Most entrepreneurs who appear on “Shark Tank” take pains to make sure their products look as appealing as possible.
Evan Lutz, on the other hand, took pride in showing off some of the ugliest inventory he could find.
The 23-year-old from Baltimore, Md., is the co-founder and CEO of Hungry Harvest, a business built on selling “ugly” — but perfectly edible — produce that would otherwise get discarded. For every box it sells, the company donates a box to the hungry.
Lutz approached the sharks looking for $50,000 for a 5% stake in his company, and ended up making a deal with Robert Herjavec, who invested $100,000 for 10% equity.
As Lutz explained on “Shark Tank,” he’s aiming to solve two growing problems at the same time: hunger and food waste in the US. One-sixth of the American population goes hungry, Lutz said.
At the same time, according to the National Resource Defence Council, a whopping 40% of food in the US is never eaten. That’s partly because supermarkets don’t sell (and customers don’t buy) produce that’s misshapen or discolored, even though it’s generally fine to eat.
Hungry Harvest purchases surplus produce from local farms and wholesalers. Boxes of ugly produce range from $15 to $55 a week (depending on size) and include leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, and sometimes seasoning.
The company is but one example of an increasing number of businesses across the US that aim to reduce food waste by marketing ugly produce that would typically get thrown in the trash.
In their first six months, Hungry Harvest had $37,000 in sales; in the last six months, they have had $104,000. Just over 500 customers currently have subscriptions.
Right now, however, the company isn’t profitable, and they have had a net loss of about $20,000 — a fact that caused alarm among some of the sharks.
On “Shark Tank,” Barbara Corcoran criticised Lutz for being too “in love with the idea” and not “greedy” enough to be the kind of businessperson she’d want to partner with.
Herjavec jumped in with an offer, which Lutz nearly lost because he was waiting to hear from Kevin O’Leary. After a few seconds of deliberation, and after some cajoling from the other sharks, he moved to accept Herjavec’s deal.
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