Chattanooga-born Slawsa TV pitch wins praise, not funds from 'Shark Tank'

Chattanooga-born Slawsa TV pitch wins praise, not funds from 'Shark Tank'

November 16th, 2013 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

Julie Busha, owner of Chattanooga-born Slawsa, appeared on ABC's hit TV show Shark Tank on Nov. 15, 2013. Slawsa is a new condiment and is available in more than 4,000 stores.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

ABOUT SLAWSA

Founded: 1998 by Judsom Odom

Sold: 2013 to Julie Busha

Website: www.slawsa.com

Source: Slawsa

A Chattanooga-born product took a dive into ABC's hit TV show "Shark Tank" on Friday night but failed to attract any partners.

Owner Julie Busha pitched Slawsa, a unique coleslaw-like-salsa-like condiment, to the show's self-made millionaires who she hoped would invest $150,000 for a 15 percent stake in the growing business. She won praises from billionaire Mark Cuban for her unique product and her willingness to start the business from her personal savings.

"The fact that she has no debt, paid off all of her credit cards and saved up enough money to start this company and buy her partner out is an amazing example for everybody," Cuban said.

But Cuban and the five other investors spurned Busha's appeal for equity funding.

Busha vowed to make the investors regret their decision. She said she expects to double sales this year to nearly $500,000. She currently sells four flavors of Slawsa in Kroger, Publix and other groceries for $2.25 a jar.

"Obviously you hope for a deal because you want a great partner," she said. "But not all of them are experts in your field, and while some of them dive into other areas, it depends on what they're looking for, what they have in their portfolio and where they're at. But great things are starting to happen because there is awareness."

Busha bought the company from Chattanooga native Judsom Odom early this year after working since 2011 on straight commission as a Slawsa salesperson. Busha, who lives in North Carolina, says Odom asked her to buy the company in January 2013.

Slawsa was one of about 35,000 businesses that auditioned for a spot on "Shark Tank," and one of just 100 that earned a ticket to California for a taping. Although Busha didn't get any financial backing from the show, she said she's thrilled that she was on the "Shark Tank."

"Just the ability to get your brand and tell your story in front of 7 million people in an eight- to 12-minute sequence is a huge opportunity," she said.

In the weeks before Friday's show, she reinforced her website, set up extra email accounts and tried to prepare for what she hopes will be an influx of thousands of emails and phone calls.

"It's hard to know what to expect," she said before the show aired. "But I've been able to talk with other past contestants and that has helped."

Slawsa is now made in North Carolina, but Chattanooga still serves as a key distribution point for the 4,500 stores that Slawsa is sold in, Busha said, including selected Walmarts, Ingles Markets, Publix and Kroger stores.

Since buying the company, Busha tweaked the Slawsa recipe by cutting a yellow dye to make it all natural, and hopes to further expand sales into natural and whole foods markets.

"I'd like to see sales grow by four or five times in the next year," she said.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.