Values Partnerships leads a nationwide casting tour for ABC’s Shark Tank, which is focused on bringing more diverse ideas and voices to the show. In 2017, it’s hosting casting calls across the country, giving diverse entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their businesses and appear on the ninth season of Shark Tank. It will also host pitch prepping sessions, entrepreneurship resources, and discussions on access to capital for entrepreneurs around the country, with the goal of every entrepreneur leaving these events better than when they arrived.
At each stop, Brandon Andrews will also sit down for a Q&A with entrepreneurs from the casting calls and the organizations that support them. On March 24, 2017, the casting team for ABC’s Shark Tank came to Memphis, TN, for the second stop in the nationwide casting tour. While in Memphis, Andrews sat down with Goodness Gracious Cookies CEO Megan Mottley:
BRANDON ANDREWS: What’s the Goodness Gracious Cookies story?
MEGAN MOTTLEY: I’ve been baking since I was a teenager. Both of my grandmothers baked religiously, and my mother was also amazing in the kitchen—she loved trying new dishes and putting new twists on old classics. It was during the holiday season that I would get my time to shine, because that’s when my mother would let me take over “her” kitchen to bake cookies, brownies, and other treats—too many to name. As a young single mother looking for ways to give on a budget, I kept the family tradition going by baking and gifting cookies to family, friends, church members, neighbors, sorority sisters, and my daughter’s teachers.
Fast-forward to 2016, my daughter, who was 14 at the time, had an amazing opportunity to travel to Japan on a mission trip. I knew this was her destiny, because she had been taking Japanese since she was in the sixth grade. The only catch was that we had to raise $3,500 in three months. We planned several fundraisers, and the first fundraiser totally flopped. Naturally, my daughter was disappointed, so I decided to reach back to my family tradition and bake our way to Japan.
It worked because after a few posts to Facebook and Instagram with mouthwatering cookies to support our journey to Japan and our Cookies for Missions initiative. We raised over $5,000 in less than eight weeks. We surpassed our goal, and we were able to help three other people raise funds for their mission trips. From that point on, family, friends and whoever tasted the cookies encouraged me to start a business. After landing two corporate accounts, I knew I had something special—and Goodness Gracious Cookies, Inc. was launched.
ANDREWS: Faith figures significantly in the origin story of Goodness Gracious Cookies. Religious or not, entrepreneurs must have faith in themselves and their product/service to succeed. Tell us about the role faith plays in your life as an entrepreneur.
MOTTLEY: Without faith, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to dream big for my daughter. After a failure, most people quit. But, I knew my daughter was watching, so I had to be courageous, step out on faith, and keep going. In essence, that one failure pushed us to come up with a back-up plan, which ultimately became the master plan! Every day in my life as an entrepreneur, I am reminded to choose faith over fear, as I continue to grow Goodness Gracious Cookies.
ANDREWS: What makes your cookies unique?
MOTTLEY: Goodness Gracious Cookies was born out of the cause to help others. Fundraising is our foundation, so each cookie is genuinely made with love. I didn’t have any fancy equipment—I just used what I already had on hand, and God breathed on it. For that reason, we continue to host fundraisers to create awareness about global mission trips and local causes. I absolutely love how our customers have caught on to the vision of our Cookies for Missions initiative.
On an even sweeter note, Goodness Gracious Cookies are the Bentley of cookies— in their look, packaging, and taste. They are rich, sweet, and luxe—absolutely superior to the average cookie and just plain addictive. My customers also love the delivery/shipping aspect, because it provides them with a private splurging experience. We uniquely cater to the grown-up cookie lover, as well, with flavors like Ultimate Oatmeal Reason, Double-Dipped Strawberry Chocolate Chip, Cranberry Dark Chocolate Oatmeal, Strawberry Snickerdoodle, and Lemon Caliente—to name a few.
ANDREWS: You pitched at our Memphis casting call. How was the experience? What does the opportunity to be on Shark Tank mean to you?
MOTTLEY: It was such an amazing experience. It was another step of faith over fear, because I never imagined I’d have such an opportunity. Although I was a bit nervous, the overall process was fun and a dream come true. I walked away feeling even more confident, and that I could anything that I put my mind to. I’m sure others did as well.
The opportunity to be on Shark Tank would be epic on so many levels. It would be an honor to represent the gift of baking handed down to me from my grandmothers and mother. It would show single mothers that, if they choose faith over fear, the sky is the limit. It would show my daughter that all the sacrifices that she’s seen me make have not been in vain. Her view of the entrepreneurial lifestyle has been one of extremely hard work with little return, but I believe this opportunity would totally change her outlook, if she sees that there’s support both educationally and financially. Lastly, it would be an amazing dream come true to receive financial support from one or multiple sharks to grow my business and provide a delicious product, which comes from the heart and benefit others in a major way in that process.
ANDREWS: Memphis is home to Shark Tank alums Mo’s Bows and Angels & Tomboys. How is the Memphis entrepreneurship ecosystem growing?
MOTTLEY: Yes, I absolutely admire and love the owners of Mo’s Bows and Angels & Tomboys! It’s growing very well! We have so many amazing entrepreneurs in this city, who are passionate about what they do and who also take the time to reach back, and pave the way for future entrepreneurs. Memphis is an incubator for great ideas, and I’m proud to call this my home and carry the entrepreneurial torch.
ANDREWS: Capacity is a concern for every entrepreneur, especially entrepreneurs who make products. How do you plan to expand capacity in 2017?
MOTTLEY: The first thing that I plan to do is get a KitchenAid Stand Mixer—I’ve been mixing cookies the old school way for the past year! I had to start somewhere, and that meant using what I already had. In addition, I plan to slightly rebrand to transition from a fundraiser to a business, invest in more equipment, and place the cookies in a few retail locations. I want Goodness Gracious Cookies to be a household name.
ANDREWS: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to expand their capacity, as well?
MOTTLEY: I would encourage entrepreneurs who are looking to expand their capacity to start somewhere. Don’t despise small beginnings, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. In addition, be mindful that problems will occur. It’s important to educate yourself on every process—every contract you’re about to sign and so forth. Do all in your power to avoid costly setbacks. That requires staying positive, understanding your role, and being aware of your industry. In the end, don’t be the one who gave up on their dream, because of the valleys and daunting mountains. Faith over fear, always.
Visit www.sharktankdiversitytour.com to apply for Season Nine of Shark Tank.