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‘Shark Tank’ founders say money wasn’t the biggest benefit of the show



shark tank kitu life founders
The founders of Kitu Life,
Jake, Jordan, and Jim DeCicco, pictured, say they became more
prepared to pitch their business after appearing on “Shark

Courtesy of Kitu

  • The founders of Kitu Life appeared on “Shark
    ” pitching Super Coffee in February 2018.
  • They didn’t land an offer, but they say going on the
    show helped them prepare for future business meetings.
  • They also discovered new types of customers they hadn’t

Three years ago, the DeCicco brothers came up with the idea for
Kitu Life in a college
dorm room.

Jordan DeCicco was a basketball player at Philadelphia University
looking for a more nutritious alternative to the energy drinks he
saw on the shelves of grocery stores. He and his brothers, Jim
and Jake, who had also been college athletes, devised a bottled
coffee drink made with Colombian coffee, lactose-free protein,
and MCT oil from coconuts.

Today, the company is valued at about $50 million and Kitu Life
products — which include Super Coffee and Super Creamer — are
sold in Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Fairway. Jordan has since
dropped out of school, while Jim has ditched his Wall Street gig
to go all in on the business.

In November, the DeCiccos were named to the
Forbes 30 Under 30
list of innovators in the food and drink

Much of Kitu Life’s success has hinged on their appearance on
“Shark Tank” in February 2018 (the company was then called
Sunniva Super Coffee). The founders went on the show asking for
$500,000 for a 4.5% stake in their company and walked away
without a deal — but Jim told Business Insider that the show was
still a major boon for their entrepreneurial careers.

“The best outcome of ‘Shark Tank,’ despite the publicity, was how
prepared we became for our business,” he said.

In the month leading up to their appearance, the founders
dedicated every spare second to preparing for anything and
everything that could happen in the tank. They divided the
90-second pitch into three parts — one for each brother — and
practiced it constantly: in the gym, in the car, in elevators.

“People would look at us like we were crazy, because we were
walking down the street in here in New York City, just talking to
ourselves doing this pitch,” Jim said. “That’s how we memorized

(Interestingly, the founders of Cousins Maine Lobster
also said they
practiced their pitch
in different types of situations in
order to get more comfortable with it.)

The Kitu Life founders called on investors, advisers, and even
former professors to help them stage mock pitches. And once the
founders had given their official “Shark Tank” pitch and gone
through the Sharks’ interrogation, they felt like they could
handle anything.

The Kitu Life founders discovered new types of customers they
hadn’t anticipated

Another benefit of their “Shark Tank” experience was that it
expanded their customer base: People who they’d never imagined
using Super Coffee or Super Creamer were sharing their thoughts
(some positive, some negative) on the products.

They’d initially marketed the product to college athletes, but
Jim said they learned that “millennial moms with money” — i.e.
relatively wealthy parents of young kids — had also taken a
liking to Super Coffee and Super Creamer.

The Kitu Life founders aren’t the only entrepreneurs to
look beyond money
when they think about the benefits of
appearing on “Shark Tank.”

Read more:

People think startup founders go on ‘Shark Tank’ for big-name
investors and a pile of cash, but entrepreneurs who have done it
say that’s not really the point

Randy Goldberg, cofounder of sock
company Bombas
, previously told Business Insider that, even
though Bombas landed a $200,000 deal, preparing for the questions
he might be asked was useful for future meetings.

Similarly, Jack Mann, founder of earplugs company Vibes, previously
told Business Insider
that even though he turned down a
$100,000 offer, he discovered new uses for the earplugs.
Initially, he was focused on using the product at concerts — but
he learned that people were excited to use it at fitness classes
and sporting events, and even on motorcycle rides. 

As for the founders of Kitu Life, Jim said, “The fact that we did
it on that [‘Shark Tank’] stage made every other business meeting
a piece of cake, or much more comfortable than it otherwise would
have been.”

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