At Salesmate it is our goal to help aspiring entrepreneurs become successful. We had the opportunity to connect with the founder of Coconut Girl Brands, Francheska “Frankie” Yamsuan. Her business was featured on Shark Tank and she successfully struck a deal with Mark Cuban for $180,000 for 20% of the company. This Q&A gives you the highlights of how she successfully grew her business. We hope this interview will inspire you and give you insight on what it takes to take a consumable product to market and become successful.
We used Zoom software to easily book our meeting, record, & download our Q&A with Frankie. We hope you enjoy the interview!
How did you start making your products?
So when I moved to LA about 12 years ago, I joined crossfit and that’s how I was introduced to the paleo diet. My gym had a Paleo challenge for 30 days. So I signed up. I’ve always been obsessed with creating healthy alternatives. So I ended up buying a little home ice cream machine so I could make a shake out of dates. So I made a date shake and brought it in for the potluck. Everyone loved it. I had one of the coaches ask if she could buy it for the next potluck. I had no idea how to charge her so I charged $12 for a pint for her next potluck. They all loved it and the news started spreading throughout the crossfit community.
So other members started messaging me and asked if they could buy it and that’s just how it started. It was kind of an accident. I didn’t really think anything of it. I was just doing it on the side. I was making it at the time I dropped out of UCLA and I went to culinary school. I wanted to be a paleo chef. So after I finished culinary school, I had a few clients from my gym but I got tired of coming up with different paleo recipes and everyone loved my ice cream.
So I decided to just pursue the ice cream side of the business. I wanted to just focus on one product and make it great. So one summer, I just sat at my dining table. I was just brainstorming names and I’m like, well it is coconut based and I wanted to be my own brand. So I came up with Coconut Girl and it just felt right. So that was kind of the starting point of Coconut Girl.
Can you share one of the scrappiest things you did as an entrepreneur that has attributed to your success?
I do have a story. So the first time I got my first account in Downtown LA it was kind of an accident. If you have seen Shark Tank, I was riding my icicle tricycle. That was the first big investment that had cost me about $3,000. A manager of a store saw me and asked if I would wholesale my product. I said: “Yeah”, but I lied because I have never done this before. So I only had 30-60 days to figure everything out. I didn’t really have a lot of money. So I decided just to print the labels out of my home printer and realized the ink would smear. So I sprayed the labels with a product to stop the smearing but then the packaging smelt like gasoline. But you know what, I mean work with what you have the tools that you have. It was really embarrassing but I had that drive to just put it out there.
My favorite quote from one of the co-founders of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman, he said if you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product then you have launched too late.
What was the one tactic you did that fueled the growth of your product?
My company is called Coconut Girl. I wanted to be the brand. I didn’t have any experience marketing, I am a College Dropout, and went to culinary school. Making myself the brand would help me and hold me accountable. Every weekend I would find any fitness event and just put myself out there and talk to customers to get their feedback by selling my product.
I was out there getting their feedback, building the clientele, and building relationships. The best part was that I was getting paid to do this by selling my product. So they trusted me and that’s what made them purchase my product. If shelter-in-place was not currently going on because of covid-19, I would definitely be out there at grocery stores, events, and more still selling. Getting my products in front of customers. I love it.
Tell us about the prep work it took to apply to be on Shark Tank?
Yeah, so there’s not a lot that I can say because I did sign a NDA but I applied in March of last year and I had about a month when I found out that they were interested in filming me. I was currently living in LA and I was self manufacturing my product in the kitchen 8 to 12 hours a day but I was still very interested in fitness. I never wanted to miss my workout. So I will get up around 4:30am to drive to Santa Monica Beach. I would run about three miles and instead of listening to music, I would just repeat my pitch over and over again for 30 days. That helped me prep a lot because I haven’t had to memorize things in a very long time.
So while I’m running on Ocean Avenue I would just repeat my pitch, repeat my pitch, repeat my pitch. I would also film myself in front of the camera practicing my pitch. Most importantly as every entrepreneur should do, make sure you know all your numbers. Presenting in front of people does not come naturally so I wanted to make sure that I came out with a lot of energy and nailed my pitch.
