Nick and Elyse Oleksak loved watching Shark Tank. They admired the entrepreneurs and daydreamed about starting up a company of their own and appearing in the tank. They came up with various ideas, but nothing stuck, until Nick had a dream about a bagel the size of a donut hole filled with cream cheese. Ding-ding-ding! The very next day, they started testing out various recipes—right after Googling “how to make bagels.” It took a while, but they eventually came up with the perfect little stuffed bagel. They found a tiny shop on Bleecker Street in Manhattan and kept the ovens going day and night and created original flavors of cream cheese. Both worked on Wall Street. Elyse quit her job; Nick continued his but was no less committed, working his shifts at the ovens and making deliveries out to Long Island.
A friend who worked in public relations helped them send batches of stuffed bagels to media outlets all over New York City.
- NBC’s Today had Nick and Elyse on twice to show off their bagels.
- QVC wanted 100,000 bagels.
- The bagels were one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” for 2014.
- The New York Daily News listed them as one of the top three bagels in NYC.
The business was doing great with yearly sales of $200,000. And their dream was coming true. After applying to Shark Tank “hundreds of times,” they were going into the tank. The bagels were a big, big hit with the sharks. Barbara, Kevin and Lori made offers. They made the deal with Lori, and Nick quit his job the next day.
Where Are Bantam Bagels Now?
In eight months after the show, sales surged to more than $2.1 million. In five years, they made over $20 million.
Their little store was flooded with customers after the episode aired. Lori helped them strategize on how best to grow the company and worked with them to secure business deals, and the bagels were being sold at more than 20,000 stores. They also found a co-packing plant, and production went from a couple thousand a day to a million a week.
Nick and Elyse searched through LinkedIn to send out cold emails to the buyers for major chains. One went to a regional director at Starbucks who wanted to put three flavors in about 500 NYC locations. That went so well, Bantam Bagels were in Starbucks nationwide.
In October 2018, the T. Marzetti Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lancaster Colony Corporation, bought Bantam Bagels for $34 million. Nick and Elyse remain with the company managing day-to-day operations and directing future innovation.