The husband-and-wife team behind New York City's Bantam Bagels, which sells mini, cream cheese-filled bagels, says the secret to fast growth is simply never saying no.
Within months of launching their mini bagel empire out of a tiny storefront on Bleecker Street in 2013, Nick and Elyse Oleksak said yes to a QVC sale, despite limited production capacity, and agreed to a $275,000 investment from Shark Tank's Lori Greiner in exchange for 25 percent of the company.
On Tuesday they also began rolling out retail distribution in more than 7,000 Starbucks stores nationwide. Bantams will also hit shelves in the frozen food aisles of 600 grocery stores across the country, including Kroger, QFC, Safeway and Fred Meyer.
"This is a pinch-me moment," says co-founder Nick Oleksak. "This is the business we wanted to build."
It might sound like a lot in one day, but that's how the Oleksaks have always done business. "A true entrepreneur says yes, and then backs up and figures out how they're going to get it done," Elyse Oleksak says. For example, when they received an offer to sell Bantams on QVC, they were asked to have 30,000 bagels ready to sell in two weeks--an amount that would've taken almost a month to prepare. Nick, who was still working another full-time job, baked until 3:00 a.m., making runs in a rented van out to a warehouse on Long Island. And Elyse, six months pregnant, pulled 10-hour workdays.
The Starbucks deal required the same hustle at first. When the coffee giant agreed to try out selling Bantams in New York stores last year, the couple delivered the bagel balls to 32 stores themselves--with their 6-month-old baby asleep in the car seat. Trial and error taught them the best time to deliver was at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings, so that's what they did. "The only way we were really going to make it was if we were the best, the first, and the biggest," Elyse says. "You can only be the first or biggest if you're hustling your butt off."
One might ask, what's next--what's bigger than Starbucks? Just the simple mission to change the way America thinks about bagels. And every partnership helps fine-tune Bantam's strategy and process. Greiner has become a trusted adviser since her investment on Shark Tank, and she still owns a quarter of the company. The deal with Starbucks has enabled Bantam to moved to a larger bakery in Brooklyn and bump production from a thousand in one day to a million per week.