What was the scariest thing about pitching to the sharks?
It is live. You have no idea. I was terrified and last minute they told me I had to wear a helmet. So I was riding my tricycle down the hall and when I got to the set I could not get my helmet off. Luckily they did not air that part. It was kind of an icebreaker for me. But I was able to nail my pitch after that. I kind of feel like I blacked out. I don’t even know how I went through all of that. The scariest part is the Q&A. They can ask any questions and you have to think on your feet. So that was really the scariest part.
What has been the impact on Coconut Girl since the show aired?
Literally as it is airing my phone was blowing up. I had to turn it off during my viewing party. I have been getting a lot more buyers and distributors calling me. Unfortunately this aired right before the pandemic so as my product sold out in stores, it was not prioritized to be restocked. As things are starting to settle down now, things are starting to get better. The attention and awareness of the brand has been a big plus. It has also grown my credibility. It is a lot easier to talk to grocery buyers, distributors, and customers. So this has been a very positive experience.
How is your working relationship with Mark Cuban after Shark Tank?
I report with him weekly. He also has a team that I work with. I talk to them basically every week. Mark is very busy right now because of the pandemic but I report to him weekly and he provides his feedback. While some of the comments on youtube people believe that Mark bullied me into a deal but it was not at all like that. I really wanted to work with Mark. We have a good working relationship.
What are some online tools that you use to keep you organized? (Ie: Gmail, Project Management Tools, CRM, ect..)
So right now I’m still a little old school. I moved everything over to G-Suite from GoDaddy. I use Google Docs & Excel Sheets. I only have one employee right now and everything is on Google Drive & Dropbox. As I am growing I am looking to use something else, but for right now I am only using those tools.
Let's let's talk a little bit about Shark Tank, how did you prep?
The only thing that I really prepared was that first 60 second pitch. It’s not like they can say cut and do it again. That’s going to be on the episode. So that was the only thing I really rehearsed. Everything else is just about my business. I know it inside and out, so I didn’t really prep.
Can you share some of the tactics you used to get in touch with retailers like: (Local Mom & Pop Shops, Whole Foods, Ect..) you want your product in?
Wholefoods found me through a platform called Rangeme but outside of that I am really old school. I would just knock on the grocery store doors and talk to them to see if I can get my product in their store. I do not have any food brokers because I did not have a lot of money. You just need to put yourself out there. Go to farmers markets, because they will find you there. Other grocery stores found me through other grocery stores when they saw my product in there.
What tips would you give small business owners when trying to find suppliers to package your goods?
I am all about finding someone that is local and understood my needs. I like doing business with people that I meet rather than just a random person that is trying to sell me something. So I was at a trade show and I found someone in the area that would help me get my packaging costs down. That is how I like to do my business.
Where do you envision Coconut Girl will be in 10-15 years?
I want to be the next skinny girl. She sold her alcohol line and then transitioned her company into skinny jeans and more. I have a similar vision for Coconut Girl. When I first started my business, my business was called Coconut Girl Ice Cream. But I changed it to Coconut Girl Brands so I can expand my products. Anything that is in the healthy lifestyle industry because I am so passionate about that and would love to see my business grow there. I want it to be that cool brand, California centric, more than just ice cream. That is where I see it growing.
Any last parting words for the entrepreneurs out there?
Just put yourself out there. Entrepreneurs will always want things to be perfect. Don’t worry about that. You don’t have to figure it all out at one time. When I startedI knew nothing about the business. I didn’t even know how to make ice cream. So just put it out there with your friends and family to get their feedback. If there’s an interest, great! If not, then okay move on to something new.
Want to see if Salesmate is the right fit for you?
Build New and Lasting Customer Relationships
With Salesmate, it’s simple, personal and productive for everyone. Sign up for a 15-day risk-free trial today.
- No credit card required
- Cancel anytime.
Francheska “Frankie” Yamsuan
Making myself the brand would help me and hold me accountable