure out what we’re going to charge for things,” he said. “So there was a lot of work that had to get crammed into a month and a half without knowing anything about the baking industry.”

The Rensings’ next product came along as they were preparing for their wedding. After the couple had decided to make their popular homemade cupcakes instead of having a wedding cake, Rensing created a multi-tiered tower to display the treats. The tower became another hit on Etsy.

Over the objections of his new bride, Rensing, a fan of “Shark Tank,” then sent an email about their business to the show without telling her, and quickly forgot about it.

“Next thing you know, I’m on my way to dinner at my parents’ house and I get a phone call from the California area code,” Rensing said. “I pick up the phone and it was the casting director for “Shark Tank.” Stephanie asked ‘Who is that?’ I said ‘Nobody, it’s work.’ Then she realizes I’m not walking into the house and I’m pacing in the driveway like a crazy person, semi-shaking. I had to reveal what I did.”

After nearly a year of nerve-wracking preparations, the Rensings finally got the call from ABC. 

“We had 18 hours notice to get our things together, get on a plane and get to California,” Rensing said. “We were freaking out.”

After waiting five days in a hotel room, the Rensings made their “Shark Tank” appearance. They used three of their products in their pitch: the Cheat Sheet Apron, the 5 Tier Round Cupcake Tower and Perfect Parchment, pre-cut parchment paper for cake pans and cookie sheets.

“You see about nine minutes,” Rensing said of the appearance. “We were out there for almost two hours doing our pitch, so there’s a whole lot that you don’t see that doesn’t make it to air.”

The Rensings sought $75,000 for a 25 percent stake in the company. Three panelists opted out, but the couple found themselves in a bidding war between Corcoran and FUBU clothing founder Daymond John. Both offered $75,000 for a 40 percent stake, but the Rensings went with Corcoran, who added a 5 percent royalty fee.

The deal fell apart backstage,

it’s the best thing, especially for what they want and how they want to control things. So we had the opportunity to back out and both did.”

The couple’s disappointment soon faded as sales increased and retailers sought to sell their products in their stores. 

“At this point now, we’re in about 500 retail stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics and Craft stores, lots of regional chains and mom-and-pop stores throughout the country,” Rensing said. “Overall, it’s been a great ride for us. We keep growing, adding more products every day.”

When he’s not running the business with his wife or traveling to meetings with CEOs interested in their products, Rensing spends time coaching other entrepreneurs. He speaks often at high school business classes and even served as a panelist on a local version of “Shark Tank.”

“I try to make myself available, I try to get involved when I can,” Rensing said. “I wish I had more mentoring when I was starting out, but I had my family. I’m glad to help others starting out. It’s good karma.”

For more information, call 321-735-4978 or go to thesmartbaker.com

Rensing said. “We didn’t close a deal, which is all for the better,” he said. “Just because somebody’s giving you money doesn’t always necessarily mean it’s the best thing, especially for what they want and how they want to control things. So we had the opportunity to back out and both did.”

The couple’s disappointment soon faded as sales increased and retailers sought to sell their products in their stores. 

“At this point now, we’re in about 500 retail stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics and Craft stores, lots of regional chains and mom-and-pop stores throughout the country,” Rensing said. “Overall, it’s been a great ride for us. We keep growing, adding more products every day.”

When he’s not running the business with his wife or traveling to meetings with CEOs interested in their products, Rensing spends time coaching other entrepreneurs. He speaks often at high school business classes and even served as a panelist on a local version of “Shark Tank.”

“I try to make myself available, I try to get involved when I can,” Rensing said. “I wish I had more mentoring when I was starting out, but I had my family. I’m glad to help others starting out. It’s good karma.”

For more information, call 321-735-4978 or go to thesmartbaker.com.