For Ingrid Sanden, the difference between winning and losing at Thursday night's Small Biz Challenge came down to doughnuts.

Sanden, a co-founder of Boolean Girl Tech, was one of three business owners selected to appear on stage at New York's Cachet Boutique Hotel at an event sponsored by Inc. magazine and The UPS Store. The three participated in a series of challenges designed to entertain a crowd while also testing the contestants' acumen in areas such as budgeting, presenting, and social media.

The final of these five challenges involved giving a presentation on a slideshow that none of the contestants had seen prior. Sanden's presentation on a hypothetical doughnut shop elicited an enthusiastic response from the crowd and even got onstage celebrity judge Robert Herjavec of ABC's Shark Tank out of his chair.

"When I got the high-five from Robert," Sanden said, "I was like, 'Okay, I guess that went really well.'"

Sanden's ability to think on her feet won the crowd over, particularly when she promised the shop would feature both gluten-free and zero-calorie options. Sanden said the search for a gluten-free option is particularly close to her heart.

"My daughter was diagnosed five years ago with celiac [disease], and she's 14, so she's lived without a lot of things for many years."

The presentation round was one of two that Sanden won on the night, earning $12,000 for her and her business, which sells the Boolean Box, a computer kit designed to encourage STEM learning among young girls. She said her experience leading her company's social media accounts guided her to her other round victory, one that involved responding to positive and negative reviews on social media.

"We have encountered some interesting Facebook responses to [ads] we've posted," Sanden said. "We have a pretty specific target in some ways, so people really let out their anger about gender differences on our page."

The other two contestants were Leeatt Rothschild of Chicago, founder and CEO of Packed with Purpose, a business gift company, and Kim Vaccarella, owner and creator of New Jersey-based Bogg Bag, a specialty beach-bag maker.